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EIT | Te Pūkenga student set for exciting adventure after winning prestigious award

May 5, 2023

It has been a long hard road for Ashleigh Kearns-Steed (Ngāpuhi) but not only is she on the cusp of achieving her Bachelor of Business Studies (Management) from EIT | Te Pūkenga, she has also been selected for the prestigious Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa scholarship, which recognises excellence in Māori students.

The 24-year-old ākonga (student) has come a long way from when she left high school at about 15, working in retail for about six years, before spending some time in Italy.

“Leaving school early did lead me to believe that I didn’t have any options, and I convinced myself that I wasn’t educated or knowledgeable enough for the system.

It was her older brother Bradley who pushed her to apply for the degree at EIT.

“I’ve always had an extreme high interest in sustainability, especially in the areas of water and environmental management and that’s where my whakapapa kind of comes in as well with the principles of partnership, participation, and protection. It was my brother Bradley that pushed me into it. I was feeling really whakama (shame) and a little bit embarrassed that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, because I knew that I was capable of doing something significant.”

“And my older brother Bradley sat me down one day and just convinced me that I was wrong about myself, and that I needed to do these big things.”

It was the motivation that she needed, and she looks back now on how far she has come.

“I’ve kept all my assignments and being able to reflect back from my first assignments, to what I’ve achieved now is extremely significant, but it just proves that everyone’s capable.”

Her first year at EIT had its own challenges as she started in 2020 when COVID-19 hit and then she was affected by the Napier floods that year.

“EIT was amazing with that. They helped me out in extraordinary ways, they were there for me, which was good.”

While the floods had an impact on her, she was fortunate to not be too badly affected by Cyclone Gabrielle.

“It just proves that the flooding mitigation that the council obviously implemented, did its job.”

She says that starting her programme during COVID-19 with a pivot to online learning.

“I hadn’t had too much education around how to use laptops, or how to use Teams and all these Zoom meetings. So, EIT was extremely patient, which made it a breeze.”

As for the Te Hononga-ā-kiwa scholarship, Ashleigh says she was only one from Hawke’s Bay nominated to put her name forward for Te Hononga-ā-kiwa.

The scholarship is a Māori student of excellence award, which has seen chosen students previously travel to Chile, Taiwan, and Ecuador.

“Because of COVID-19, it ended up being based in Aotearoa, therefore, connecting via Zoom calls to our CAPES across the globe. Te Hononga-ā-kiwa is an opportunity that incorporates the academic business and leadership knowledge in this international context.”

“They aim to increase Māori business engagement capabilities and awareness internationally. They did this by collaborating with communities in Latin America, North Asia, Southeast Asia, and Te Hononga-ā-kiwa here in New Zealand as well. And we learnt how indigenous and international businesses operate and collaborate with like-minded peers..”

Having been denied a chance to travel the first time, Ashleigh put her name forward again and was accepted. She will be attending this year’s rōpū in Columbia.

In the meantime, there is the small matter of her internship which she needs to complete her degree.

“I just need my internship and then I’m done.”

Russell Booth, a lecturer in the EIT | Te Pūkenga School of Business says: “Ashleigh is a very capable and mature student who has shown exceptional levels of resilience and tenacity over the last couple of years. Whilst these attributes are always highly regarded, the fact that Ashleigh is a consistent ‘A’ grade student is testimony that she is also a very capable and intelligent young woman.”

“It has been an absolute pleasure to see her grow in confidence and this has culminated in Ashleigh embracing any opportunity that comes her way to progress her career. We wish her every success in the future and know Ashleigh is one of those students ‘to watch’ in the near future.”