Aimee Jane Anderson OConnor small pic 2 large

Aimee-Jane Anderson-O'Connor

Studying Arts at the University of Waikato set Aimee-Jane Anderson-O'Connor up for a career she loves at Creative Waikato.

Aimee Jane Anderson OConnor small pic 2 large

Her role in the Creative Development team sees her working with individuals and communities to encourage artists and creatives, and build capabilities of creative organisations.

“I use what I learned at university every day in my work and personal life."

Life-changing journey

At the age of 17, Aimee moved from Napier to Hamilton to do a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in History and English, with a specialisation in Creative Writing.

“Doing a Bachelor of Arts changed my whole world view,” says Aimee. “It really opened my mind and made me think about the world in a lot of different ways.”

Being taught by “inspiring teachers" made a huge difference to her experience, and set her on a career path focusing on creativity and storytelling.

“Teachers like Associate Professor Kirstine Moffat, Dr Tracey Slaughter, Catherine Chidgey, Dr Maebh Long, Associate Professor Sarah Shieff and Associate Professor Mark Houlahan, helped me to think about the stories we inherit, and how stories can connect us in really profound ways.”

Doing a history paper on decolonising methodologies in Aotearoa New Zealand, taught by Dr Nepia Mahuika, was also a pivotal experience.

“That was really profound, learning from him. I was very lucky to learn from such passionate, skilled, gifted academics and teachers.”

Aimee went on to complete her Master of Arts in English in 2018, followed by her PhD in English in 2022.

Her PhD thesis focused on contemporary biographic poetry in Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s a genre she enjoys, combining two big loves: history and poetry.

“I’m interested in what we can learn from the past, and what stories are important to us, personally and culturally.”

Aimee says she was originally attracted to Waikato University because it was where her stepfather had studied and later worked (in the library).

“I’d grown up, visiting the campus, visiting Dad.”

Being awarded a Waikato University ‘Ko Te Tangata’ School Leaver’s Scholarship was another drawcard, along with the relative affordability of living in Hamilton.

“Rents were almost half what they were in Wellington and Auckland. And Hamilton had everything I wanted, and it’s central.”

Using art and creativity in the workplace

She says that the skills and knowledge she gained from studying Arts at Waikato have held her in good stead in her current role, where she uses communications, research and writing skills every day.

In her free time, Aimee loves collaborating with friends on writing projects - including zines, personal essays and poems.

She encourages others to embrace arts, culture and creativity, which Creative Waikato’s own research shows is beneficial to individuals and businesses in a multitude of ways.

“There is a connection – the more people are involved in arts, culture and creativity, the higher their wellbeing is likely to be.”

That research has spurred Creative Waikato to launch a workplace wellbeing programme called Creativity Everyday.

“Creativity in the workplace is really important to people’s job satisfaction. We encourage leaders to make employee wellbeing a priority, and this is one way of doing it.”

Aimee Jane Anderson OConnor small pic 2 large

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