Kupe's way: Navigating the opportunity of a lifetime

With applications now open for the 2023 Kupe Leadership Scholarship, 2022 recipients Britney Clasper and Justine Lee share their experiences.

2022 scholarship recipient Britney Clasper
2022 scholarship recipient Britney Clasper says the moment her parents thought law was something she should try was when, as an eight-year-old, she wrote up a contract stating that she would clean her sister's room for 20 cents an hour.

Right from the start, the Kupe Leadership Scholarship process initiates a journey of self-discovery, says 2022 scholar Britney Clasper.

Britney and fellow 2022 scholarship recipient Justine Lee were delighted to learn last year that, along with 14 others, they were the recipients of an opportunity of a lifetime, which has seen them enjoy a bespoke leadership programme, personal mentors, a leadership speaker series, and a stipend of $22,000, or accommodation and a $10,000 stipend.

With applications now open for the 2023 Kupe Leadership Scholarship, Britney and Justine are sharing their experiences and encouraging other students to apply for the prestigious programme, which is named after the great navigator Kupe, who, with his wife, Kuramārōtini (sometimes known as Hine-te-aparangi), is credited with discovering and naming Aotearoa.

"The questions asked in the Kupe application required me to really think and explore my own values," says Britney, who is studying towards a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Marketing and International Business.

"Simply drafting answers for the scholarship application was a meaningful experience, as for the first time, I had to put on paper what I am passionate about and what makes me tick."

Britney says the moment her parents likely thought that law was something she should try out was when, as an eight-year-old, she wrote up a contract stating that she would clean her sister's room for 20 cents an hour.

"I followed the usual pathway of a law student - dropping science and maths as soon as possible because they weren’t for me! Law stood out for two reasons; firstly, I'd be lying if I didn't say that the mental security that comes with a vocational degree wasn't a factor. Secondly, I'd grown up having family and friends tell me I should be a lawyer."

Statue of Kupe
This statue of Kupe in Wellington, shows the legendary explorer with his wife, Kuramārōtini also known as Hine Te Aparangi, and his tohunga (priest), Pekahourangi.

When Britney found out about the Kupe Leadership Scholarships, she reached out to friends who were in the 2021 cohort to see if the scholarship was something that aligned with her interests.

"They had great things to say about their experience, so I thought why not, and put in an application!"

The applications were then followed by what was supposed to be an in-person assessment day, but lo-and-behold, says Britney, lockdown meant a shift to Zoom.

Like the written application, the assessment day required applicants to critically consider their values in answering questions about major global and domestic issues.

"I would say that right from applying, Kupe initiates a journey of self-discovery," says Britney.

As part of the scholarship, Britney has enjoyed having Miriam Dean, one of the country's trailblazing female litigators, as her mentor.

"I feel beyond blessed to have Miriam as a mentor. She has followed a career pathway that aligns with many of my interests and goals; from independent government reviews to mediatating, to corporate governance," she says.

"As the first female partner at Russell McVeagh, she broke through the glass ceiling and went beyond the roof! Miriam has a wealth of wisdom on the position of women in the legal profession and it's an honour to be able to pick her brain. One of the best parts of the Kupe scholarship is the incredible mentors that the coordinators so thoughtfully pair the scholars with."

Kupe Leadership Scholarship recipient Justine Lee.
Kupe Leadership Scholarship recipient Justine Lee.

The chance to learn from an inspiring mentor was also a significant drawcard for economics student Justine Lee.

Justine, who was studying at the University of Canterbury before moving to Auckland to undertake a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons), was lucky enough to land Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick as her mentor.

"It's awesome! I never dreamt I'd get an opportunity like this. She has taught me so much about politics and opened my eyes to different perspectives on economics as well.
We meet up for chats over food, and I usually come with a few questions I want to hear her perspective on. Sometimes it's things we've discussed in Kupe workshops, like thoughts on leadership, and sometimes it's about economics, the environment, or politics.
Chlöe has taught me that, as a leader, you should put the cause or the change you are trying to create before yourself."

Kupe scholar Justine Lee is sponsored by the Kelliher Economics Foundation and Britney Clasper is sponsored by Fran Ricketts and Geoff Ricketts CNZM.

The Kupe Leadership Scholarship offers an exciting experience of personal growth and challenge alongside an honours, postgraduate diploma or masters course at the University of Auckland. Learn more and apply for the 2023 programme.

Media contact

Sophie Boladeras | Media adviser
M: 022 4600 388
E: sophie.boladeras@auckland.ac.nz