Careers Mentors

Ryan Cleverly

Ryan Cleverly:

I am from Ngunguru, a small coastal town east of Whangarei in Northland. Currently, I am working on the Landonline project with EDS (NZ) Ltd and Land Information New Zealand as a GIS (Geographical Information Systems) operator. This involves the conversion of land information from paper to computer format.

I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Physical Geography for which I received a Faculty of Science Centennial Scholarship. I enjoyed mentoring for Awhina for two years while at university and this year I look forward to continuing my support for Maori and Pacific Nations science students as a career mentor.

Awhina benefits both mentors and the students they support, it's giving us all a chance to show what we can do.

Tangihaere Walker:
Ngati Porou. Ko Hikurangi te maunga
Ko Waiapu te awa
Ko Ngati Porou te iwi
Ko Te Whanau-a-Ruataupare ki Tuparoa, Te Aitanga a Mate, Ngati Rangi, Te Whanau a Umuariki, Ngati Hinekehu nga hapu

Kia ora koutou,

I hail from the East Coast but have largely grown up (kind of) in Porirua and the Kapiti Coast. With frequent visits back to the coast I have managed to keep in contact with whanau as well as gained heaps of support from the ones who know me and love me the most. It is because of this support that I am where I am today. It has also shown me how important it is that people have the kind of support that I am lucky enough to have to help fulfil the potential that we all have.

I have just finished my five year tour of duty at Victoria, coming out with barely a scratch and a BA (Hons) in Psychology. In my final year (2001) I had the honour of being an Awhina mentor for 1st and 2nd year psychology students, and was in awe of the work by those in Awhina to give support to Maori and Pacific Nation students studying science.

Having moved on from university for the time being I find myself working as a researcher for the Family Centre, a non-profit organisation that focuses on people disadvantaged because of sex, race, and/or social-economic status. We are involved in a broad range of activities including family therapy, community development, research, and education and training. I'm currently enrolled for my Masters degree for which I received an HRC scholarship.

Nathan Thomas

Nathan Thomas

I am part Samoan and the first of my family to go to university. I have completed a BCA/BSc conjoint degree and a BSc(Hons) degree in statistics, while tutoring Maori and Pacific Nations students in statistics and maths.

To me Awhina is a way of giving something back and raising the profile of maths and sciences in Maori and Pacific Nations communities. I have left University and am working at TOWER managed funds as a student actuary, but I will be supporting Awhina as a career mentor and trying to get others in the workplace to do likewise.


Robyn Bryant:
Ngati Apa

Tena Koutou Katoa
Ko Robyn Bryant toku ingoa
Ko Ngati Apa toku iwi
Ko Nga Wairiki toku hapu
Ko Kurahaupo toku waka

Kia ora, Talofa! My name is Robyn Bryant and I have a Bachelor of Design majoring in Graphic Design. It's a four year degree and lots of hard work but also heaps of fun.

I grew up in a small town in in Central Otago called Alexandra where I enjoyed ice-skating, skiing, and also being part of the kapahaka. I moved to Wellington to begin the course, and loved every minute of it. I based my final year project on a Maori clothing label called Matiu which was influenced by Kupe and the Wellington region. I designed a graphic identity as though there is a Matiu store (you may see some of these images within this site).

My other interests include; painting, flute, piano, Maori Art and culture, tramping, swimming, and mountain biking. I am currently looking to work in the graphic design industry, focusing on Maori design. I would also like to get my clothing label out into the market, as I believe it has a lot of potential. My design can also be seen on the Awhina t-shirt that all mentors are proud to wear!

Susan Forbes

Susan Forbes

Hi, my name is Susan Forbes, I am an archaeologist and a graduate of Victoria University with a BA(Hons).

I originally specialized in underwater and coastal occupation sites of the Mediterranean (for which I was a Royal Geographic Society and Rolex award winner for enterprise). I am now absorbed in the task of researching and protecting the "once-wet places" of the lower North Island.

This work in coastal dune and wetland ecosystems has resulted in a lifelong commitment towards ensuring the families and Hapu of Te Ati Awa ki Whakarongotai flourish and thrive in their home area.

I am also the environment and heritage manager of the Runanga Unit (Kapakapanui); Whitireia Polytechnic Research Coordinator; mother of two great boys; wife of Anaru Kim.

Paki Macken Maaka

Paki Macken Maaka:
Ngati Kahungunu & Kainuku (Rarotonga)

Registered Architect, eldest of five children born in Lower Hutt, educated and raised in Wainuiomata with previous employment as a Telecom technician, a postie, and labourer.

BBSc & BArch (Hons) 1994 - a belated academic career which started aged 28 at the Wellington Schools of Architecture & Design.

Currently practising as an architect with Craig, Craig and Moller - experience includes hospitals, education, Housing NZ, apartments, housing, and prisons.

I have been an Awhina career mentor since 1999; tutored design papers at the School of Architecture; and past juror with NZ Institute of Architecture awards.

Actively involved with architectural issues in Wellington through consulting to Wellington City Council regarding the Waterfront and as secretary to the Wellington Architectural Centre - I believe that architecture and society has a lot to gain from the diversity of our emerging cultures.

Nigel Hunt

Nigel Hunt

Talofa my name is Nigel Hunt. I am a Samoan from a fairly large family of 8 sisters and one brother. I have a BSc in Computer Science, and a BA in Education. University has been good to me, hopefully I can give something back.

Don't forget the big secret to success - "Ia e fa'atuatua i le Alii ma lou loto atoa; a e aua le faalagolago i lou lava atamai. Ia e manatua o ia i ou ala uma, ona faatonuina ai lea e ia lava ou ala."

Mehaka Rountree

I started work with the Wellington City Council in November 2001 as a Strategic Advisor, Statitistics, Research and Reporting. My responsibilities include the monitoring of the Council's activities and projects throughout the community. I am responsible for managing the statistical information that comes into and goes out from the Council, including publications that report statistics about Wellington. The position offers great scope to apply and improve on the skills that I have gained and it's great to be finally putting all the skills that I gained at university into practice.

I have always enjoyed playing with numbers and solving problems. After studying for two years at polytech the next step was to carry on studying at university level. The prospect of studying science let alone mathematics at university was daunting. I initially didn't have enough confidence in myself to believe that I could achieve at that level. The first year at Victoria University allowed me to find my feet and gain some confidence in my abilities and myself.

Coming from a Polynesian background it was fantastic to have the support of the whanau network mentoring programme,Te Ropu Awhina Putaiao. It really made a difference, especially when you just wanted contact with people who were dealing with the same pressures and problems that you were, or needed guidance from people that had been in the same position as you, or needed a mentor who would offer you practical, individual help with your studies.

I graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science in Statistics and Operations Research and a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies. Looking back I am very glad that I completed an Arts degree with a Science degree. It's very easy to get lost in the world of science and it's important to gain the skills to successfully express yourself to people who aren't necessarily scientifically minded.

Kiriana Bird

Kiriana Bird:
Ngati Porou, Ngati Raukawa

Tena Koutou Katoa
Ko Maungatautari to mauanga
Ko Ohau te awa
Ko Tainui te waka
Ko Tukorehe te marae
Ko Ngati Tukorehe te hapu
Ko Ngati Raukawa te iwi, me Ngati Porou nga iwi
Ko Kiriana Bird toku ingoa

I have been a part of Te Ropu Awhina Putaiao since 1999 when it was first established at Victoria University. I was then in my second year studying towards a Bachelor of Science. Since then I have finished my BSc in 2000 majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Cell and Developmental Biology. I have since decided to become a Maori doctor.

I have a five-year-old son called Tyler Grace and a wonderfully supportive partner (Lee Grace) and whanau. Te Ropu Awhina Putaiao provides the support and encouragement to help our Maori and Pacific students to get through university studies. I believe that Te Ropu Awhina Putaiao gave me the support to obtain my BSc and I remain supportive as a graduate for them.

Rachel Viles

Rachael Viles:
Ngati Raukawa (Horowhenua/Manawatu), Ngati Maniapoto

Kia Ora, my name is Rachael Viles, and am of Maori descent. I have been a mentor for Te Ropu Awhina Putaiao since 2000, and help mentor students in their first and second year of Maths. I have found science to be a challenging but rewarding degree, and through Te Ropu Awhina Putaiao hope to encourage more Maori and Pacific Nation students to study science.


Melanie Russell:
Ngati Porou
Ko Hikurangi te maunga
Ko Waiapu te awa
Ko Ngati Porou te iwi
Ko Tuwhakairiora te hapu

Tena koutou. My name is Melanie Russell and I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and a Master of Science degree in Marine Biology from Victoria University. I was a Te Ropu Awhina Putaiao mentor for 3 years, including a year as a mentor for the Outreach programme at Bishop Viard College. I was also lucky enough to have a Tuapapa Putaiao Maori Fellowship (TPMF) for my Masters degree.

I have been working for the Ministry of Fisheries since May 2004, and transferred to Nelson in May 2005 to work as a Customary Fisheries Facilitator. My job involves providing assistance to iwi and hapu to enable the development of their fisheries management strategies. It's a fantastic job that combines my passion for the marine environment, and the empowerment of Tangata Whenua.

I really enjoyed my time at Victoria University and I value the support and encouragement I received from the Te Ropu Awhina Putaiao mentors and staff. I fully encourage all Maori and Pacific Nation Science students to get involved in Te Ropu Awhina Putaiao, either as a mentor or as a protege. It is a great whanau network, especially if you are living away from home, and everyone is there to assist you to reach your goals and much more.

No reira, whaia te iti kahurangi; ki te tuohu koe, me he maunga teitei.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa