National athlete to advocate for mothers and children through social work

It was Marijke Claude's passion for justice, whanaungatanga and manaakitanga that inspired her to study a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Waikato in Tauranga.

22 Apr 2024

Representing New Zealand in multiple sports, Marijke Claude was often asked the question “what’s next?” 

Marijke Claude

Despite offers of overseas scholarships to pursue a career in sport, it was her passion for justice, whanaungatanga (relationship) and manaakitanga (caring of others) that inspired her to study a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Waikato in Tauranga. 

Throughout my degree, my lecturers challenged me to dive deep within myself to uncover my authenticity and true self in order to walk alongside others


In her first year, an assignment that prompted a reflection on personal values led her to reflect on a memorable quote by Dr Seuss: "You are you, that is truer than true, there is no one alive who is youer than you."  

A defining moment occurred when Marijke became a mother in her final year. Now a graduate of the University, Marijke is leveraging her knowledge in social work and child development to assist mothers and their infants. 

“I’m establishing a supportive community space to facilitate groups focusing on sensory development, heuristic play, breastfeeding support and mental health awareness." 

Marijke’s research on crisis intervention for suicidal adolescents became a valuable resource for developing intervention models at the Canterbury District Health Board. This sets her up to return to the mental health sector to work with young people once her children are older, combining her passion for mental wellness and professional expertise.  

At Waikato, Marijke served as a cohort representative and a member of the Tertiary Student Christian Fellowship, taking an active role in mentoring students across the University.   

“I tried to make the most of my time at University. Serving as a mentor was one of my favourite roles, helping guide fellow students on their academic and personal journeys.” 

However, her University experience wasn’t without its challenges. 

My four-year journey tested my resilience through various life events – from navigating a global pandemic and transitioning to online learning to relocating cities and starting a family during my studies. 


Despite the obstacles, Marijke encourages students to embrace University as an opportunity for self-discovery and growth.  

“Once piece of wisdom that resonated with me throughout my studies is the whakataukī: "Whāia e koe te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe, me he maunga teitei," which encourages us to pursue excellence and aim high.  

If you encounter challenges along the way, let them be stepping stones toward greater heights.


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