The academic and personal achievements of seven University of Waikato adult learners were acknowledged at a special awards ceremony hosted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley last Friday.
The Vice-Chancellor’s Adult Learner Awards were established in 2001 to celebrate the efforts, achievements and contributions of adult learners, and form part of the University’s commitment to lifelong learning. The awards are intended to encourage students over the age of 25 to access learning opportunities and to acknowledge the importance of adult learning to the wider community. Nominations are made by academic staff based on their students’ commitment, determination and contribution to student life.
Professor Quigley says adult learners are particularly distinctive to the University of Waikato. “We have the highest proportion of adult learners of any university in New Zealand, and this is something we are very proud of,” he says. “Pursuing further education can be a challenge later in life, especially when you have family and work commitments also competing for your time. Acknowledging that learning is a lifelong pursuit is a key reason why the Adult Learner Awards were established.”
Award recipient Grant Rutherford is delighted to be recognised for his learning. The Bachelor of Health, Sport and Human Performance student is profoundly deaf, but that hasn’t stopped him from achieving his career and study goals. “I’d like to thank Associate Professor Clive Pope for nominating me – receiving this award means so much to me,” he says. “I’ve worked really hard to get here, so I feel a great sense of accomplishment.”
Grant credits his wife for inspiring him to persevere. “She’s been there for me during my studies, and I really appreciate her support,” he says. “The University’s Accessibility Services have also helped me massively with my learning, by providing sign interpreters and note-takers.” Once he graduates, Grant is planning to work as an exercise specialist, supporting deaf athletes in the areas of strength and conditioning.
Tauranga-based Bachelor of Teaching student Erica Steel was humbled to be acknowledged for her commitment to the University and helping others. Alongside her fulltime studies, the mother of three is a reliever at an early childhood education centre, a volunteer scout leader, treasurer of the student support group Mana ake ki Tauranga Moana and a student ambassador. Erica credits her tertiary education success to her family’s unwavering support.
“I couldn’t have done it without my husband. He always motivates me and looks after the kids when I’m busy. Every time I get an A grade at uni, he takes the whole family out to celebrate, so my kids are excited for my success too! I’m also really grateful for the laid-back culture and strong support systems at the Tauranga campus – they have helped me through some busy times!”
Erica hopes that her example will encourage her three young children to strive for academic success. “Growing up, I had some trouble in school, so it’s nice to be showing my kids the importance of working hard,” Erica says. “Since I began studying hard at uni, they have both started to put more effort in at school, so I'm really proud.”
This year’s recipients – Laurence Cockrell, Naomi Glover, Chaquila Venter, Bryce Jamieson, Garth Tunnicliffe, Grant Rutherford and Erica Steel – each received $1000 and a certificate.