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Source: University of Waikato

There were cheers and tears when 222 people graduated at the University of Waikato’s Tauranga campus today, in the first in-person graduation ceremonies at the site since June 2021.

University Chancellor, Sir Anand Satyanand, congratulated students and thanked their families for supporting them with their studies.

“Today is a good time to reflect on the months and years you have spent studying, going to tutorials and now, at the end of it, you have realised the goal you were seeking,” he says.

He challenged graduates to “make the best of what you have learned at the University of Waikato”.

Leah Owen, who was receiving her Bachelor of Social Sciences degree majoring in Psychology and was the graduate speaker at the 10am ceremony, says that it was a day to celebrate and reflect on “the strength and resilience” of reaching graduation day.

“To my fellow graduates – we did it. Despite everything the world threw at us, we are here today.”

University Chancellor, Sir Anand Satyanand congratulated students for achieving their goals

Among the degrees conferred at Tauranga were 108 bachelor’s, five bachelor’s with honours, 19 master’s, one PhD and 89 postgraduate or graduate diplomas.

Abigail Carrillo Fibela, 25, was one the the 2019 cohort of inaugural students starting at the newly opened campus.

“We were pioneers,” says Abi, who graduated today with a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree majoring in Sociology and Political Sciences from the Tauranga campus. “It was good to start at this brand-new campus, and we were in small groups so we made good friends.”

Abi is from Mexico originally, but moved to New Zealand six years ago. Since finishing her studies last year, Abi has started working for Toi Mai – Workforce Development Council in Wellington.

Fiona Taiena Patiunia Helu was wearing dozens of money and lolly lei (kahoe lole) gifted to her by friends and family to celebrate her graduation today.

Fiona, who is originally from Tonga, graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work, and is now working as a social worker at children’s charity Barnardos in Auckland.

“I wanted to do something to support families, young Pasifika and Māori kids growing up in the system, or from troubled homes.”

Fiona Taiena Patiunia Helu celebrated her graduation with friends and family

The support of her family, many who were at graduation today, made a big difference to Fiona.

Cheniel Powell received her Master of Applied Psychology degree with first class honours, along with a Postgraduate Diploma in the Practice of Psychology in Applied Behavioural Analysis.

The Tauranga mother of three says it felt “amazing” to receive her qualifications in front of her family.

“It’s been a long time coming, and it’s a relief. I have had so much support along the way from my husband Michael, from my in-laws, and of course my kids,” says Cheniel.

The Tauranga ceremonies were the first in a week of University of Waikato graduation events planned in Tauranga and Hamilton.

There are eight ceremonies in total, with 1666 people graduating overall. There are events scheduled in Hamilton next week at the Claudelands Events Centre on September 6 and 7 and Te Kohinga Mārama Marae on the Hamilton campus on September 8 and 9.