Dip P.E. (Otago)
I am: Chief Executive, New Zealand Olympic Committee
I did: P.E
Kereyn Smith is living what she learned at the University of Otago in her current role as Chief Executive of the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
Alongside learning about performance and physical activity as part of her Diploma in Physical Education, she learned about the sociology of sport – the politics and social issues surrounding it.
“I find myself in a job where we’ve got a whole focus clearly on athletic performance, the international environment, sports diplomacy and relationships. It’s strongly connected to what I learned all those years ago.”
Kereyn grew up in South Otago and was the first in her family to go to university. She never considered anywhere else but Otago. Dunedin might have only been a short distance away, but it felt like a big city to someone from a small rural community background.
“It had a profound impact on my life,” she says of her university experience. Some changes were immediate and obvious. “The fresher fat layers were appearing within weeks of starting, thanks to the hearty hostel meals!”
“Intellectually I was challenged to work hard and study topics that I both feared and found fabulous. I recall, in particular, the area of sociology of sport, which Professor Rex Thompson taught.
It was fascinating – learning about the use of illegal drugs, issues of equality and integrity in sport, the media and the Olympic movement.
“Little did I know, 30 years on, I would be living and breathing these things.”
Kereyn says her time at Otago has been “really fundamental to me – from my network of friends to giving me a foundation for my profession and a connection back to where I came from and what I believe in”.
Otago’s difference lies in the huge number of young people living together in an environment “that creates friendships, learning and inspiration, is fun, and small enough that there’s a lovely community around you”.
Only Otago offers much more than a qualification, she says: “It’s about the experiences, the people you meet, the environment, the learning. What it meant to me was influence and inspiration.”