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Source: Massey University

The celebration was held at Wharerata on the Manawatū campus.

Around 1000 people including more than 200 graduates, their whānau, friends and university staff came together on the Manawatū campus on Friday afternoon to celebrate the Class of 2020.

Celebratory events are taking place at each campus to acknowledge and recognise the achievements of graduates who graduated in absentia in April and May due to COVID-19 restrictions forcing the cancellation of the traditional graduation ceremonies.

The events are an opportunity for graduates to dress in academic regalia and have photographs taken with their whānau and fellow students and celebrate with live music, food, drinks and gifts. Guests were welcomed to Wharerata with a mihi by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori Professor Meihana Durie.

Massey University Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas congratulated all graduates and commended them on their efforts during their time at Massey.

“Never more have universities and university students been needed, you all know what an unbelievable year 2020 is and continues to be and you graduates will be known forever as the graduates who went out into the workforce in the middle of a lockdown and a pandemic, that’s something not a lot of people can say and for you it says a lot about your spirit and character.”

She says Massey University graduates are stunningly impressive people who go out and make huge differences in the communities and professions they serve.

“The world now needs university graduates who are skilful, knowledgeable, who can work in a transdisciplinary way who can problem solve, communicate, who are resilient, and who are courageous. Those characteristics define Massey University graduates and I know that our graduates will be successful and most importantly will make an enormous difference to our world just when we need it most.”

Professor Thomas also thanked parents, grandparents, partners and friends, children and grandchildren of graduates for the continuous support and encouragement they showed their loved ones during their studies.

Jenny Huang and Lucy Hong, Bachelor of Veterinary Science graduates.

More than 200 graduates and their families travelled from around New Zealand to attend.

Bachelor of Veterinary Science graduates Lucy Hong and Jenny Huang came from Auckland and Wellington respectively to mark their graduation.

“It’s great to celebrate the five years of sweat, blood, tears, everything you name it, bodily fluids,” laughed Miss Hong, who is now working as a small animal emergency vet in her home city, Auckland.

Jenny Huang, whose parents live in Seattle, said they celebrated over Zoom when her graduation certificate arrived in the mail, but today means a lot because it is her first degree.

“Even though we didn’t get to walk across the real stage, it’s amazing seeing everyone here with their families to celebrate what we’ve accomplished. It’s been a really hard journey, but so worth it.”

Gayle Moana-Johnson with her whānau.

Gayle Moana-Johnson was celebrating with her whānau and three tamariki, the youngest just three months old. She began her Bachelor of Social Work when she was 20 and has been studying for six years via a mixture of on campus and online learning. She has already signed up for post-graduate study.

“I’ve been studying for a long time, it took an extra two years probably because I have three kids,” she laughed. She said she was drawn to studying social work because of her upbringing. “Growing up was pretty crap. I had heaps of support as a young parent and a young person going through adversity and I wanted to give back too, so social work really fit that.”

She said she is grateful for all the support she has received and the understanding and flexibility of lecturers who knew she was juggling studying, working and being a mum. She would take her daughter to lectures when she was young, who now says she also wants to study at Massey when she is older.

Annie Chenery with her parents.

A family affair

Annie Chenery was joined by her husband, parents and brother’s family, who had all travelled from Wellington. She graduated with a Master of Management, which she studied online while working fulltime as a service manager for the Ministry of Education.

“I like learning and it was really fascinating studying a professional practice paper. My experience of studying online was easier than I expected, the study was challenging but the experience of learning was really good.”

She said while her family were showering her with gifts, the event was an opportunity for her to thank them and her lecturers, for all their support.

“I’m really grateful for Massey for putting this [event] on. The regalia, the gifts, it’s just brilliant.”

Cheran Bakewell said it felt so good to graduate with her Bachelor of Business degree after spending eight years studying part-time while juggling life, work and kids.  “It feels like the end of a very long process.”

Ms Bakewell said she always regretted not studying after high school, but could not afford it at the time, so she chose to study later in life. 

She now works in the finance team at the South Taranaki District Council and said her degree helped her to get a foot in the door.

Ms Bakewell was joined by her daughter Dayna who will begin a Bachelor of Resource and Environmental Planning at Massey next year.

Manasvi Singh (L), Krishna Singh, Parul Singh and Yatindra Kumar.

Yatindra Kumar, who graduated with a Master of Food Safety and Quality, was joined by his wife Parul, his son Krishna and his daughter Manasvi.

He said the day meant a lot to him and it was a nice way to end his two years of studying.

“I received the certificate by mail and we had a small celebration with food and we took pictures with the family.”

Mr Kumar studied in India more than 20 years ago where he gained a Bachelor of Food Technology, but after moving to New Zealand he decided he wanted to study further. He is now working as a technologist for an apple manufacturing company in Hastings.