Graduation week - a time to celebrate

Hundreds of trencher hats were thrown high in the air this week as University of Waikato students celebrated their graduation.

23 Apr 2021

In total, 711 students graduated from the University of Waikato at two ceremonies at Claudelands Events Centre on Wednesday and at the University's Te Kohinga Mārama Marae on Friday.


Among the graduates were 24 receiving their PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) and 149 Masters graduates.

There were emotional moments on Wednesday as graduands walked across the stage to receive their qualifications, with whānau and loved ones watching in the audience or far away via a live feed on the University’s Facebook page.

The family of Bachelor of Music graduate Emmanuel Fonoti-Fuimaono stood up in their seats to sing a traditional Samoan hymn as a sign of thanks and acknowledgement, one of the many moving tributes of the day.

“I was so embarrassed at first, thinking that we’d stopped the graduation ceremony. But then I felt pride. It took me four years to get my degree, and it was a really humbling moment to see my mum, my brothers, my cousins and my family - who had travelled from Hastings - acknowledge me in that way.”

In contrast, Daniela Aguilar’s family back home in Colombia couldn’t attend in person, but were watching remotely as she walked on stage to receive her PhD in law, then later spoke to the class of 2021 as the graduation speaker for the 10am ceremony.

She spoke about her journey to higher education, and the inspiration of her grandmother Rosita, who “chose a different path” for herself. At 12, Rosita moved from a small town to the big city of Bogota, and taught herself to read and write, a role model for her granddaughter.

Daniela went on to study for 12 years at university level in Colombia, Scotland and New Zealand, specialising in energy law.

Her speech talked about the important role the younger generation has in finding solutions to issues including climate change, inequality and discrimination.

At the afternoon ceremony, Masters of management student Garth Tunnicliffe was the graduate speaker.

He spoke to the graduating class of 2021 about choices, and how lots of positive small choices can add up to something big. He encouraged graduates to seize every opportunity that came their way, and to use their voice to stand up for what they believed in.

When you inevitably face these moments in your life, Kia kaha, Kia māia, Kia manawanui. Be strong, be brave, be steadfast. Thankfully, there are people in our lives who are willing to support us in the choices we make. The impetus rests with us to make the right ones.

Waiata and haka rang out across the campus on Friday, as graduates across a range of schools celebrated their achievements at Te Kohinga Mārama Marae.

Graduate speaker Season-Mary Downs, who was graduating with a PhD in Law, spoke to students about their tohu mātauranga (degree) being like a weapon (mau rākau) to wield in the fight against injustice, homelessness, poverty and climate change.

She encouraged her fellow graduates to “go out into the world” and use the knowledge and skills they learned at university to have an impact.

  • Some 161 students graduated from the schools of Arts, Law, Psychology, Social Sciences, Health, Engineering, Computing and Science at the Wednesday 10am ceremony at Claudelands Events Centre (65 were given in absentia).
  • In the afternoon at 2pm, 290 graduates from the schools of Education and Management were able to walk across the stage to receive their qualification (147 were given in absentia).
  • A smaller group of 48 students chose to graduate from Te Kohinga Mārama Marae on the University of Waikato Hamilton campus on Friday.
  • The University will celebrate graduation at its Tauranga campus in June.

This research aligns with the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:


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