Winning the prestigious Margaret Hetley Scholarship for 2022 has given EIT student Jenni Coulson the opportunity to tackle her Master of Professional Creative Practice this year and research a project close to her heart.
The scholarship, worth $2,500 is in memory of Margaret Hetley, who gifted the land on which EIT Hawke’s Bay is located, for the purpose of tertiary education in the region. The scholarship, is awarded annually by the Ōtātara Trust to assist women to undertake tertiary study.
Jenni says she was excited to receive the scholarship.
“The great thing is that it was a validation of the project I’m undertaking. There’s a lot of support for it already, so it was lovely to receive this.”
Jenni is using her postgraduate degree through EIT’s IDEAschool to develop her theoretical and practical knowledge of ecologically resilient design, through permaculture in action on a property near Waipawa.
The property in question is the family farm that she grew up on and now shares a part of with her partner Gigs. Jenni’s parents bought the original 40-acre lifestyle block just before she was born with the intention of restoring the land.
“My parent’s intention was to develop the wetland and riparian margins. They were trying to create a habitat for the environment, which I am sure is why I have been steered in the direction I have.”
Jenni’s parents started building an eco-house on the farm, so the family moved to Napier for a while, where she went to Taradale High School. She had wanted to study architecture in Wellington after school but winning an EIT Year 13 Scholarship pushed her to enrol in the three- year Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design on the Hawke’s Bay Campus in Taradale.
“I have always been interested in design and during the degree I was able to bring my interest about the environment into the projects that I chose to do.”
This skills combination continued after EIT when Jenni got a job designing and building natural playgrounds nationwide for a company called Playscape. It was here that she met her partner Gigs, who had a background in landscaping.
“We ended up traveling around New Zealand for about two years off and on to attend natural building workshops and in that process, we also started learning more about permaculture.”
“While we were traveling around, there was sixteen acres left on the original farm that I grew up on, after the rest was sold off. So, we ended up taking over ownership in 2019.”
The couple have continued growing their knowledge of permaculture, even doing a year-long Kai Oranga course on their local marae which taught them Hua Parakore principles (a kaupapa Māori system and framework for growing kai).
With that under her belt, Jenni has returned to EIT to complete her Masters, which she is basing it on the farm project.
“Last year’s task was trying to figure out the successional plan of the land. And then this year it’s building on from that. The regenerative practices that we have already started implementing mean that we have got quite an abundant garden now.”
“We’re trying to figure out how we can create a model, to be able to encourage the local community to be more aware of their environment, and what they’re eating, and how they’re doing things.”
She says this year’s focus is looking at what they are creating.
“We are looking at what we’re implementing on the land and how we can utilise that in a way which allows us to create an income, in turn allowing us to continue building on our goals.”
EIT Careers Advisor and member of the Margaret Hetley Scholarship Panel, Shelley Oliver, says Jenni stood out among the applications, many of which were of a high standard.
“Jenni is passionate about finding ways to better support our natural environment through sustainable and traditional practices. She further will use this knowledge to empower and support others.”
“We selected Jenni based on her letter of introduction, excellent references and community contribution as well as we were very impressed with the scope of her research and how it reflects the EIT values of sustainability.”
The Chair of the Otātāra Trust and EIT Board Member, Geraldine Travers, said: “It gave me great pleasure to award the Margaret Hetley Scholarship to Jenni. Margaret was obviously a woman ‘ahead of her time’ exhibited by her decision to leave her property for the building of a future tertiary institution for Hawke’s Bay.”
“Jenni’s project and vision is similarly future focused.”