University of Waikato’s first Māori Open Day

The University of Waikato held its first Māori Open Day at the Hamilton campus on Thursday.

24 May 2024

The University of Waikato held its first Māori Open Day at the Hamilton campus on Thursday showcasing what the University offers students with an interest in te ao Māori and how it supports Māori learners. 

A pōwhiri held to welcome students onto campus

Dr Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori, says kura across the North Island were invited to the event, and more than 200 students attended the day. A second Māori Open Day is scheduled for Thursday, 20 June at the Tauranga campus.  

“We know Māori students often struggle to see themselves in tertiary education settings, so we wanted to create an experience that had a specific Māori focus showcasing our Māori academics, students and programmes and would be complementary to the University’s Open Day on 23 May.” 

Māori staff from across the University supported the day including Associate Dean Māori from across the Divisions, researchers, lecturers, administration and support staff, and current students. 

The University has a special relationship with the Kīngitanga and is situated on land returned to Waikato Tainui vested in the name of the first Māori King, Pōtatau Te Wherowhero. About 25 percent of the University’s domestic students identify as Māori. 

Dr Tiakiwai says Māori Open Day not only helped students explore the educational opportunities available at the University but also helped foster a sense of belonging and whanaungatanga (relationship-building) within the University community.   

“Māori Open Day is part of the University’s commitment to supporting Māori students in their educational journey, ensuring they are aware of and have access to the resources and networks that will support them to succeed.” 

The day started with a pōwhiri followed by presentations from Māori ki Waikato and each of the Divisions as well as Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao. Future students had the chance to meet Māori academic staff from across the University and hear about their mahi including Kaupapa Māori Psychology, te reo Māori and Indigenous Studies, indigenous trade and business, teaching, mātauranga Māori in Climate Change and engineering were some of the kaupapa featured, alongside sessions highlighting all study pathways and degrees offered at the University. 

There was also a performance by Te Waiora, an amazing race which got students across the campus, Waikato Students' Union activities and Te Puna Tautoko services from the wider University. 

Māori Recruitment Advisor Mariah Tunoho says Māori staff across the University were involved in the day so prospective students could see the University as an environment where they could call this place home during their tertiary pathway.  

She was driven to support the day through her own tertiary education journey. A mother of four, Mariah says she only connected to her culture following the birth of her first child. 

“I wanted my children to know where they are from and have that strong foundation in understanding their Māoritanga.” 

She studied te reo Māori at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa before undertaking Te Tohu Paetahi, the University’s one-year total immersion Māori language programme before turning her Te Tohu Paetahi Diploma into further studies to than complete a Bachelor of Arts with double majors Te Reo Māori & Māori and Indigenous Studies. Mariah was fortunate enough to secure her role as a Māori Recruitment Liaison Advisor.  

“I wanted to bring Māori Open Day to life and inspire to help Māori rangatahi see a path into tertiary education and see that it is an option. Unless you have someone in your family taking that path already, it’s extremely hard to see it as an option,” says Mariah. 

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