Waikato students step up for Nepal trekking scholarship

20 August 2019

One of the towns en route the trek
Nepal's Namche Bazaar covered in snow - one of the villages that the students may pass through on their trek.

Three University of Waikato students will travel to Nepal next year after receiving the Step Higher award as part of the university’s Hillary Programme – a scholarship that educates future leaders within the values of New Zealand’s greatest adventurer, Sir Edmund Hillary.

First established in 2012, the Step Higher Award represents the crucible of the Hillary Scholarship Programme as an aspirational and challenging goal for Sir Edmund Hillary scholars who are leading by example and giving back to their community.

This year’s recipients, Michaela Kerr, Holly White and Tim Neild will travel to Nepal in February 2020 and spend 12 days trekking through the Khumbu Valley, a stunning part of the Himalayas and the pathway to Mount Everest.

The university's High Performance Student Scholarship Manager Greg O’Carroll says this is an incredible opportunity and a unique experience offered by the university.

“Past award recipients still remember this as a highlight of their university experience. The opportunity to travel to Nepal, to see an entirely different way of life and connect with the impact of our late national hero Sir Edmund Hillary really is a once in a lifetime experience for our young leaders.”

“It is the jewel in the crown for Sir Edmund Hillary Scholars at the University of Waikato and is all part of our commitment to developing future leaders by fostering excellence and leadership.”

Accompanied by Dr Karen Barbour, Hillary Programme Arts Adviser for Dance, the group will trek through the Khumbu Valley where the real Sir Edmund Hillary legacy can be seen, with schools, hydro projects, bridges, an airport and hospital all bearing the Hillary name – many of which are supported by the Himalayan Trust.

The trip involves visiting many of these projects and connecting with Sir Ed’s legacy as well as the values associated with his efforts and the Hillary Scholarship.

This will be the eighth trip made to Nepal under the Step Higher scholarship. The latest awardees take the number of students to receive the award to 30.

The Step Higher award is open annually to all Hillary Programme scholars. The Hillary Programme was launched in 2005 following a conversation between the university and Sir Ed himself. Hillary scholars receive professional development opportunities and fees support for the duration of their study.

Applications for the Hillary Programme Scholarship for 2020 close on August 31. To apply, go to

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