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First-year students encouraged to take every opportunity

Tuesday 23 February 2016 11:31am

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Deputy Prime Minister Bill English addresses the 2016 University of Otago Convocation ceremony at Forsyth Barr Stadium last night. Photos: Sharron Bennett.

Inspiring words kicked off Orientation 2016, with the speakers at this year’s Convocation ceremony encouraging the 3000 first-year students in attendance to take up every opportunity offered during their time at Otago.

The University’s second annual Convocation ceremony, held at Forsyth Barr Stadium last night, was an opportunity to mark the beginning of the academic year and formally welcome this year’s first-year students to Otago.

Guest speaker, Deputy Prime Minister Hon Bill English, an Otago graduate, told the audience of his own experiences “turning up here 35 years ago almost to the day” complete with “bad acne”.

"If you take all of those opportunities you will leave here with a sharper intellect, a stronger sense of purpose and a bigger heart."

He described being socially inept, taking one girl to a function who got so bored she went home early; and meeting another that he walked two kilometres on crutches in the hope of seeing the next day, only for her to tell him he “looked different in the daylight”.

That girl was Mary, who become his wife, and mother of his six children.

Mr English went on to encourage the first-year students to take up all of the opportunities offered at Otago.

“If you take all of those opportunities you will leave here with a sharper intellect, a stronger sense of purpose and a bigger heart.”

He urged the students to try to make a difference – and stressed that they didn’t need to wait to have “that united nations job as a human rights lawyer” to do so.

“It’s not the cynic, or the complainer, or the bully who changes things. It’s the person with a sense of purpose, who is positive, who is a problem solver, maybe to the point of obsession. It does take determination to change the world. And a person who is able to build relationships with integrity, trust and respect.

"... in fact, if they have any regrets at all, it is they didn’t take full advantage of the opportunities we provide here. Leave without regrets. Get involved."

“You can start now, here at Otago to change lives … Being at university isn’t easy for everyone. A kind word, a person who is supportive, can change the life of a person who is uncertain or insecure. The thoughtfulness and support you can offer to your peers will make a difference.”

These sentiments were echoed by Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne, who told the group to use their time at Otago wisely.

“Each year, I have the opportunity to meet Otago graduates who range in age from 25 to 95. These graduates live not only in New Zealand, but all over the world. When I ask them about their time at university, none of these alumni ever tell me that they wished that they had done less at Otago—in fact, if they have any regrets at all, it is they didn’t take full advantage of the opportunities we provide here. Leave without regrets. Get involved.”

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull also addressed the group, as did OUSA President Laura Harris, who encouraged the students to take advantage of the services offered by OUSA, and to enjoy their time at the University of Otago. Contemporary Music Performance student Metitilani (Lani) Alo performed Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror and Six60’s Don't Forget your Roots.

The ceremony was followed by the Otago Variety Show, featuring local comedy and music including performances by the sextet, the Sexytet, the Improsaurus improv troupe and the O-Taiko drummers.

More images from the ceremony:

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