New Zealand-born Samoan Nicc Moeono will receive a Tertiary Achievement in Pacific Ako (TAPA) award at a special ceremony later this month. The Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) student is one of 28 high-achieving Pacific students whose academic accomplishments are being recognised and celebrated by the University of Waikato.
The annual TAPA awards were established to encourage the achievement and participation of Pacific students in tertiary education. Earlier this year the University of Waikato launched a new Pacific Plan to further support and develop Pacific students, researchers and staff, focusing on ways to build and enhance Pacific achievement. Nicc says the TAPA award is a great honour. “It recognises the hard work I’ve put in to advocate for my fellow Pacific peers as a Pacific leader, and my commitment and willingness to support the Pacific community in the halls in my residential assistant capacity,” he says.
Why did you choose to study at the University of Waikato?
I really like the community feel here at Waikato. It’s easy to make connections and develop relationships with people. And more importantly you’re never treated like you’re just a number. I was also lucky enough to be awarded a New Zealand Scholarship which gave me the financial support I needed to be able to follow my dreams.
What’s your favourite subject and why?
It’d have to be maths. I wasn’t good at it at first, but with the help of tutorials I eventually figured out the logical connections between formulas and concepts, and it turned into something I really enjoy. There’s only one answer in maths, and getting that answer right is very rewarding, especially after going through pages after pages of calculations.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I go to class and spend quite a few hours in the labs, but being a Pacific Island student ambassador and a residential assistant for the halls means my day is packed with lots of other duties and meetings. At the start of 2018 I set up the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Pasifika and Māori Club, so I tend to spend quite a bit of my time making sure the club is making a positive impact on the community.
How have you changed in your time at Waikato?
I’ve become a lot more confident as a person and as a leader. My first year was quite laid back – I was just getting to grips with how things work in a university setting, but in the last couple of years I’ve taken on new responsibilities and have worked on some very exciting projects, which have helped me develop new skills and build on existing ones – even outside of engineering.
You've won a TAPA award. Congratulations! What does this award mean to you?
This award means a lot to me. It recognises the hard work I’ve put in to advocate for my fellow Pacific peers as a Pacific leader, and my commitment and willingness to support the Pacific community in the halls in my residential assistant capacity. It’s a great honour.
What’s your advice for making the most of uni life?
Choose to study something you’re really passionate about. Assignments and tests will never feel like a chore. Also, for people like me, who have come to New Zealand from another country, try not to lose who you are as a person and stay true to your culture.
How do you think you can make a difference through your studies?
I’m currently working on a renewable energy project, which involves designing a hybrid power system that combines pumped hydro and solar power. It’s an engineering project that will directly benefit my home country Samoa, by helping to reduce the demand for fossil fuels.
What do you plan on doing when you finish your degree?
My plan is to go back to Samoa to work for the Electric Power Corporation (EPC) on sustainability projects, and to eventually set up my own renewable energy business, helping to reduce Samoa’s carbon footprint.