Peter Dry, University of Adelaide, SA

Name: Peter Dry

Associate Professor Peter Dry will retire mid next year as the longest serving academic staff member of the Roseworthy College and the University of Adelaide in viticulture and oenology. Starting his career with the world-renowned institution in 1975, Dry said his first years were spent teaching a range of subjects including viticulture, biology, plant pathology, microbiology and sensory evaluation. Dry presented two lectures and one practical session in his first week at Roseworthy; something he says is not customary for today's newly appointed lecturers.
'Many students in my early years were older than me because they were mature-age students who had been working in the industry and had come to the Roseworthy campus to study the Diploma of Oenology, as it was then. There was a lot more social interaction between students and staff in those days because many lived on campus, as I did during my first year there. I was the playing coach of the Roseworthy basketball team for a long time and enjoyed the vibrant community of Roseworthy,' Dry said.
When Roseworthy College merged with the University of Adelaide in 1990, there was the upheaval often associated with two organisations coming together and having to relocate staff. Dry shared his time between Roseworthy and the Waite Campus of the University until 1992, making the move completely at the beginning of 1993.
'The move was like changing jobs. We had a large number of contact hours with the students at Roseworthy and research was something undertaken in our spare time. After the merger, our contact hours gradually reduced and we were expected to put a lot more time into research. The relocation to the Waite Campus certainly facilitated research collaboration with CSIRO and the Australian Wine Research Institute.'
'We lost the small community atmosphere of Roseworthy at that stage, where we generally knew everyone else. Class sizes were smaller and, as teachers, we knew more about what was going on in the lives of the students.
'Now, we're relatively divorced from the student group and undergraduate life is different to what it was then, with many students working part-time jobs while managing full-time study,' Dry said.
The viticulture and oenology courses have seen many changes over Dry's 32-year career with the university. According to Dry, the first major change was the conversion of the two year Diploma to a three year Degree. Then, after the merger, both Viticulture and Oenology became four year degrees where the first two years of study for viticulture and oenology students were the same as those for Agricultural Science.
'We grafted the Roseworthy approach for third and fourth year onto the more scientific approach of the university in first and second year, which seems to work well,' he said.
Enrolment figures for wine and vine-related courses are down across all teaching institutions around Australia, something Dry attributes in part to the negative press about the industry in recent years. He admits that some institutions (other than Adelaide) are probably under-resourced in staff and facilities, but says the number of options for students in selecting a study program around Australia is acting to create a free market situation.
'My personal view is that it's ridiculous that there are so many viticulture- and wine- teaching institutions vying for enrolments. Also, it may be difficult to compete with institutions offering programs that may seem more fashionable to prospective students than viticulture or oenology . There is not enough biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics taken at secondary level these days, and that impacts on teaching at the tertiary level, as the universities have had to modify their first year degree courses in order to accommodate current school-leavers,' Dry said.
Dry said the most satisfying part of his academic career has been his involvement in the development of thousands of students, many of whom have gone on to become some of the most prominent wine industry people all over the world.
'One of the most enjoyable things is having the opportunity to influence so many people at tertiary level. Many of my former students have become good friends and I enjoy catching up with them when possible, or receiving an email telling me about their latest achievement,' he said.
Dry will remain affiliated with the university after his official retirement and will continue to supervise PhD candidates.

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