UC Diversity Week – who needs to belong?

Kia ora guys! I’m getting really excited for UC Diversity Week which is coming up in a couple of weeks. The week is all about learning more about the huge diversity of culture and experience we have at UC and talking about ways we can become a more inclusive campus so that everyone feels they really do belong here.

As a warm up to the week, a few students have kindly agreed to share who they are and what they’re in to with this awesome blog over the next few weeks.

So first up, Josiah Tualamali’i, a second year Law, History and Political Science student, tells us a bit more about himself and why feeling like we belong is important…

Hi there my name is Josiah, and I am part Samoan and the student representative on the UC Pasifika Strategy Board and the Promotions Officer of the Samoan students association CUSSA. In these roles, I work with people who are key to ensuring academic, spiritual and pastoral support for Pacific students at UC but more importantly in making sure the university is a place that is empowering, accessible and breaks the barriers for Pacific students to attend and engage fully in all areas at UC.

I went to a conference in the summer on Te Tiriti o Waitangi. During a discussion on having a sense of belonging in Aotearoa one participant of Chinese and European descent said that even though she was born in New Zealand and has lived here all of her life she did not feel like Aotearoa was a place which accepted her. One of the people listening to this conversation tried to tell her that it was her fault that she feel like this saying, “well, it’s what you’ve made of it.” I jumped in here and replied that it is fault of society if someone did not feel that New Zealand was a place of belonging. He began to justify what he had being saying by telling her that she shouldn’t care what society thinks about her. I then said that is not easy and as people we have a desire to be accepted, loved and belong, so, not caring isn’t a solution!

I bring this story up to say that it is vital that all students, especially Pasifika, Māori, learners with special education needs and new students, feel like they belong here at UC, and are valued by our teaching and learning community. It is not good enough for those of us who are comfortable and safe in our friend groups to pass the buck and say it is someone else’s job to help them. A sense of belonging is something we collectively create or impede. If in the story above the group member who responded had instead said something to affirm or support the person in what was a deeply personal discussion, it is possible that this woman would have finally found a place where she felt safe and wanted to belong.

Thus it is crucial that we are people who actively try to comprehend differences between people and not dismiss them, we are after all an institution which is supposed to be the “critic and conscience of society.” Our campus could be the New Zealand leader of all tertiary institutions when it comes to being a campus of people who care about others and ensure together we all have a sense of belonging, but ultimately we all have to want to do it.”

Faafetai tele lava Josiah.

Look out for more Diversity Week information in the coming weeks!

Diversity Week

First-year students wanted for research!

Research is a vibrant part of UC and we would like to ask you to take part.

We are looking for first-year university students who are interested in participating in a study looking at changes in health behaviours and well-being of students during their first year at university. Participation involves the completion of one online survey now, and three more brief online surveys throughout 2015.

If you decide to participate and complete survey number 1, you will go into a draw to win a Westfield or Petrol voucher (one $100 voucher and one $50 voucher available)! There are also vouchers available for the other three surveys. If you complete all 4 online surveys then you have the chance to win an iPad-mini in November!!

The surveys have been reviewed and approved by the University of Canterbury Human Ethics Committee, and all your data will be confidential. Participating in this study is 100% voluntary. Click here for more information about the study and access to the first online survey.

If you have any questions, please contact Associate Professor Roeline Kuijer (roeline.kuijer@canterbury.ac.nz) who works at the Department of Psychology.

Could you go Two Weeks Without?

Two Weeks Without
Rachael Gresson and Bridget Williams

University of Canterbury student Bridget Williams and recent graduate Rachael Gresson have come up with a new initiative that encourages people and businesses to support local charities in a unique way.

These two lovely ladies are really passionate about helping the community. With their different backgrounds in student and community support – Bridget was president of the Student Volunteer Army for two years, and Rachael was on the UCSA exec – they are the perfect candidates to encourage others to connect local people with local issues.

So Two Weeks Without is a social enterprise that facilitates challenges for individuals and businesses, who choose to go without something for two weeks. The element of choice as well as the scope for creativity and flexibility makes this fundraising initiative unique. Challenges can be done anytime and anyplace, and therefore can be designed to suit any lifestyle or business model. Businesses can either do a challenge together or do departmental challenges for a bit of healthy office competition. Two Weeks Without offers a mutually beneficial arrangement as it’s a fun team-bonding exercise that will generate great PR for the business, as well as support a worthy local cause.

Rachael and Bridget first took their idea for Two Weeks Without to Akina Foundation’s Launchpad programme for growing social enterprises, making it to the semi-finals. Feeling encouraged and inspired, the ladies then approached the UC Innovators programme, which awarded them a scholarship and a place in their Summer Start-Up Programme for young entrepreneurs. With the help of these programmes, Bridget and Rachael have now successfully launched the enterprise, which has been running for about 10 weeks.

To test the Two Weeks Without model, Bridget recently went two weeks without shoes to raise money for Help for the Homeless and Rachael went two weeks without make-up to raise money for Husky Rescue. Each of their challenges were quite successful for first attempts – raising around $200 each for their charities.

Bridget and Rachael have also organised a large challenge to replicate and test business participation. 100 UC students from the Emerging Leaders Development Programme will be challenging each other in 10 teams of 10 from Feb 27 to March 13 – each with a unique sacrifice. Although the final decisions haven’t been made, Bridget said some of the ideas so far include not looking in the mirror, no coffee, no sugar, no cell phone, no bed, no hot water and no walking – instead having to hop, skip or jump. Each team will choose either Husky Rescue, Help for the Homeless, or the White Elephant Trust to donate their funds to. See this page from the Two Weeks Without website for more info about these charities and why they were chosen.

I think Rachael and Bridget have come up with a really fun way to engage people with local charities and community issues. It would be so fun to do a challenge together as a flat or study group, and even more fun to challenge each other to see who can raise the most with their crazy sacrifice!

To see my full interview with Rachael and Bridget, click here.