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Alumni scholarships link Otago’s past, present and future

Friday 19 August 2022 11:17am

alumnimain1First-year students who have received donor-funded entrance scholarships to Otago this year were celebrated at a welcome event.

After two years of cancelled events, it was great to get together last week to welcome this year’s alumni scholarship recipients.

Deputy-Vice-Chancellor External Engagement, Professor Tony Ballantyne, welcomed the group of first-year students who have received donor-funded entrance scholarships to Otago this year. In total, 70 scholarships were awarded in 2022.

Professor Ballantyne says the event celebrates the success of the students, who have all come to Otago with significant achievements and abilities, which have been recognised through the awarding of the scholarships.

“We are delighted that you are part of the wide family of the University and we are really keen to support you on your academic journey and voyage out into the world.”

Professor Ballantyne says the event also celebrates the generosity of those who support Otago.

“The scholarships have been made possible by a gift from an individual or group and that gift is given because the giver understands the value of education and wants to make education possible for you.

“We are delighted that you are part of the wide family of the University and we are really keen to support you on your academic journey and voyage out into the world,” Deputy-Vice-Chancellor External Engagement, Professor Tony Ballantyne

“As a university, we are immensely grateful for those gifts. They enrich our community, creating opportunities for a new generation of tauira, enabling them to gain new skills, knowledge and experience. And of course, time at the University of Otago is a whole-of-life education. It equips our students to make a real difference in the world by enhancing our communities, improving life in our nation and changing things for the better on the global stage.”

The welcome event was a family affair for Alumni of the University of Otago in America (AUOA) Rugby Scholarship recipient Oliver Robinson and his mum Catherine McIntosh, who had travelled down from Tauranga for Oliver’s birthday.

“Initially even going to uni wasn’t really something I could think of doing, because it wasn’t financially possible,” says Oliver, who is studying Exercise and Sport Science and Nutrition, and playing hooker for the Otago University Rugby Football Club (OURFC).

Catherine says with another child at university, the scholarship, which is paying for Oliver’s Selwyn College fees, was the key factor in coming to Dunedin. “It makes a significant difference. Dunedin is hard to get to and aspirational to get to. The scholarship was the deciding point.”

alumnimain2AUOA Rugby Scholarship recipients Jacob Waikari-Jones (left) and Oliver Robinson.

Another AUOA Rugby Scholarship recipient, Jacob Waikari-Jones (Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tai), says the scholarship is “recognition of the hard work put in through school and on the field as well”. The first five or fullback from Wellington, who is studying Exercise and Sport Science, also says OURFC has looked after him well, with senior players of the club helping him settle in and mentor him through his rookie season. 

Laila Burnnard, who received an S and G Higgs Scholarship, is studying Health Sciences First Year and says the scholarship has allowed her extra time for her studies, as she doesn’t have to get a job.

“It has helped me have financial freedom, rather than having a really big loan,” says Laila, who has come to Otago from Taranaki. “It also gave me a nice confidence boost to know they believe in me, it helped me starting out, knowing I had that support and faith in me.”

Bachelor of Teaching student and Alumni Appeal Scholarship recipient Chelsea Greenall says without the scholarship she would either have not been able to come down to Dunedin from Timaru, or she would have had to live with her grandparents, and “missed out on first year life at Salmond”.

Law Alumni Scholarship recipient Abigail Spratt emigrated from Northern Ireland in 2020, and the scholarship has been especially important to her financially as she is not eligible for either a student loan or the first-year fees free scheme. Abigail is studying for her LLB and BA majoring in French.

“The Law Alumni scholarship has been really helpful as it has enabled me to do something I’m passionate about.” She says it has been a good way to make connections with other students at Otago.

Graeme and Mary Fogelberg Entrance Scholarship recipient Isaiah Opai, who is of Ngāti Porou, Fijian and Pākehā descent, was especially pleased he was able to meet his scholarship donors while still at Wellington College, before he came to Otago.

“Meeting the Fogelbergs was a really special experience, and I feel blessed with the opportunity,” says Isaiah, who is studying for a BA majoring in Sociology.

Director of Development and Alumni, Shelagh Murray, says the donors are always eager to hear how the students are doing.

“Most of these donors are supporting you because they themselves were the recipient of a scholarship when they were here at Otago, and they know the difference this made to them and their families, or they understand how hard it can be to financially support yourself whilst you are studying.

“One donor who lives overseas studied at Otago in the 1970s. He started out by providing two entrance scholarships and this year he is providing five. When asked why he’s donating the scholarships he said, ‘when I was a student I benefitted from a free education at Otago and this enabled me to be qualified and earn a living and also enjoy the wonderful student life with much fond memories’.”

Professor Ballantyne rounded off the welcome by saying, “often we think about our community as staff and students, but our community is much larger than that. It’s a community that’s made up of generations of students and staff that have come before us. So, it’s great to take this opportunity to show how you all play a very important role in linking together the past of the institution, the present and also the future”.

- Kōrero by Margie Clark, Communications Adviser Development and Alumni Office