leah owen

Leah Owen

Graduation was a long time coming for Tauranga’s Leah Owen, who received her Bachelor of Social Sciences degree majoring in Psychology from the University of Waikato on Friday September 2, 2022.

Minola Grant Memorial Scholarship, Joy Owens Scholarship, Waikato Students’ Union Tauranga Director

leah owen

“I am so glad to be graduating, but it does feel quite surreal,” says Leah, 22, who was among the 222 graduates receiving qualifications in-person at the Tauranga ceremony. “Due to the unprecedented nature of the world at the moment, our graduation ceremonies kept getting pushed later and later; my original graduation date was December 2021.”

It was the first in-person graduation ceremony the University has held in Tauranga since June 2021. Graduation ceremonies scheduled for December 2021 and April 2022 at the Tauranga campus were not held due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Leah was Head Girl at Tauranga Girls’ College before starting at the new University of Waikato Tauranga campus in 2019, part of the inaugural first-year cohort to start at the modern, inner city campus on Durham Street.

“I feel very proud to be part of this campus, which is only going to get bigger and better,” Leah says.

Being able to do tertiary study close to her family, and near the maunga and beach was a bonus.

“In Tauranga, you can pop down to the beach and put your feet in the sand whenever you want,” says Leah. “It’s a smaller campus than most universities, but for me it made for a better education as I made stronger connections with the teaching staff.”

Studying through two years of Covid-19 was challenging for this generation of graduates, but “built resilience”, says Leah.

“Everything was on Zoom, sometimes there were three hours of online lectures a day, and persevering was really tough at times. There were many moments of stress and tears, so getting my degree today means a lot.”

Leah, who was chosen as a graduate speaker at the 10am ceremony, says the support of family and friends got her through her studies, many of whom came to see Leah graduate in-person, while others tuned in to the livestream online.

Leah chose to study Psychology because she wanted to understand human behaviour, make a difference to people’s lives, and help provide more equitable outcomes.

She was also motivated by personal experience - a psychologist helped her deal with the separation of her parents as a teenager.

“I realised I wanted to have the same influence the psychologist had on me, and I realised that even if I could just reach and support one person, I wanted to have a career in psychology to help people enhance their lives.”

Due to her academic, sporting and service ethic, Leah was awarded three scholarships to support her at Waikato including the Te Paewai o te Rangi UoW Scholarship ($25,000), The Minola Grant Memorial Scholarship ($6,000) and The Joy Owens Scholarship ($15,000).

While at University, Leah continued to give back to her community, serving as the Waikato Students’ Union Tauranga Director, and helped organise the first Tauranga Students’ Ball in 2021.

Her favourite papers were on behavioural analysis and sociology, and support from lecturers and tutors, including Tina Bourke, were among the highlights of Leah’s degree.

She is now working as a contractor to Tautoko Mai Sexual Harm Support – Healing, Education and Prevention, and as a Mates and Dates facilitator - an ACC-funded secondary school program that aims to help young people  have happy and healthy relationships. Leah also works in Sexual Violence Forensics Support, supporting the survivor and whanau through the forensics collection process.

“I have found a career that I am passionate about, helping others, and everything I learned through my three years at University have helped set me up for my current work,” says Leah.

leah owen

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