Top students put to the test

7 September 2017

Nicole Calderwood web

Two University of Waikato students were in Auckland on Wednesday competing against students from other New Zealand universities in the 2017 Top Student Awards, held to celebrate student success.

Management student Nicole Calderwood was one of four finalists in the Business and Finance category and BA student Calum Hughes was a finalist in the Arts section. From 300 applications, 24 students were in the final competing over six categories.

Nicole (Ngāi Tahu) is completing her Bachelor of Management Studies honours year majoring in marketing and strategic management. “I thought entering the awards would be a good opportunity to challenge myself,” she says. “We weren’t just selected on our grades, but we had to show we did volunteering, which I’ve done quite a lot of, and other extracurricular activities and then we had to undergo psychometric testing and complete online interviews.”

Nicole was in the news earlier this year when she won $10,000 in the national DIGMYIDEA Māori Innovation Challenge, when she proposed a web-based platform for students to search and apply for scholarships from multiple tertiary institutions.

In Auckland, the students had to do a mix of individual and group assessments including a five-minute presentation on what they thought New Zealand would be like in 2025, and a 25-minute competency-base interview.

Calum Hughes’ theatre studies lecturer suggested he enter the awards. He reckons being an actor helped with the selection process, especially during the video interview. Calum’s majoring in English and Theatre Studies for his degree and has been a student ambassador for the university. He’s taught children’s theatre, been an artistic director for NEXUS TV and a volunteer for the Waikato Students’ Union. He’s also appeared in several local theatre productions and was part of the New Zealand Young Shakespeare Company, spending a month at the Globe in London gaining skills in all aspects of theatre, including singing, dancing and sword fighting before performing to a paying public.

Top Student Award co-ordinator Seren Wilson from Talent Solutions says finalists represented strong allrounders. Award sponsor Miah Dixon from NxtStep said many students liked the idea of engaging in psychometric testing and a best practice selection process. “That was a particularly compelling aspect for lots of applicants. There are not many opportunities to practise a graduate recruitment process until you experience the real thing, so the Top Student Awards offer a great learning experience for students who apply.”

The winners in each category took away a $1000 cash prize, sponsored by one of five employer-sponsors.