Friday 18 September 2020 9:12am
Young graduate Chelsea Steen-Jones credits her first-year alumni scholarship with helping her expand her horizons and her friendships at university, and says it holds pride of place on her CV.
Chelsea was awarded her Alumni Appeal Entrance Scholarship in 2012, when she began studying for her BCom in Accounting and Economics at Otago.
“Because I went flatting in my first year, the only time I really networked out was through the alumni scholarship. We had morning teas, pizza, and it was good to check in with people doing other subjects, otherwise I’d have stayed in an echo chamber,’ says Chelsea.
While she was at Otago, she also volunteered for Dunedin Community Accountants, providing local non-profit groups with financial and budgeting advice. She’s kept up with volunteering since leaving university and was previously a member of Rotaract in Wellington.
“I love volunteering and meeting different people, with everyone working towards common goals,” says Chelsea. “In Rotaract you have people bonding together because of an interest in the community. One winter initiative I was involved with was knitting hats and taking a bunch to a homeless shelter. We also got involved with beach clean-up days, tree planting, and volunteering days, for organisations like Ronald McDonald and Life Flight.”
After finishing her degree in 2015, Chelsea went to work for PwC in Wellington as a Financial and Business Analyst, and at the end of 2019 started a new job as a Senior Analyst, Planning, Budgeting and Performance, for Oranga Tamariki.
We caught up with her to find out what she’s doing now, and how her time at Otago and her alumni scholarship have helped shape her career a few years down the track from graduation:
What did you value most about the alumni scholarship?
The alumni scholarship was a really special thing to receive. At the time, it was a reminder of the support from my high school teachers, the trust the University had in me, and the faith from and accountability I felt towards the alumni community. Starting my Otago journey with the alumni scholarship was a blend of "wow, I must be doing something right" and "don't mess it up!" Now, four years after graduating, I've managed to pay off my student loan thanks to the scholarship (with an honourable mention to homebrand instant noodles).
How did the scholarship help you at Otago?
When at university, course fees are the last thing on your mind. There are events, lectures, tutorials, group work, assignments, flat admin, exams and life pulling us in different directions. Through the scholarship I got to meet other recipients starting their first years too in different courses, from different towns. Our coffees at Modaks or quick vents in the Link kept me sane. By starting off flatting in first year, I thought I wouldn't get the chance to meet people like that, but I’m so glad I did.
Did it help you launch into your career?
The alumni scholarship is a shining star on my CV. When you're applying for dozens of graduate roles at places that will get hundreds of responses, you need something to catch the recruiters’ attention. The alumni scholarship helps lure them in for an interview, but I also found it a confidence boost to bring my whole quirky self to those interviews because I wanted to be somewhere that was the right fit. In one interview (with an Otago alumni and fellow goofball) things just really clicked, and I ended up taking their offer for a role in the PwC Consulting - Finance and Economics team in Wellington. There, I enjoyed three-and-a-half years of interesting work with an amazing team in a firm that shares and upholds my own values.
What are you doing now?
Since moving up to Wellington it's been a whirlwind. I've met some really compassionate people eager to make a difference in the community. I've become a qualified CA and learnt a lot about social policy and well-being impacts. I've recently joined the Planning, Budgeting and Performance Reporting team in Oranga Tamariki, and at some point become “that person” that knits baby things for expecting co-workers. For now, I'm saving up for my own venture, whatever that looks like. There's an ongoing joke that it'll be a lavender farm in the Coromandel, hosting weddings to drink in the drama.
If you would like to support scholarships at the University of Otago please donate here.