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Source: University of Waikato

Ashleigh Dick will graduate this week with a Bachelor of Engineering (hons) in Environmental Engineering. Hailing from Warkworth, she is passionate about protecting the environment and believes we should take a holistic view of society to be effective at helping the planet survive.

“As an environmental engineer, I believe we need to look more holistically at society, through the lens of poverty and education, to truly affect change for the environment.”

Her passion and leadership skills made a big impression on her lecturers and employers while she studied, culminating in her selection for the YMCA Y25 programme which celebrates unstoppable young women on a path to make a positive change in the world.

During her four years at University, Ashleigh juggled part-time work at an environmental engineering consultancy in the area of three-waters infrastructure and also in project management at a construction site.  She has hit the ground since finishing her degree and has already started a full-time job in Auckland as an Assistant Project Manager at Thermal Solutions NZ Ltd.  Longer term, she has her sights set on working abroad in impoverished countries to create sustainable solutions.

Ashleigh found her final year at University particularly rewarding – she investigated the resilience of Hamilton’s stormwater network in the context of climate change and was part of a team that developed a type of green urea (fertiliser), using electrolysis and carbon sequestration.

She looks back on her University days fondly, especially the friendships and the opportunities she had to develop her leadership skills.

“While Waikato offers eight engineering degrees, the staff and students all work closely together and learn from each other. This connection is one of the things I think is really special about studying engineering at Waikato. It’s also a place that is very nurturing of innovation, where you feel supported to bounce around big, bold ideas from day one.”

Finding ways to work towards both protecting the environment and giving back to the community is Ashleigh’s sweet spot, and as a student, she played an active role in several organisations that fit this mantra.

“I love the thought of being able to give back to communities in a way that can benefit them in the long term.”

One of these organisations was the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Waikato Student’s Chapter,  which she co-founded in 2019.

“The group’s major achievement was sending a group of students to Su’u School in the Solomon Islands to help construct a sustainable electricity and potable water supply and teaching them how to maintain it.”

Ashleigh was also involved in The Wonder Project, which aims to inspire wonder in children and teach them about STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).

“My role as an ambassador was to visit schools, talk about my studies and jobs and teach them Newton’s Laws of Motion as we build a rocket together.”

Ashleigh was also the President of the Young Engineers Society (YES) which was primarily geared at offering social and networking events for engineers, as well as a student representative for the Waikato chapter of Engineering New Zealand.

Dean of Engineering, Professor Mark Dyer, says “I have no doubt Ashleigh is going to achieve great things in her career and it was an absolute pleasure having her part of our Waikato Engineering whānau.

“She truly embodied the attributes we strive to nurture here at Waikato, namely creativity, leadership and putting people at the centre of everything we do as engineers. “