Newly capped graduates of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi: indigenous-university
were urged to use their new qualifications for the good of Māori. Distinguished Professor Graham Smith, Awanuiārangi CEO and Vice Chancellor, told graduates at their capping ceremony in Whakatāne on May 11 that he expected them to commit to uplifting Māori.
“Become a transformer of the Maori socio-economic condition,” Distinguished Professor Smith said. “The status quo simply maintains existing inequalities. Commit to contributing to a collective responsibility to uplift Māori – don’t be seduced into becoming a privatised, individualised academic. Understand that the credentials you have gained do not automatically confer leadership. Be humble and be prepared to become a worker for the people. Learn to listen twice as much as you speak. Let your deeds speak for you.”
The Distinguished Professor said he was pleased to report an outstanding and productive year for Awanuiārangi in the areas of academic quality, financial performance, transforming socio-economic outcomes, building Māori student achievement and developing cultural citizenship skills. Awanuiārangi was graduating close to 300 degree students – a reflection of the shift in the wānanga’s mix of provision, which was nearing the 50% degree-granting mark.
“This growth in degree outputs is deliberate,” Distinguished Professor Smith said. “A Māori with a degree has more employment opportunities and on average earns more than non-Māori counterparts. I would note that Awanuiārangi is currently responsible for around 20% of the national output of Māori with degrees. What I want to comment on is the relevance of the qualifications that we are teaching. Our decisions about what we teach are not made simply around vocational outcomes. Our aim is to not only improve academic achievement but to also create Māori citizens who have the language and cultural skills to participate more fully in Māori cultural life.
“Too often our students are offered a narrow education in which academic achievement is often at the expense of their Māori cultural capital. We believe our students need and must have both elements – it is not an ‘either/or’ choice,” Distinguished Professor Smith said.