Scholarships enable Te Riria to make a difference to the environment faster

26 October 2021

Thanks to scholarships, Te Riria Potiki is fast-tracking towards her goal of helping iwi mitigate negative impacts on the environment as a result of increased development.

As the recipient of several scholarships at the University of Waikato, Te Riria Potiki (Ngāti Pāhauwera, Ngāi Tahu, Tuhoe) is fast-tracking towards her goal of helping iwi mitigate negative impacts on the environment as a result of increased development.

Te Riria is in her third year of studying towards a Bachelor of Environmental Planning in the Te Ara Taiao: Māori and the Environment stream. She says she was always interested in science at school, but once she found geography later in high school she knew she had found something she was passionate about.

Originally from Tūrangi, a visit from a University of Waikato student recruiter to her high school convinced Te Riria Waikato was the place to be for what she wanted to do. “I knew I wanted to pursue geography, and growing up rurally and connected to the environment, I wanted to combine studies in that area somehow as well.”

Thanks to excellent grades and community involvement at school, Te Riria received one of the University’s Te Paewai o te Rangi scholarships which paid her tuition fees and residential accommodation in her first year.

With financial support behind her, Te Riria was on a roll. Without having to worry about tuition and living costs, Te Riria says she feels like she’s been able to make quick progress with her studies and become fully involved in her community.

“Because I haven’t had to worry about having a part-time job, I can focus completely on my studies and also take part in campus life and build relationships by being active in the Māori student community and also as part of the Waikato Students’ Union board of directors.

There’s no way I would have been able to focus so much on my studies, and take part in community activities, without the financial support I’ve had from scholarships.”

Te Riria has since received several further scholarships that have helped put her on her chosen career pathway. She received the Waikato Regional Council and Waikato-Tainui Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu Scholarship, which supports students studying in an environmental field in the Waikato region, and a summer research scholarship, funded by the University, where she joined a team of experts to investigate algal blooms in Lake Taupō.

In 2021 she was awarded the Artemis Scholarship, worth $7000. The scholarship was set up by Waikato alumnus Victor Li, through his charity the Artemis Foundation, to support students pursuing education, business or environmental sustainability.

Te Riria has a clear idea of where she wants to be after she graduates, and she is thankful for the support scholarships have given her to help reach her goals.

“I want to use the skills I have gained in environmental planning to help my iwi and hapū protect and sustain their surrounding environment from the ongoing impacts of urban development. I have been able to see first-hand some of the work being done to help mitigate the environmental impacts of development, and it’s really important to work as best as we can to continue to protect our environment in this way.

“I am so grateful for the support I have had so far, and because I haven’t had to worry about student debt I know I will be able get straight to work helping the environment and my iwi.”

Donors encourage further support for scholarships

Artemis Scholarship funder Victor Li says he is proud to give back to the University and encourages other alumni and members of the university community to join him in supporting student scholarships.

“Scholarships tell students they are on the right path and that someone believes in what they’re doing, and the impact they will make in the future,” he says.

“As a proud alumnus of the University, I have seen first-hand the impact a quality education can have, and when bright students are unencumbered by debt they can go on to make an impact just that little bit faster.

“Please join me in supporting scholarships at the University of Waikato. Together, we can help prepare the students of today as they become the leaders and innovators of tomorrow.”

For more information and to make a donation, click here.

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