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Source: University of Canterbury

28 April 2022

Humanity, acceptance and te ao Māori in action is how Chris Houghton describes his role as a Kaitoko Student Advisor at the University of Canterbury (UC).

  • Chris Houghton says the role of the Kaitoko (first year student advisors) is to help students navigate UC life with one-on-one support.

First year students Serenity Fidow and Lawrence Calsado have been grateful for the Kaitoko support.  “I found adjusting to University within the first few weeks was a big challenge but the Kaitoko have been brilliant,” Fidow says. “There is an endless amount of support in all areas of study including course planning and wellbeing.” Calsado says the initial outreach is important as students can have a hard time asking for help.

Professional development is provided to give the Kaitoko sound generalist knowledge of all student resources which Houghton says is a unique approach to student advisory.

“UC’s student service hub sits in one centralised location in Te Pātaka. Pātaka means storehouse, and this is UC’s storehouse with all the resources students need. It provides a place of authenticity and represents us really living te ao Maori. Everything is here within arm’s length to support students.”

Accessibility and equity are central themes to the Kaitoko, something he says is opening doors to people who previously thought university wasn’t an option.

“We live in a different world. We are a diverse team meeting the needs of a diverse student body. If we are not responding to those who are in front of us we won’t get the successful outcomes that we are hoping for. People can come to UC and maintain who they really are. No one has to change to be here.

“Come to UC and be yourself.”

With a Masters of Teaching and Learning, Houghton has taught at both a primary and high school level, and worked as a pastoral dean, something he has formed a passion for. “We don’t just advise, we support students through the services and make sure they reach the help they need. We do a lot of outreach to make sure no one falls through the gaps and we help to provide a sense of belonging through the true essence of ako, valuing all knowledge and world views.

“It is having a huge positive impact and really reflects the whanaungatanga of UC.”

Kia Angitu – Success from the start 
Coordinated first year student advising is part of UC’s Kia Angitu student success programme. Kia Angitu brings together a range of initiatives to help students transition into study at UC and go on to thrive and succeed.

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