Sylvia Wharewera

Bachelor of Social Sciences

Psychology, Sociology

Key Info

  • Bachelor of Social Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

Graduating with a Bachelor of Social Sciences from the University of Waikato in Tauranga is a major milestone for Sylvia Wharewera.

Born and raised in Auckland, Sylvia has lived in Whakatāne for more than 16 years with her husband Brett and sons, Ethan and Maxwell and now considers it home.

The only child among five brothers to attend university, and doing so later in life after her children had grown up, Sylvia devoted much of her life to prioritising others before herself.

As one of the graduation speakers, Sylvia encouraged her fellow graduates to make the most of their university experience, forge new relationships, ask questions, and utilise student services.

“Attending university has been a long-awaited aspiration of mine and graduating is a significant milestone. Reminding myself of how long I had waited to attend university, the sacrifices that had to be made, and the expectations I set myself motivated me to continue,” Sylvia says.

“Today we celebrate our achievements and reflect on our time spent here at the University of Waikato.”

During her undergraduate studies, Sylvia explored her passion for supporting vulnerable communities and creating better outcomes, particularly for Māori and Pacific people.

With a major in Psychology and a minor in Sociology, Sylvia’s particular interest was in psychology papers, with Community, Culture and Diversity and Indigenous Psychology led by kaupapa Māori psychology lecturer Logan Hamley a standout.

“It resonated with me, captivated me, and inspired me.”

Despite struggling with self-doubt and a lack of motivation during the pandemic, Sylvia says Covid-19 forced her to focus on what was important to her and her whānau: aligning her academic and career aspirations with te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori.

Sylvia now works as a community-based kaupapa Māori alcohol and drug counsellor at a Tūhoe Hauora, just outside Whakatāne, where kaimahi (staff) offer early/brief interventions, that are client-centered, whānau inclusive with particular focus on holistic wellbeing.

“I am very fortunate to work in an environment where kaimahi share the same passion and drive for advocating and supporting our whanau within our community.”

Graduating with her bachelor's degree does not mark the end of Sylvia's university journey, but rather the beginning of her next chapter.

She hopes to return to Waikato in the future to do a Postgraduate Diploma in the Practice of Psychology, become a registered psychologist and, eventually, pursue a PhD.

“Regardless of the path we take, our journey is our own,” she says.

“I would definitely recommend the University of Waikato to others. It’s in a great location and has excellent degree options and reputation. While I learnt a lot academically, the most valuable key learnings I take away are positionality, cultural competency, and reflection.”

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