From Ōpōtiki to academia

5 May 2017


Neihana Dew graduates from the University of Waikato’s Bachelor of Social Sciences degree at Te Kohinga Mārama Marae on Friday 5 May.

Growing up in small-town Ōpōtiki, Neihana Dew never imagined he would be the first of his direct family to graduate from university. Today, he is graduating from the University of Waikato’s Te Kohinga Mārama Marae with a Bachelor of Social Sciences.

Neihana says he was clueless about what he wanted to do after high school. “I thought if all else failed, I’d join the army.” In Ōpōtiki, a low academic success rate was the norm and academia was a faraway idea for many; but as the school year was coming to an end, the pressure was on to make a decision. He decided to come to Waikato, a decision he’s never looked back from.

Neihana took on a double major in history and anthropology and says that “Everything I have studied has piqued my interest”. As a Māori student, he felt like he was a part of a community at the university. “It was very cool, especially in the latter years where I started to actually make use of the facilities offered to me.”

He is now considering a master’s degree with the goal of becoming an academic researcher. “I want to be a part of scrutinising bad ideas that exist in social norms that have real and negative effects on reality,” he says. “I know it’s cliché, but I want to make the world a better place.”

In the meantime, Neihana is working full-time and using his spare time to further educate himself. “Even though I’ve finished my degree, the learning isn’t over.” He says he enjoys listening to lectures and podcasts with subjects ranging from morality and philosophy to spirituality and the nature of consciousness. On Saturdays, he switches gear, hanging out with his mates and playing football.

Neihana has one important piece of advice for those who were in his position. “Just because you’re from a small town or a family where university isn’t the priority, it doesn’t mean you can’t go out there and get educated”. His sister has followed his example and has since begun studying at university this year.

Nearly 1000 students are graduating at University of Waikato ceremonies in May, with three ceremonies on Wednesday 3 May at Claudelands in Hamilton, one at the university’s Te Kohinga Mārama Marae on Friday 5 May, and another in Tauranga on Wednesday 10 May.

At the Claudelands ceremony 308 Waikato Management School students, 231 Education, Science and Engineering students and 237 students from the faculties of Arts and Social Sciences, Computing and Mathematics, Law, and Māori and Indigenous Studies and will have their qualifications conferred. One hundred students will graduate at the marae, and 118 will graduate at Bay Park Arena in Tauranga following a student procession from Red Square down Devonport Street starting at 11am.