Professor Debashish Munshi recalls New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's time as a student at the University of Waikato.
It’s now two decades since Jacinda Ardern was a student in one of my communication classes at the University of Waikato in Hamilton. But I still remember her vividly as a bright, inquisitive, articulate, and engaged student who asked questions and actively enriched class discussions.
She was part of the first cohort of the then newly-launched Bachelor of Communication Studies (BCS) degree. As an interdisciplinary degree, the BCS attracted students who wanted to major in subjects across the humanities, the social sciences, and management. This was perfect for a student with an expansive mind and Jacinda excelled in the degree. Look where she is now – an outstanding political leader and an exemplary communicator.
In our role as academics, we teach students. But there are many students we learn from as well. Jacinda is one of them. Even in those early undergraduate years, she raised the bar of classroom learning with her thought-provoking contributions. She was then, as she is now, deeply conscious of issues of justice. Today Jacinda is a role model for us all. She has led the country out of the COVID19 crisis with sound leadership and has been a voice of reassurance for the entire nation.
We teach emotional intelligence in our classes. Such intelligence is the ability to recognise the most appropriate feelings for a particular situation and the skill to communicate those feelings sensitively effectively, and authentically. Jacinda is the epitome of emotional intelligence. Her greatest strength is her authenticity.
A lesson in leadership
During her first term in office, Jacinda Ardern led her country through a major terror attack, a deadly volcanic eruption, and the coronavirus pandemic. Now in her second term, she continues to lead the island nation’s Covid-19 response and economic recovery.
In the face of such challenges, the Prime Minister’s clear, empathetic communication style has attracted comment from leadership experts around the world.