Back to University after 50 years

From learning to scuba dive, to attending the Commonwealth Games, Dr Julie Carr’s passion for learning has seen her life filled with adventure.

She recently embarked on her latest educational journey. She is studying politics and international relations at the University of Auckland, more than 50 years after she first graduated.

Carr has studied a range of subjects, including science, te reo Māori, information technology (IT) and teaching. She believes education is paramount at all stages of life.

“My father used to say ‘Education is something that no-one can take off you.’ I agree with him. Wherever you go in your life, you will take your education with you. Education for me is a lifelong passion,” she said.

Her journey with the University first began in the 1960s, where she graduated with a Master of Science in Plant Physiology after majoring in botany and chemistry for her Bachelor of Science. In order to collect material for her research projects, Carr learned to scuba dive, which she said was a novel experience.

“The Leigh Marine Reserve was very new at the time, as was the research facility. I did enjoy diving, as the algae looked so beautiful in its natural environment.”

After Carr graduated, she studied for her doctorate in plant physiology at the University of Sydney and worked as a teaching fellow. Upon her doctorate completion, she returned to the University of Auckland as a teaching fellow in botany and biology for nine years.

Following that, Carr attended Secondary Teachers College and went on to teach sciences at several secondary schools. While working at Epsom Girls Grammar School, she studied te reo Māori and started the Māori culture group. Members of the group performed the pōwhiri at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, a “tremendous” experience.

“There were lots of people participating, young and old. It was a great honour and a privilege to be part of the group welcoming all those international sports people and visitors to our country.”

In 2000, Carr took voluntary redundancy from her role at Queen Victoria School and explored her interest in IT. After completing a range of Microsoft engineering papers, she started her own company, which solved software and hardware issues and built desktop computers.

Her business is not as demanding as it once was, so Carr decided to delve into studying once again and opted to further her understanding of politics. With the inclusion of her Māori papers, she hopes to complete a Bachelor of Arts.

Politics was a hot topic in her household while growing up, and her passion for it never wavered. After she completed her doctorate, Carr was actively involved with the Values Party and later, New Zealand First.

“My Dad voted Labour and Mum voted National so in my childhood home there were always grand discussions of the policy of each political party. We were schooled on the importance of participating and knowing what the issues were.”

Carr said she would encourage anyone to consider studying again, regardless of their age.

“Learning is a life-long activity. You are never too old.”