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Jack Manning, BSc, DipGrad: building a career path from student advocacy

Jack Manning
Jack Manning.

questions and answer 'QWhat was your reaction to receiving the award, and what does it mean to you?

I was surprised and delighted. To be recognised by my alma mater, particularly this early on in my professional career, is a real honour.

questions and answer 'QWhat have you done since graduation and what are you doing now?

I was bitten by the political bug while at university. After my time at Otago, I moved to Wellington to explore this interest and build out the skills I received through my time in student advocacy.

I first became an Assistant to two Members of the New Zealand Parliament, before winding up in the policy profession at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) – first for the COVID-19 response, and now for the recovery from the extreme weather events of early-2023.

questions and answer 'Q What inspires and motivates you to work in the areas you are involved with? Do you have plans for the future?

I’ve found my time at DPMC really rewarding because of the intersectional nature of our work. Where you might be focused on one piece of the puzzle at one agency, we are pushed to look at things from an ‘all of government’ perspective. As a newcomer to the policy space, this system awareness has been invaluable.

Ultimately, we are there to help politicians make the best decisions they can. A large part of this is keeping an ear to the ground, and putting the different social, economic, and governmental pieces together to see what can be done differently.

I would love to take my policy work to areas I learnt about during my time at Otago and already have a keen interest in, such as emerging technologies and the role of social media.

questions and answer 'QWhat were the highlights of your time at Otago, and has it influenced you in your career and following your interests?

The work we did at OUSA in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic will always stick with me. Knowing that what we were dealing with was historically unique was a strangely liberating feeling. When else could you advocate for a universal grade adjustment and millions of dollars of student financial support, and get them both? That tendency towards decisiveness, to act now and seek forgiveness later, was one of the hallmarks of our pandemic response that I’ll always be proud of.

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