Wintec graduations celebrate students’ unique journeys to success
Students from across all disciplines graduated from Wintec | Te Pūkenga during two days of festive ceremonies in a celebration of academic achievement and empowerment.
In total over 1900 students graduated from Wintec for the year of 2022, with over 770 students attending their ceremonies in person at Claudelands Globox Arena.
This year’s ceremonies saw the first cohort of Physiotherapy graduates receive their degrees from Wintec, as well as many graduates who have been impacted by Covid from their very first year of study. They were also an opportunity to farewell the Wintec/Toi Ohomai Transitional Executive Lead, Dr Leon Fourie, while welcoming in the new co-regional Executive Directors for Te Pūkenga Rohe 2, Huia Haeata and Kieran Hewitson.
On Monday, 26 June the morning ceremony celebrated students graduating from Education and Foundation Pathways, Languages and Media Arts with the student guest speaker Donna-Lee Biddle, a Media Arts graduate, speaking about her journey of resilience throughout her time with Wintec.
“It wasn’t an easy path for me, getting here today, graduating with my masters and I’m sure you can all relate,” Donna said to the crowd of graduates.
“But I did it, we did it, a huge mihi to all the graduates today.”
Donna spoke about her journey through Wintec, firstly gaining a bachelor’s in communications and diploma in journalism. Then after being a journalist, going on to become a journalism tutor before completing her Master of Arts.
“Despite the long history at Wintec, I haven’t always had a smooth path. I often questioned what I was doing, why I came back and whether I would pass. In the last exam of my second year of my bachelor’s degree I went into labour, but I’d worked too hard to get an aggregate mark, so I stayed and completed my test. My son was born three hours later, he’s in the crowd somewhere. I got an A, so it was worth it! In the third year of my Master of Arts degree, I got pregnant, and my son arrived one month early and true to form I submitted my draft dissertation while breastfeeding on a ward at Waikato Hospital. I’m here today, which means I passed so it was worth it.
“I’ve had a great journey here at Wintec, it has given me the tools to succeed in life. It was my tutors and supervisors who were key to my success. They made me believe that I could do it. I spent the last ten years an investigative journalist. Just recently I’ve taken up a new mahi, I’m now an investigator with Te Kāhui Tātari Ture | Criminal Cases Review Commission. I now look at cases where there may be a potential miscarriage of justice. It’s incredible rewarding mahi, and mahi I wouldn’t have been able to do if I didn’t study here.
“I believe we should always be taking opportunities to learn. I have a challenge for our graduates today, I found inspiration within myself to work hard and my challenge going forward to is to inspire my children so hopefully they take this path of education, and my challenge for you all,” she said to the crowd of graduates, “is to be that inspiration for yourself and for others.”
The afternoon ceremony on the Monday celebrated students graduating from Business and Enterprise, Design Factory NZ, Information Technology, and Sport Science and Human Performance. The student guest speaker was Teresa van der Vossen who graduated with a Master of Science (Human Performance Science) with Distinction.
Teresa congratulated the graduates saying they were all “magnificent”. She spoke about moving from Whitianga to Waikato to study at Wintec to become a personal trainer, but who she went on to do a lot more.
“While studying at Wintec I became an elite nationally ranking weightlifting athlete and a CrossFit coach. Wintec not only gave me the knowledge to be ready for industry, but now I work to educate other learners. I am now lecturing in a sports science degree at another Te Pūkenga institute in Manuatu whilst I run a small weightlifting club.
“I want to congratulate all of today’s graduates. We are here to celebrate the work, dedication and commitment through unpredictable, uncertain and now historical timelines of the world. Your achievement reflects your character and the support network that was there along the way.”
On Tuesday, 27 June the morning ceremony celebrated students graduating from Engineering and Industrial Design, Applied Science and Primary Industries and Trades. The guest student speaker was Kimberly Adams, who graduated with a certificate in Horticulture Services (Level 3 and 4). Kimberly spoke about how she is currently still studying her Level 5 certificate and how her study has helped her appreciation for trees and nature grow into so much more.
“I have climbed trees for fun my whole life. It wasn’t until beginning my studies that I had thought about the fact that there was more than just one kind of oak, but a whopping 600 different species. My studies have opened a tree-filled Pandora’s box and I couldn’t be happier.”
She said bushwalks now took her ten times longer than they used to because she couldn’t resist stopping to admire every second tree.
“My tutors are why I’m here. They have been the glue of the course and have guided myself and my classmates to success. They have made the good times great and the hard times easier. My class helped me push myself, enjoy challenges and embrace my fears that come with being up a twenty-metre pole with spikes on my boots on windy days. I feel the tutors have prepared us for the workforce as moulded tree warriors.
“I must take this opportunity to advertise trees. I recommend embracing their presence. The artistry of their leaves, the softness of their canopies and the rhythm of their swaying branches and the breath of fresh air that they create so conveniently for us to just gobble up. It’s hard to talk about trees without sounding like a complete hippy, but bear with me and give them a chance. They affect your life more than you might know.”
Kimberly finished her speech by congratulating all the graduates in the crowd saying, “every step forward is a win, so celebrate yourself today and keeping climbing your mountain, or in some cases, your tree.”
Tuesday’s afternoon ceremony saw students from Health and Social Practice celebrate as they graduated. The student guest speaker was Cheryl Toka who graduated with a Paetahi Tumu Kōrero Bachelor of Counselling.
Cheryl was born in Rarotonga and came to New Zealand when she was five. She grew up in Hamilton. Her father is from the Cook Islands and her mother is of English and Scottish decent. She began her speech by thanking her parents saying they had nurtured and backed her and she wouldn’t have graduated without their support.
“I want to say a huge congratulations to my other counselling graduates, nurses, occupational therapists, midwives, physiotherapists, social workers and all else who have graduated.
“Looking back over the past few years of study who could forget those heavy days of Covid? The reflections shared with me from my follow graduates heavily featured themes around the influence of Covid and the arduous Zoom sessions. My first year studying at Wintec in 2020 was when the first lockdown occurred and as you know there would end up being several lockdowns to follow which required our studies to operate online. I think we can be super proud that we made it to graduation despite the massively stressful world event we know as Covid. Some people really struggled to stay on track with their studies and we only managed to stay on track with the support of loved ones. A huge thanks to all the family and friends and staff that helped us through that difficult time.
“A core belief I subscribe to, especially after my studies, is that we are all experts of our own lives. Self-determination and autonomy over one’s health is not necessarily something that is usually instilled in us as we grow up. At the heart of being a health professional is our ability to empower. Always centre the client through listening, recognising and nurturing their mana and wellbeing.
“I decided to retrain as a councillor after more than 25 years of being a naturopath and herbalist in the natural health field. I’ve just had my 55th birthday and am proof that we can always strive to learn more no matter what age and be open minded to growth and change. To conclude, my challenge to you all,” she addressed the graduates, “is to continue to think critically about how we can do better, remember the cultural values instilled in us at Wintec and to believe that change is possible.”
During the final ceremony, Wintec Kaumātua Tame Pokaia, who opened and closed all ceremonies, said a final goodbye to Dr Fourie and urged the graduating students to strive for excellence in everything they did.
Wintec | Te Pūkenga Executive Dean Dr Shelley Wilson spoke at every ceremony and said she was in awe of the resilience this group of graduates had as most had to study through Covid times, making gaining their qualifications that much more of a feat.