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Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

10 Dec, 2020

MYOB NZ Education Manager Shailan Patel presents Personal Growth prize to Benny Zhong

Everyone has had to grow this year to simply survive, declared Shailan Patel NZ Education Manager for MYOB, speaking at the AUT Edge and Beyond Awards graduation ceremony last Wednesday night (2 December).

And survive and grow was exactly what 80 AUT Edge and Beyond award students did, successfully graduating while surrounded by family, friends, industry partners and the Employability and Careers team.

When presenting the Personal Growth prize, Shailan said he was highly impressed with the efforts of those who had completed the award.

“Over the last few years we have developed great partnerships with AUT working on many initiatives to help students transition to the workplace. We are very delighted to be part of the Edge Award by sponsoring the Personal Growth prize for the first time,” said Shailan.

Personal growth winner Benny Zhong beamed with delight at winning the prize. Benny says he learned to believe in himself through doing the Edge Award. “I am learning how to be myself and help others be who they are, whatever that might be.”

Impact of Covid

Doing these awards during Covid-19 has been an arduous undertaking, particularly when volunteering organisations had to literally shut their doors end of March. This added a new challenge for award students who had to meet 35 and 50 hours of volunteering and 12 to 18 hours of leadership to complete the award, said Student Employability Director Anna Williams.

“Covid made our students journeys much harder. Volunteering is very hard to do over Zoom and some leadership events didn’t even get off the drawing board as lockdown loomed – and was then extended.”

Semester two Overall Edge Award winner Jude Gair-Ah Siu, who did over 120 hours of volunteering and 149 hours of leadership, says she was humbled to receive the prize and proud of how much she’d grown through the AUT Edge Award.

Her biggest learning was to realise she is far more capable than she thought.

“Often the little voice in our heads tells us that we can’t do something because we don’t deserve it, we aren’t confident enough, we aren’t qualified enough. But in reality, we are more than enough… There are still times where I doubt myself, but now I am more aware that voice is probably wrong and I should give it a go anyway.”

Industry sponsorship

Five organisations sponsor industry prizes for the Awards; MYOB, Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand (sponsor of the overall Beyond AUT Award), EY (sponsor of the Edge Leadership Award), SEEK Volunteer (Volunteering) and Brix & Co (overall AUT Edge Award).

It was a truly inspirational and special evening, says Chartered Accountants of Australia and NZ (CAANZ) Careers Engagement Manager Christine McKinnon.

“Everything you’ve gone through will enable you to give and succeed in the future. I am thrilled to be part of this award.”

The two Beyond AUT overall winners, Mansi Mudgil and Siddarth Thyagaraj spoke of the challenge of doing volunteering and leadership hours over lockdown and how it taught them dedication, perseverance – and strong time management skills.

“The award really helped me push myself. I learned many things, including how to be patient and to do things for others without expectation. This has really changed me as a person,” says Mansi.

EY Campus Recruitment Senior Consultant Hannah Booth commented on how great it was to be able to turn up in person – something that would not be possible in many other parts of the world at the moment.

“This is a new sponsorship for us and we’re very excited to be here. You’ve all done an excellent job in what has been an incredibly challenging year.”

Anna acknowledged the industry sponsorship and support of the awards from CAANZ, SEEK Volunteering, Brix & Co, MYOB and EY.

“Through these industry partnerships, we are able to recognise not only the achievement of all the students but also celebrate those that go beyond expectation. We truly value these industry partnerships.”

Resilience on show

Before presenting the awards Vice Chancellor Derek McCormack congratulated the graduates for their resilience and resourcefulness.

“Many of you had to organise and run leadership events on Zoom and Teams, deal with the stress of your academic studies online and maybe worry about friends and family far away. This shows immense resilience and resourcefulness that will not only make you a better employee but also enhance your ability to contribute to other spheres of life, family and employment.”

He pointed out that nearly 40,000 hours of volunteering has been completed across both awards. “That is the equivalent of one person working full time for 20 years.”

Anna says many students sign up for the award thinking it is going to be a box-ticking exercise.

“Yeah, nuh. Instead, it is an absolute journey of learning, knowledge, reflection and a building of self-confidence that makes you stand out in the crowd when you leave AUT.”

The Stats

  • AUT Edge Award
    3,723 students enrolled
  • 308 graduates, with 65 this year.

Beyond AUT Award (set up a year ago, specifically for postgraduate students)

  • 643 students enrolled of which 15 graduated this year.

Hours contributed (combined)

  • 3775 hours of volunteering in the local community
    over 1000 hours in leadership roles or challenges.

Winners of 2020 AUT Edge Award and Beyond AUT Awards

  • Overall Award Semester 1 – Sarah Jaros
  • Overall Award Semester 2 – Jude Gair-Ah Siu
  • Volunteering Award – Shaye Va
  • Leadership Award – Nicole Camacho
  • Personal Growth Award – Yuanfeng Zhong (Benny)
  • Beyond Overall Winner Semester 1 – Mansi Mudgil
  • Beyond Overall Winner Semester 2 – Siddarth Thyagaraj
Industry sponsors