You never know what opportunities will arise from the University of Waikato food court, if the WSU leaders’ experiences are anything to go by.
For Lyam Buchanan, a long line at Chinese takeout ended with a three-year stint at University student magazine Nexus, and for Candra Pullon, a coffee catch-up with a friend resulted in a director position (and later presidency) at the Waikato Students’ Union (WSU). The pair both graduated at the Claudelands ceremonies this week, each leaving a student legacy and long list of accomplishments behind them.
Originally from Waiuku, Lyam started his Bachelor of Science in 2015, drawn to the University’s vibrant student life. “Some universities seemed unfriendly, and Mum was convinced others would be too feral.”
Science and magazine-writing may seem like an unlikely combination, but the Biotechnology student says he owes his Nexus editorship simply to “a few morning beverages and a long line at Mei Wah’s”.
“Someone made a passing comment about how ‘classic’ it would be to get published in Nexus; at the time I had nothing better to do so I flicked the editor an email, threw together a writing sample and forgot I’d ever sent anything.”
Within a month, Lyam was a Nexus deputy, and decided it would also be “classic” to see how far he could take it. He soon became a co-editor, then editor, and has been informing students (and making them laugh) each week since. “The best part about it is being surrounded by the student life,” Lyam says.
For Tauranga-born Candra, the decision to study at Waikato was motivated by her love of the campus, plus positive recommendations from friends. In 2016, she enrolled in a Bachelor of Communication Studies majoring in Marketing and Philosophy.
“I’ve always valued communication as the most important soft skill someone can possess,” Candra says. “Connecting with people is a huge driver for me, so when I worked out there was a degree that lets you do it all the time, it was a no-brainer. Plus, I liked the flexible degree structure and I was interested in all the majors, so it ticked all the boxes.”
Soon after arriving on campus, Candra decided she’d like to find a way to give back to the University community. “I mentioned this to a friend over coffee, who introduced me to the WSU President. I’d never heard of the WSU, but immediately I was hooked.”
Candra applied for a director position in 2017 and became president the following year. She says although it can be a challenging role, the connections and experiences she created made it all worth it.
“I’ve pushed myself so much this year, and developed new skills I didn’t even know I had!” Candra says. “Overall, this has been the best experience I could have ever dreamed of. I’ve made some amazing friends and been exposed to some really challenging situations – it made me learn hard and fast what governance is like.”
Between the two of them, Candra and Lyam have truly made a mark on the WSU. In Lyam’s time at Nexus, he’s written countless scripts, produced videos, run the social media and trained upcoming writers, all while ensuring there is a fresh magazine each Monday morning. The team also launched Nexus radio and won the Aotearoa Student Press Awards, including Best Editorial Writing and Best Social Media. During Candra’s presidency, the WSU has supported 88 clubs, held 102 advocacy cases, helped 5,000 students get to town safely, launched a weekly President’s Address, and contributed to a focus on student mental health issues.
After graduating this week, both Lyam and Candra say completing a degree is an achievement to be proud of.
“People wouldn’t know this, but I actually failed my first attempt at coming here,” Candra says. “I didn’t have the financial ability to be at University and didn’t get through my first semester and I decided to go into the workforce. I didn’t really consider myself academic at all and I’m pretty sure I tick all the boxes that indicate that I shouldn’t be here. But I’ve made it! And I even got a high enough GPA to get into Golden Key.”
Since graduating, Candra will stick to student support, joining the board of Student Job Search. Lyam will finish his graduate role with the Cancer and Blood Research Unit, before buying a one-way ticket to Europe, and making a plan once he lands.
Lyam and Candra are two of 1382 students graduating this December. Four ceremonies have been held at Claudelands this week, with two more to be held at Te Kohinga Marae on the University campus on Friday 14 December.