2022 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients

Learn about the achievements of some of our Distinguished Graduate Award recipients

Becoming involved in the heartbeat of the University

Who: Aleisha Wallabh-Smith

Area of study: Bachelor of Arts, majoring in German and Classics and Ancient History

Co-curricular activity or voluntary role: Class Representative and Staff Student Consultative Committee Representative for the Faculty of Arts since 2019; Arts+ Mentor and Ambassador Team Leader; Member of the German Drama Company

What did you enjoy about the Co-curricular Recognition Programme?

The Co-curricular Recognition Programme enabled me to become involved in the heartbeat of the University of Auckland. It not only promotes academic excellence, but also provides programmes where I could challenge myself personally to develop and nurture my altruistic skills. The one thing I enjoyed the most was the workshops. They provided me with the necessary skills to fully support students and ensure their wellbeing. The greatest joy I received as a Class Representative was when I received recognition from both the faculty and my peers for the work I had done.

What did you learn while completing the Distinguished Graduate Award?

During the tenure of the Co-Curricular Recognition Programme, I developed a level of professionalism. My leadership and interpersonal interactions developed as well as my mediation skills. The programme required self-reflection exercises which gave me a better understanding of myself and what I have achieved throughout my university life. It highlighted areas of personal growth which would not have been possible without this programme. The Distinguished Graduate Award concluded with giving all participants a framework on which they could market themselves for future employment. I found the more I was able to give, the more I was able to develop and grow. I strongly encourage other students to undertake this invaluable programme.

A journey of transformation

Who: Michael Heard

Area of study: Bachelor of Commerce/Science conjoint majoring in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Management and Psychology

Co-curricular activity or voluntary role: Kidsline Helpline Coordinator, Psychology Students’
Association President

What did you enjoy about the Co-curricular Recognition Programme?

I thoroughly enjoyed being given the space to reflect on my experience. I know there are a lot of amazing people out there all doing incredible things, and so having the ability to take time and think about what I have done was incredibly useful. It is easy to forget that the need to chart our paths is just as important as taking every step. As such, it was really nice to be a part of a student community where that reflection time was appreciated.

Also, being recognised as a valued part of the university community is lovely. So much value has come from my co-curriculars, and so, having the opportunity to be recognised for them is an awesome cherry on top. 

What did you learn while completing the Distinguished Graduate Award?

I think a better question is, what didn’t I learn? In the positions themselves, I learnt a huge range of skills from event management to written communication and conflict management. My university journey has been one of transformation, as it is for many people, and most of that is from my life outside the classroom. The final workshop for the Co-Curricular Recognition Programme was incredibly useful in learning more basic information towards scoring first jobs after graduation; a needed step in my own career journey.

Unleashing their full potential

Who: Shivani Paris Kershaw

Area of study: Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours) specialising in Psychology/Bachelor of Health Science conjoint

Co-curricular activity or voluntary role: President of Auckland University Psychology Students' Association (AUPSA) and Wellbeing Ambassador on the Student Wellbeing team 

What did you enjoy about the Co-curricular Recognition Programme?

With the Co-Curricular Recognition Programme, I've really enjoyed having an honest and open opportunity to self-reflect on my leadership and community engagement activities to visualise and formulate my self-growth since starting university. I used to be quite involved in extracurricular activities during high school, and it felt highly foreign trying to get back into that space when university can be really individual and isolating sometimes. Having the Co-Curricular Recognition Programme helped me to really see that my mahi is leading me down a path of personal development, growth, and success for the future and that the steps I invest in now are helping me to become a better person, a better graduate, and better health professional. It’s also encouraged me to showcase my passions and efforts with whānau, friends, and peers I've interacted with and to celebrate all my successes, all the little steps I've taken, and all the achievements I've met for myself and for my roles!

What did you learn while completing the Distinguished Graduate Award?

While completing the Co-Curricular Recognition Programme, I've learned a myriad of tools and skills to add to my kit for when I will be attending interviews after graduating. The Distinguished Graduate Workshop has helped me hone in on how to approach interviews, stand out amongst the crowd, and link in all my key learnings and lessons from the programme to showcase my passion and mahi in all its glory. In the same way, the programme has also taught me how to tap into skills from within the Leadership and Community Engagement pathway to apply to areas that I see for myself in the future - looking at transferable skills, what isn't explicitly included in my degree, what I can do better, and what best represents myself, my mahi and my passions. Ultimately, I've learned how to unleash my potential and utilise my experiences to better myself, my connections and networks, and my opportunities for success upon completing my degree! 

Creating treasured memories through volunteering

Who: Tariq Ghazaly

Area of study: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Chemical and Materials Engineering

Co-curricular activity or voluntary role: UniGuide, Participant in Summer Lab

What did you enjoy about the Co-curricular Recognition Programme?

One of the more personal notes was being able to connect with some incredible people. They helped me to form a few treasured memories like nights of working on our topic for Summer Lab and creating content for the UniGuides’ social media. Being part of both these programmes meant that I was able to develop more of my soft skills and realise that there is a way to give back and do more at University than just study. It also helped me to understand more of how my experiences have shaped me as well as form a deeper passion for areas such as volunteering. The bonus was to have this participation recognised!

What did you learn while completing the Distinguished Graduate Award?

The perks of the Co-Curricular Recognition Programme and subsequently the Distinguished Graduate Award allowed me to develop a solid understanding of what my strengths and weaknesses are. In starting either path, I realised that there was a difference between who I was at the start versus who I was at the end. This transitioned into knowing the areas of myself which had developed, as well as where I could improve more, and all of this is what I could put into reflection. As a cherry on top, this cultivated into a final interview and the advantage was I already knew the answers from my own development and reflections when completing the paths. Not only this, but the skills I acquired over the course of completing this programme are only going to be developed further in life. Learning how to verbalise my strengths/weaknesses and developments has been one of the biggest takeaways from the Co-Curricular Recognition Programme.