Keeping it in the family

3 May 2017


Emma Nygard graduates from the University of Waikato’s Bachelor of Arts degree at Claudelands Arena on Wednesday 3 May.

Attending the University of Waikato was a natural choice for writer Emma Nygard. Her mother, nana and most of her extended family attended the university. But as soon as the Bachelor of Arts graduate receives her degree this week she will be off - moving to Melbourne to start a career in writing.

Emma is the first in her family to have chosen a creative degree. English was her favourite subject at John Paul College in Rotorua and this love stayed true throughout her studies, with her choosing to major in the subject. “Most of my papers stressed the importance of creativity, so assignments were really enjoyable,” she says. “I wrote stories and poetry, I analysed films and novels, I even took photos and made short films.”

She says her degree has given her a wider knowledge of different disciplines and ideas. “I had a pretty narrow idea of what a Bachelor of Arts covered,” she says. “I ended up being really surprised at how much each paper differed and how much I was able to learn from one subject.”

Emma is of Ngāti Awa descent. She regrets not knowing much about the scholarships the University of Waikato had on offer, but is thankful for the Ngāti Awa Tertiary Students scholarship her nana helped her to apply for. Emma also received the Independent Circumstances Allowance from StudyLink, which help to pay for her rent during her studies. “I’m not really sure how I would have survived university if I hadn’t received the allowance,” she says. She encourages others to be aware of what they assistance they might be eligible for during their studies.

Emma will be pursuing her career across the ditch in three weeks’ time. “I’ve been sucked in by Melbourne’s hip street cred,” she says with a grin.

Emma has already established her own writing credentials, as a frequent contributor to the Waikato Students’ Union magazine, Nexus. Her popular relationship column ‘The Single Life’ led her to receive the Nexus Writer of the Year Award in 2015. The columns chronicled her relationships, or lack thereof, and what it’s like to date in the modern age. “Boys would literally talk to me in clubs and ask me to write about them,” she says. “Writing for Nexus was one of my favourite things I did at university,” she says. “It was a really cool and supportive place to get your voice out.”

Emma is thankful her family supported her throughout her studies and is excited to see what the next stage in her life has in store. She recommends creatives to go ahead and study a Bachelor of Arts, rather than taking on ‘safer’ and more traditional career paths. “There’s no other degree with so much passion and eccentricity,” she says. “Go for it.”

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

There are 308 Waikato Management School students graduating at the 10am Claudelands ceremony on 3 May. A total of 237 students from the faculties of Arts and Social Sciences, Computing and Mathematics, Law, and Māori and Indigenous Studies graduate at 2pm on 3 May and, at 6pm, 231 Education, Science and Engineering students will have their qualifications conferred. One hundred students will graduate at the marae, and 118 at Bay Park Arena in Tauranga following a student procession from Red Square down Devonport Street starting at 11am.