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Ngā mihi nui to the trailblazing 20Twenties Young Alumni Award winners for 2023! These inspirational young graduates are already making their mark in their professions and in their contribution to communities across Aotearoa New Zealand and globally.

The 20Twenties awards celebrate graduates in their twenties who have demonstrated outstanding achievements, contributed widely to their communities, or have shown exceptional leadership in their personal or professional lives. Nominations for the awards are received from the wider Otago alumni community, friends, employers and colleagues.

The 2023 award winners are drawn from all Divisions of the University, including graduates from Psychology, Geography, Biomedical Sciences, Mathematics, Communication Studies, Computer Science, Anthropology, Marketing, Commerce, Microbiology, Law and Accounting.

From Aotearoa to Sydney and as far afield as Copenhagen, these young graduates are excelling in their respective fields, in areas as diverse as legal-tech, Pacific media, financial services and extreme weather event recovery. They work as ministerial advisers, senior government analysts, in Emergency Departments, in innovative tech start-ups and for non-governmental organisations in Aotearoa and the Pacific.

In the community, they are volunteers for Land Search and Rescue, for Oxfam, for sexual violence and disability support initiatives, they judge science fairs and promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and mathematics) in schools.

Alumni Engagement Manager Donnella Aitken-Ferguson says the impact the 2023 award winners are already making within their professions and to the wider community is extraordinary.

“We are incredibly proud of these ground-breaking, caring and community-focussed young alumni. Their commitment to their chosen fields and to their communities, and the impact they have made in such a short time since graduating from Otago, is truly inspiring.”

Award recipient Taylor Cooney, who studied Microbiology and Immunology at Otago, says she was hugely honoured to be recognised in the awards.

“My time at Otago University played a pivotal role in shaping both my academic and personal journey, and I am grateful to my peers, mentors, teachers, and the many friends I’ve made along the way for contributing to my experience,” says Taylor, who now works for a non-profit in Copenhagen, empowering scientific innovators.

“Otago holds a very special place in my heart and I look forward to continuing to represent our alumni to the best of my ability in my future endeavours.”

20Twenties winner Matthew Manukuo overcame brain cancer as a teenager, and graduated with a BA in Communication Studies in 2022. Matthew, who is from a Niuean family in Auckland, is currently working as a multimedia journalist for Pacific Media Network.

“Dunedin is a second-home for me and my time at Otago University was the most integral part of my life!” says Matthew. “Without the years I spent there, and the people I was surrounded by to support me, I wouldn't be where I am today. I’m truly grateful for the honour.“

20Twenties Young Alumni Award winners for 2023

Taylor Cooney
Taylor Cooney.

Taylor Cooney, BSc 2015, PGDipSci 2016

At Otago, Taylor studied Microbiology and Immunology. She received a prestigious Maurice Wilkins Centre PhD Scholarship and moved to Victoria University of Wellington to complete a PhD. Her work focused on developing a novel therapeutic treatment for cancers arising from HPV.

Taylor was an inaugural member of the Friends of the Emergency Department at Hutt Valley Hospital in 2017, and is passionate about encouraging children in STEM subjects, regularly giving talks at schools and judging science fairs. She was also the chair of the Momentum Investment Committee (Wellington Branch) for four years, helping build the student startup ecosystem in New Zealand.

Taylor now works for a non-profit in Copenhagen, empowering scientific innovators and helping build new start-up companies that aim to solve a wide range of problems in human and planetary health, such as therapeutics, health tech, climate change, food security and water security.

erin gourley
Erin Gourley.

Erin Gourley, LLB(Hons), BA 2021

Both a Law and Arts graduate, Erin has just passed the bar. Erin was the editor of Critic in 2021. She has provided a voice for her student body in the media and used her platform to champion underserved voices.

Erin is currently working as a journalist at The Post in Wellington, which has seen her cover everything from the occupation of Parliament to the council’s latest budget woes.

Lauren Holloway
Lauren Holloway.

Lauren Holloway, BA, LLB (Hons) 2019

As Chair of Social Change Collective (SCC), Lauren led the organisation through the post-COVID-19 environment. In 2023, SCC hosted 56 changemakers across 13 events, sharing more than 64 tangible actions attendees could take to create change across impact areas ranging from democratic action to food sustainability.

Alongside leading SCC and working at RBNZ as a Senior Analyst, she is also Chief of Staff with the E-liability Institute; a global non-profit advancing the accounting upgrade needed to catalyse better climate decision-making. Lauren was awarded a NZ Spirit of Service Scholarship in 2021 to study at Oxford University, where she completed a Master's in Public Policy.

Bryn Jenkins
Bryn Jenkins.

Bryn Jenkins, LLB, BCom 2019

Contributing to Aotearoa’s emerging Legal-tech sector through his work with ComplyWith, Bryn is helping to make complying with the law easier. He works with ComplyWith’s community to deliver plain language solutions to give people clarity and manage compliance risks.

A dedicated volunteer, last year Bryn and his team walked 100km and raised more than $6,000 for Oxfam. He is excited to do it again in 2024. Bryn is also an Auditor with the Academic Quality Agency, helping uphold academic integrity and quality nationwide.

Georgia King
Georgia King.

Georgia King, BASc 2021

Georgia completed her Bachelor of Arts and Science in Psychology and Anthropology and is currently completing her Master of Social and Community Work (Applied).

Georgia has also volunteered and worked for Te whare Tāwharau (Otago's sexual violence prevention and education centre), and worked with people with an intellectual disability, firstly on placement then as a paid support worker. She has also trained in suicide prevention.

Matt Lambie
Matt Lambie.

Matt Lambie, BA 2017

Matt majored in Human Geography and in 2017 he was a University of Otago Division of Humanities Ambassador. Matt was chosen for the Volunteer Service Abroad Te Tūao Tāwāhi (VSA) UniVol Programme in 2018, through which he spent two years volunteering in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea. He was partnered with a local NGO to support in the delivery of community-based agriculture and healthcare projects.

On his return to New Zealand, Matt worked for the Office of the Ombudsman, where he led engagement with several Pacific Ombudsmen and Human Rights Institutions. He has recently returned to Bougainville as the Programme Manager for Volunteer Service Abroad Te Tūao Tāwāhi (VSA).

Kiri Lenagh-Glue, BA (Hons), BSc 2020

Kiri Lenagh-Glue
Kiri Lenagh-Glue

At Otago, Kiri worked with Unicrew, now known as Otago's Social Impact Studio. Since that time, Kiri progressed from intern to senior analyst with the Matū Group, which invests in and grows science and technology companies.

Kiri has also served on a range of boards and committees, including Return on Science Digital Technologies Investment Committee, and Otago Momentum Investment Committee. She is a mentor for Auckland University Investment Club, and is currently training to serve as a volunteer First Responder with Hato Hone St John.

Elliott Marshall
Elliot Marshall.

Elliot Marshall, BSc (Hons) 2021

Elliot is pursuing a PhD in Mathematics at Monash University, focusing on the stability of relativistic perfect fluids in expanding spacetimes. He has been awarded the Monash Graduate Excellence Scholarship and the Staff Prize in Mathematics for excellence in honours year final exams.

He volunteered at the mathematics booth for the University of Otago's Science Expo and actively participated in various events promoting the field of mathematics, including as a student representative on the external engagement committee for the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Otago. This year he helped organise the online 2023 Australia-NZ Student Conference on General Relativity.

Matthew Manukuo
Matthew Manukuo.

Matthew Manukuo, BA 2022

After overcoming brain cancer as a teenager, Matthew graduated with a BA in Communication Studies in August 2022. He is currently working as a multimedia journalist for Pacific Media Network.

Pacific Media Network is a Pacific-led media organisation dedicated to empowering Pacific peoples in Aotearoa through unique storytelling that helps preserve Pacific Island culture and language. Matthew contributes to this mission by crafting stories disseminated through diverse multimedia platforms, including radio broadcasts, online news, and other visual media.

Aqeeda SIngh
Aqeeda Singh.

Aqeeda Singh, MBChB 2021

Medical graduate Aqeeda’s many accomplishments include the Scott Memorial Medal for top anatomy student in 2017, the University Booker Prize for top preclinical neurology student in 2017, oDocs Inaugural Award for ophthalmology research in 2020, Professor Gordon Sanderson Scholarship for glaucoma research in 2021, and the Verral Award for best published paper in the New Zealand Medical School Journal 2021.

During COVID-19, Aqeeda was a lead author on a project about the QR codes used in NZ. Her study on the impact of the travel done by hospital-based senior doctors for the purposes of continuing medical education on greenhouse gas emissions at district health boards was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in 2022.

One of her current research projects involves creating an optimal eye care model for the NZ health system to follow to have the best outcomes possible for all eye patients in the country.

Vishwas Singh
Vishwas Singh.

Vishwas Singh CA, BCom 2019

After working at PwC for over a year, Vishwas moved to Sydney and in 2020 he joined Deloitte in the Global Middle Markets audit division. Vishwas helped establish initiatives and teams such as Audit Quality and Transformation and Deloitte Neurodiversity initiative.

In 2021 he joined Brookfield Asset Management to work in Group Corporate Accounting. He founded an employee engagement group called Brookfield Next Generation (bNext), which brings together colleagues in the early and middle stages of their careers who want to engage with and learn from each other. Vishwas represents CA ANZ at various tertiary education events to help facilitate the dialogue between academia and industry and is on the Urban Land Institute Young Leaders Group (ULI YLG)

Vishwas has also represented Brookfield on the Young Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (Young AICC) committee, and he volunteers in the community at Mater Hospital and at GenU.

Sam Verschaffelt
Sam Verschaffelt.

Sam Verschaffelt, BBiomedSc 2019

Sam is currently in his final year of the MBChB degree at Otago. He has a commitment to providing patient-centred care and improving health equity in Aotearoa. During a summer studentship through the Kōhatu Centre for Hauora Māori at Otago he researched how health metrics can be applied in the setting of a rural general practice clinic serving a predominantly Māori community. He has also been a BBioMedSc School Ambassador, laboratory demonstrator, and tutor for the Disabilities Information and Support Services.

In 2022 he was awarded a scholarship by McKinsey & Company to attend the New Zealand Future Leaders Forum in Auckland, and in 2023 received the Freemasons Charity University Scholarship, which is awarded to students who demonstrate good citizenship, show leadership potential, and excel academically. Sam has volunteered as a Land Search and Rescue Volunteer and for the last seven years as a Friend of the Emergency Department Volunteer through St John.

James Heath
James Heath.

James Heath, BA 2019, MPol 2021

James’ public sector career has taken him from a fast-track course with MBIE to serving within Parliament itself as MP Hon Rachel Brooking's Ministerial Advisor. In 2020 he was awarded the inaugural New Zealand Business and Parliament Trust Prize in Politics.

James has held governance positions with a range of organisations working to improve the quality of life of New Zealanders. He was OUSA President in 2019 and had a long tenure on the board of food rescue charity Kiwi Harvest.

In 2020 he was awarded a KiwiBank New Zealander of Year Local Hero Award, for community work including a Fox Glacier clean-up with 70 students and increased student access to mental health services. Last year he produced and production-managed an award-winning theatre show in Wellington.

Jack Manning
Jack Manning.

Jack Manning, BSc 2019, DipGrad 2020

Jack graduated with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Computer Science and a Diploma for Graduates in Marketing Management. He was President of the Otago University Students’ Association in 2020 during the global pandemic.

Today, he supports coordination of the Government's cyclone recovery work programme.

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