Award-winning adult learner proves primary school teacher wrong

27 Aug 2022

A primary school teacher’s prediction that Jared Kelsen “was destined to dig ditches” has been dispelled after Jared was named one of four recipients of the 2022 Vice-Chancellor’s Adult Learners’ Awards from the University of Waikato.

Jared Kelsen was awarded a Vice-Chancellor's Adult Learners' Award recognising his academic achievements and social contributions

Jared, in his second year of his Bachelor of Science (Technology) degree, says the award proves that his old teacher was wrong - and that all his hard work has been worth it.

“The fact that I’ve done well enough in my studies to be considered for this is an achievement for me because at school I never got the top grades,” recalls the 33-year-old Hamilton man.

“As a kid, people tell you that you can or can’t do things, and that sits with you. But that doesn’t have to define you.”

The Vice-Chancellor’s Adult Learners’ Awards are designed to recognise the achievements of outstanding adult learners at the University of Waikato who have chosen to undertake tertiary study later in life.

The awards celebrate these students, the efforts they go through and the academic achievements and social contributions they make.

Recipients must be at least 25 years old, in their second year of part or full-time study at the University of Waikato, and be studying towards an undergraduate qualification.

Jared attended Rosehill College in Papakura, Auckland, and briefly attended the University of Auckland before deciding it wasn’t for him.

“I just wanted to play pool and hang out with my friends. But returning to university later in life, as an adult student, has been great. I’m more focused and I know what I need to do to succeed.”

Before starting at Waikato University in 2021, Jared was working in Invercargill at a plumbing supply store.

“Due to Covid-19, I was made redundant. Around the same time I sold my home, had a relationship break-up, and I thought, what now? I’d been thinking about university study for a while, and thought, ‘I can afford to do it, so why not?’”

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor, Professor Neil Quigley presented Jared with his Vice-Chancellor’s Adult Learner’s Award at that Tauranga campus.


He chose Waikato because it was closer to family in south Auckland.

To ease the transition from work to university study, Jared enrolled in the Certificate of University Preparation (CUP) programme, a one-trimester full-time programme which covers academic essentials, critical thinking and foundation courses.

“After being out of school for 15 years, I didn’t even know how to write an essay.”

Jared then enrolled in a science degree, enjoying papers on microbiology and genetics.

Being an adult student has been “hard at times”, but the support from teachers has kept him going.

“This place has been a healing time for me. I was at rock bottom before I started university, and receiving a Vice-Chancellor's Adult Learners’ Award has been a great recognition of my work and how far I have come,” says Jared.

In the future, Jared hopes to get involved in the University’s Summer Research Scholarship programme, or perhaps do higher level study.

He advises others considering university study later in life to give it a go. At the University of Waikato, there is a lot of support for learners at every age and stage.

“If you put in the work, even if you are not incredibly gifted, you can pull through,” says Jared. “Everyone here wants to help you, so don’t be embarrassed to ask for help, because everyone wants to see you succeed.”

The other three recipients for the 2022 Vice-Chancellor’s Adult Learners’ Award are Rebecka Billington, Jo Mariu and Jasmine Campbell, all from Tauranga. Each received $1,000.

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