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Business student first to gain a bachelor’s degree in her whānau

Katrina Rakena, 38 has just completed a Bachelor of Applied Management majoring in Strategic management. She is the first in her whānau to gain a bachelor’s degree and hopes her hard work will inspire her family and friends to study.

Katrina is married, without any pēpi, there were many attempts to have children but they were unsuccessful. However, she continues to base her purpose of living around her husband, whānau and friends. 


“I was working with my husband for almost eight years. Then he fell sick, that’s when we had a kōrero to re-establish how our future would look. That led to me to consider the option of going back to school to upskill so I could try and alleviate some pressure for my husband to have to work full-time.”

She started her studying journey in 2020, doing a Diploma in Business in Leadership and Management, all while still working part-time. 

“The reason I took that direction was because I wasn’t sure if studying was for me. It took me a year and I got my Diploma in Business. I found that it could be cross credited into the bachelor, and it would shave off a year which meant I only needed to complete two more years of study, so I went for it.”

One of the papers that really stuck out to Katrina was Business Context in her first year because, she says, it dealt with a Te Ao Māori perspective of Māori business, and she didn’t realise how passionate she was about that until she did the paper. 

“I really loved the values that came through because, I suppose, not many people are aware there is a holistic way of looking at the world especially through a Māori lens. Having strong Māori values is what was highlighted to me through that paper.”

During her study, Katrina’s family went through a lot of hard times with unemployment and trying to find a home. 

“When it happens to your own family it hits you very hard, especially while studying. 

“That’s why I chose to major in strategic management, because in the ideal world, if ever I get the opportunity and gain enough funds, I would love to create a business that puts my whānau into employment and allows them to create better opportunities for themselves, such as buying a home. That’s my ultimate goal.”

Katrina completed her work placement at Te Huia Natural Resources Ltd. They are an environmental consultant. They do internal engagement between the council and local marae. 

“One of the coolest things that I got to learn about was Te Mana o Te Wai, the fundamental concept of the Essential Freshwater regulations introduced by the New Zealand Government in 2020. I don’t come from an environmental background, but I did a lot of research around this to understand it better. This concept was created to protect New Zealand’s fresh water resources. Water gives us life and is vital for us. When water isn’t treated well, it can impact the people who need it."

Katrina earned a merit of excellence for her research presentation and was in the top four for her class. 

“I did my project on how Wintec can prepare Māori to become kaitiāki and give effect to Te Mana o Te Wai. I’m quite passionate about that particular research because it’s something that can benefit both Māori and non-Māori because it’s to do with the way we care for our environment by uplifting the standards of our water. New Zealand’s waterways are seriously polluted in certain areas. It’s so important to recognise this and start implementing change.” 

Katrina will graduate with her class this year.

Katrina is currently working at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa helping their Student Registry Department with tauira enrolments where she is contracted until March 2023. 

“I’m thinking of furthering my education at The University of Waikato to complete my master’s. I’m interested in the strategic management side of business.

“One thing that I learnt from my dad, is that it’s okay to be uncomfortable because it means you are learning and changing the way you think. He passed away at the beginning of this year and it is because of my dad that I want to continue my studies.

“I’m really thankful to my whānau, friends, tutors at Wintec, and mentors for their support. They helped direct the pathway of my learning journey.”

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