Director and criminal justice supporter, Jennifer Kerr has been recognised by the University of Waikato for her services to community and governance.
The Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate the achievements of alumni who have achieved significant success in their career and made outstanding contributions to their communities.
Born and raised in the small town of Oparau in the King Country, Ms Kerr (Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Mutunga) enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Waikato because she loved the craft of writing and critical analysis.
“My time at Waikato and exploring New Zealand history, sparked a lifelong love with history and discovering my Māori whakapapa,” says Ms Kerr.
After graduating she went on to have a successful career in human resources and health and safety, in executive roles for Mobil Oil, Fonterra and Transpower. In 2018 she changed tack to focus wholly on governance roles.
Ms Kerr has a varied portfolio across a wide range of sectors and industries, and in 2022 was appointed the first woman Chair of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
She is the Deputy Chair of Callaghan Innovation and currently sits on the board of directors for Waipa Networks and Eke Panuku Development as well as acting as a Board Advisor to MediaWorks.
Throughout her career Ms Kerr has straddled both the corporate and academia worlds. It was in 2014 when she returned to study Psychology at the University of Waikato that she found her passion for criminal justice.
“Understanding false confessions and in particular the details of Teina Pora and the lack of support and understanding around his case really sparked my interest in criminal justice and realising that we have got to do better at this.”
Ms Kerr currently sits on the NZ Police Risk and Assurance Committee and is studying towards a Master in Crime Science and Security through the University of Waikato.
“At this stage of my life, my governance career defines me, alongside my interest and want to learn more about crime science. One day I hope I can do more work in this space and give back,” she says.
Ms Kerr says that mentoring and helping the next generation of women in governance is what motivates her.
“I am all for making the journey easier for those who come next.”
Ms Kerr is one of four Distinguished Alumni for 2022, along with Director Hinerangi Raumati MNZE, Supreme Court Judge of Samoa Justice Leilani Tuala-Warren and Director and Māori business leader Jamie Tuuta.