Steve Maharey

The Man Behind the “Power House”

It has been four decades since Steve Maharey crossed the bridge across the Manawatu River from Palmerston North to enrol at Massey. Back then Steve was enjoying life, but thought becoming a student might lead to even more interesting opportunities. Today the sociology senior lecturer turned cabinet minister is in his second term as the University’s Vice-Chancellor. When Steve talks about the transformative power of education, and education as “a long-term passport not a short-term visa”, it is his personal experience he is drawing on.

As Vice-Chancellor, Steve presides over a substantial enterprise. Massey University, which this year celebrates its 50th year as an autonomous degree-granting institution, has three campuses, 3,000 staff, 35,000 students – with around 17,000 of them studying through New Zealand’s longest-established distance learning programme – and a multitude of research alliances, here and overseas.

Steve MahareyThe result, for Steve, is a life that is a whirlwind of meetings, openings, speeches and interviews, and a frequent flier’s schedule of international obligations. He makes himself determinedly available, but even so he sees himself as a transitional figure. “I try to travel to the three campuses, but eventually it will defeat someone. If the game plan comes off, Massey will become a global player.”

It will also, if Steve has his way, play a significant role in creating a better, more prosperous “new New Zealand”. Hence initiatives such as FoodHQ, which, with the support of the Palmerston North City and Manawatu District Councils, is creating a super campus comprising AgResearch, AsureQuality, Fonterra, Massey University, Plant & Food Research, the Riddet Institute and the Bio Commerce Centre.

If New Zealand is to hit the Government’s target of having food exports reach $60 billion by 2025 – trebling 2009’s result – Massey’s input as a “science power house” will be key.

FoodHQ will principally draw on the expertise held in Massey’s College of Sciences and College of Health, but Steve is also sure that the University’s Colleges of Business, Creative Arts, and Humanities and Social Sciences will have a role to play in making Massey “the engine of the new New Zealand”.

“You need an environment in which people want to constantly stretch themselves.”

As a former sociologist, Steve has a particular fondness for the humanities and social sciences. These disciplines are areas he thinks have been unfairly neglected in recent times.

“I think the humanities and social sciences have a lot to offer, informing social policy, creating effective, competent citizens in a democratic society, promoting critical thought, and helping people to live full and satisfying lives.” In late 2013 the University launched the WH Oliver Humanities Research Academy to boost research in the humanities.

Managing such a large and varied organisation is not a simple task. A commercial enterprise would allow for more direct management. In a university, things are not so simple. “Good universities pride themselves on their independent academic staff,” says Steve. “Management needs to be light-handed and
strategically focused.

Massey University“You need an environment in which people want to constantly stretch themselves,” says Steve. Once you have that, it is simply a matter of “running along behind them and
being supportive”.

Away from Massey, Steve tries to keep active. “Our dog manages to get us out of the house for a walk every day. That provides some fitness for mountain biking and tramping”.

Every year he and his wife Bette try to tick off another adventure. “I used to do one long mountain bike race or something like that, but in the past few years we’ve done the Milford, Tongariro, Queen Charlotte and other shorter tracks.”

Mountain biking was something he took up “during my midlife crisis”; tramping was at Bette’s insistence. “I have to say it is one thing I never thought I would do,
sleeping in huts. I think, you know, if there are perfectly good hotels, why are we staying in a hut? But I actually enjoy it now; I enjoy the whole camaraderie of meeting other people, cooking your food and sitting there in the dark at night time. I think it’s fantastic. I can’t believe I’ve left it so long.”

Ruahine Kindergarten

Passion for young education

After just over a year as the General Manager of Ruahine Kindergartens, Alison Rudzki reflects on how her incredibly challenging and complex role has turned out to be “the best job in the world”.

Ruahine KindergartenRuahine Kindergartens runs 25 kindergartens across the wider Manawatu region, and a crucial difference between it and other early childhood education providers, in Alison’s view, is that “we are totally committed to having 100 percent qualified and registered teachers”. These teachers instil self-confidence, social skills and a number of life lessons to their pupils through pretend play.

Alison’s own childhood occurred on the other side of the world, with her growing up in a small mining village in County Durham, north-east England.

While living in the United Kingdom, Alison had a mixture of jobs that were mostly marketing based. This led her to actually teaching marketing for nine and a half years before coming to New Zealand for a holiday.

“Within half an hour of getting here, it was decided that we would move to New Zealand to live.”

After living in Palmerston North for a few years, Alison realised she had a real passion for education, and wanted to go right back to the beginning with early childhood teaching.

Since then she has gone on to lead the Ruahine Kindergartens, but they have suffered some setbacks. Alison is particularly disappointed at the fact that they will be shutting down their Hunterville-based mobile kindergarten in April 2014, which has been travelling to rural families and is one of only two mobile kindergartens in the country. The service acts not only as a centre for pre-schoolers, but also facilitated a weekly connection for many rural families.

Ruahine Kindergarten“It’s really to do with the funding. Given that we travel 450 kilometres a week, and we have to fund a head teacher, a teacher, an administrator, a teacher aide and the van, it’s a bit of a challenge really.”

Funding is not simply an organisational concern – Alison witnesses both ends of the spectrum when it comes to children’s financial backgrounds. She has experienced firsthand some of those stories of children who are vulnerable. “I realised when I first started that I wasn’t quite as aware as I should have been.”

Home life is so much more complicated for children now. Kindergarten provides a safe environment that readies them for life and, for some of these children, kindergarten may be the only stability they have in their lives.”

That being said, Alison does find there are many families who wish to be involved within the classroom, and Alison encourages them to stay during the day to spend time with their children. Parent support is also a huge help when it comes to fundraising for extra equipment.

Alison’s vision for the future is to see more kindergartens start up in new communities, with more staff so that there are opportunities for one-on-one learning. She’d also love to see the mobile kindergarten restored and thriving again in the future.

Alison doesn’t let money constraints deter her from her proud and positive outlook on the organisation and its staff. “Everyone here is consistently passionate and totally dedicated. We do a lot with what we’ve got.”Passion for young education

Ha Winter's Breath; The Fleeting Intensity of Life

Artistic Roots

Shelley Jahnke was exposed to art from birth; her father, Bob Jahnke, is widely recognised as one of New Zealand’s leading contemporary Maori artists. Accepting an appointment to come home to Palmerston North to take up the role as Te Manawa’s new Curator was an easy decision to make.

Shelley’s passion lies in art history, but art history was not a subject offered at her school. Settling instead for both history and practical art, Shelley was inspired to continue pursuing her passion at university, attending renowned art schools at Elam in Auckland and Cal Arts in California. “I decided to combine both art and history, the best of both worlds.”

Shelly-Jahnke-2Sticking to her Maori roots, and wanting to explore a contemporary aspect, Shelley went on to do her Masters research on renowned contemporary Maori artist, Shane Cotton. Her passion for art, and her love of Cotton’s work, made him an ideal subject. “He’s a close family friend. Since I was a teenager I’ve watched his career develop and blossom, so really it was a no-brainer.”

Shelley’s fascination and hard work have led her to become an international face for New Zealand art. In 2013, fellow New Zealander and artist Shigeyuki Kihara invited Shelley and a colleague to present a paper at the International Studio & Curatorial Program in New York. Shelley says the experience was one that increased her confidence in speaking for New Zealand on a global level.

The brightest point in her career so far has been her work on Roundabout, an international touring exhibition.

The exhibition has given her the opportunity to gain firsthand exposure to a vast selection of international art, an eye-opening comparison with the art culture in New Zealand. “It has been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences of my career,” says Shelley.

Having travelled and explored art nationally and internationally, Shelley foresees an optimistic future for Te Manawa. With the guidance of current CEO Andy Lowe, whom she calls a positive and supportive influence for the team, the museum is discovering a range of positive changes for itself and the community.

“Andy Lowe’s huge heart and inspiring vision of a museum without walls were major factors in my decision to accept the role as Curator.”

As an avid art historian, Shelley relates to various forms of creative expression. She explains that “whether it be film, fine art, theatre, poetry or dance”, she appreciates the quality and creativity of the piece.

“It has been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences of my career.”

While she cannot pinpoint one favourite piece of art, Shelley does admit that “I stood in front of Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ for close to an hour at MoMA in New York recently. I think the guards became quite suspicious…”.

Suspicious behaviour aside, Shelley is a breath of fresh air for Te Manawa and is a positive influence for the art culture in Palmerston North.

Simone Ginwala

Long journey to becoming a vet

For more than 50 years, Massey University’s veterinary school has trained the best and brightest vets. Simone Ginwala is a perfect example of this, as an international student who has travelled thousands of miles in order to live and learn at the Manawatu campus.

Simone GinwalaSimone Ginwala came to New Zealand from India to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a vet. Simone’s dream was fuelled by her parents’ passion for animals, the environment and conservation. Her family could never find a vet whom they really trusted, and Simone believes that this struggle contributed to her decision to become a vet herself.

To get the best education Simone had to leave India, as none of its vet schools were internationally accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Outside the United States, there are only 11 accredited schools, and Simone was faced with a choice of Australia or New Zealand. After realising that Australia was home to more animals that could “eat, sting you and hurt you”, Simone decided on New Zealand.

When Simone arrived in New Zealand she was told that the change would be jarring, and that she would struggle to adapt to her environment. “A lot of people say, ‘Oh you’re from India, was it a culture shock?’ But to be honest, I didn’t feel that way, it was a great transition.”

However, her studies were not without their hiccups, as Simone wasn’t selected to progress in the programme during her first year. “I was gutted. I wanted my grades to be the best, but I decided I just needed to try harder and dig deeper,” says Simone. The following year, Simone spent most of her time in the library studying, and managed to not only gain entry to the vet programme, but earn a spot on the College of Science Merit list for academic excellence.

The University’s support for international students remains a huge advantage in Simone’s mind, as the school runs many programmes to make students feel more comfortable and supported. Simone reflects that education in New Zealand differs from that in India because “the lecturers know each student by name, and they actually care about you”.

One of those educators is the lecturer on small animal medicine and nutrition, Nick Cave, who completed his PhD at the University of California Davis, one of the top veterinary schools in the world. Nick describes his role as a lecturer as one of his “greatest privileges” in life, and believes that Massey’s vet degree acts as a “springboard” for bigger and better things.

“The students here are all bright, well motivated people. They know why they’re here. Even if they have doubts, you don’t ever have to convince them that this degree is important.” Being so far away from home, Simone struggles with homesickness, and does sometimes envy those who can get in a car and return home in 10 minutes. “At the end of the day, I just keep reminding myself that this is the best place to study, and that I really love what I do.”

Refugee Family

Halfway around the world

New Zealand has become home to many refugees who have escaped from countries in turmoil, giving them the opportunity to lead safer and happy lives. Eight months ago, Ali Jan Sayed, his wife Gulsom and their three boys, along with Asadullah Rezaie, his wife Najibah and their son, became residents of Palmerston North. These men and their families travelled halfway around the world to escape the conflict in the Middle East, and could not be happier to have arrived here.

Refugee Family 2For anyone, moving to a foreign country is an enormous life change. Asadullah was in shock when he first found out that he and his family could immigrate to New Zealand, but he knew that “it was very, very good news for me”.

Ali Jan and Asadullah were granted refugee status because of the association risk they had from working with the New Zealand Army in Afghanistan. Both men worked as civilian contractors for the New Zealand Army for three years; Ali Jan as a carpenter and Asadullah as an interpreter.

Working with the New Zealand troops put these men and their families in considerable danger, fearing attack from the Taliban. However, as Asadullah says, “I was more than happy to help, because New Zealand had come to help. They didn’t come to invade our country, they came to save our people”.

“We are more than happy, we are safe.”

The Taliban are a very serious threat to those who do not adhere to their ideology. According to the United Nations, the Taliban and their allies were directly responsible for three-quarters of the recorded civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2010.

This was the year in which Ali Jan met Ellen Ford, a Feilding soldier who was on tour in Afghanistan. Ellen spent seven months as the Engineering Commander, in charge of six other New Zealand soldiers and 16 locally employed civilians, referred to as LECs, in the Bamyan province. Ali Jan was one of these LECs.

This team worked closely together to fulfil their two main tasks: maintaining the defences of the New Zealand bases and outposts in their assigned area; and helping with local construction projects that included schools and hospitals.

Ellen believes that the engineers had the best part of the tour, and she personally loved the experience. Ellen has “nothing but admiration” for the hard-working LECs she came to know. She tells how some of them would walk up to two hours, on what resembled a dirt track at best, to get to work each day.

“I was more than happy to help, because New Zealand had come to help. They didn’t come to invade our country, they came to save our people.”

Ali Jan returns this admiration, and has a lot of respect for the way Ellen led her team. Ali Jan explains that although Ellen was his boss, she was very friendly and he has a lot of fond memories of her. “The day she left she cried, and we were all very sad too.”

Now that Ali Jan is living in New Zealand, he has remained friends with Ellen, who now resides in Palmerston North. This is another of the many reasons Ali Jan is happy that he immigrated to this country, first and foremost: “that we are more than happy, we are safe”.

The safety that Ali Jan and Asadullah both have living in New Zealand, unfortunately, does not ease the worry they have for the family members they had to leave behind. Each has parents who are still in Afghanistan, and Ali Jan has three brothers who are trying to come to New Zealand. Their worries are a daily part of their lives, as “we still have war in Afghanistan, and they are not safe”.

Another missed aspect of Afghanistan is its weather. Both Ali Jan and Asadullah laugh when they discuss how they preferred their respective dry and wet seasons, instead of the “four seasons in one day” in New Zealand. Experiencing earthquakes has also been new experiences for both the Sayed and the Rezaie families.

Refugee-3However, a much more pleasant experience has been seeing the ocean for the first time. According to Asadullah, the Bandyamir Lake near their home town in Afghanistan is nothing compared with the ocean he saw on arriving in New Zealand. One of his best experiences has been “swimming in the ocean for the first time”.

“It was amazing. I know how to swim but I had never gone swimming in a big ocean with huge waves and lots of people around.”

While Ali Jan is practising swimming so he too can have this experience, both men are focused on a much more important goal. They share a passion to become fully employed in the community, instead of relying on financial support from the Government. “We want to progress our lives,” says Ali Jan.

Helping with this progression has been the support of Red Cross volunteers. Three volunteers were assigned to each refugee family for six months, in order to help them settle into the community. Ali Jan says he is very grateful to his volunteers, who are still in contact with him now.

It is not only the Red Cross volunteers but people in general who have been friendly and warm towards both Afghan families.

“Kiwis are very nice people. They are always asking us if we need help, which is very, very different in my country whereno-one asks you if you need any help.”

Humbug staff

A sweet twist in service

Business partners Mary Prichard and Georgie Goulden have made quite an impact on the community in their pursuit of unique employment opportunities. Their businesses, the Lolly Trolley and Humbug Sweets, were created specifically to provide workplace experiences for intellectually disabled young adults, who are included in every aspect of the business, from packaging and weighing products to serving customers.

Humbug-3The pair first met when Mary was teaching social work at Massey University and Georgie was one of her students. Their shared passion and interest brought Georgie into the family to help out with Mary’s intellectually disabled son, Morgan. From then on, “Georgie just became part of the family really”. Both realised they did not want Morgan, who has Asperger’s and Down syndromes, to just go into a sheltered work environment after he finished school.

“We didn’t feel that there were any real employment opportunities, and those that were there seemed to be offering him work in the back of something, not in the front of something. So we were really driven by our own concern for his welfare; what kind of future would there be for him?”

“We were really driven by our own concern for his welfare; what kind of future would there be for him?”

One of their first initiatives was the creation of the Lolly Trolley, a prototype business used to test the market for specialty lollies. This was funded by Mary herself, who continued to practise as a social worker while Georgie worked with Morgan and an intellectually disabled girl, Anaru, in running the Trolley. After the success of the Trolley they decided to move forward with a fully fledged lolly business, Humbug Sweets.
The progress they have made so far with their intellectually disabled volunteers has been significant, and Georgie and Mary are confident they will fulfill their goal: “To start businesses that will be owned and operated by people with disabilities, and provide them with life long careers”.

Humbug-2For the future, Mary and Georgie hope that one of those businesses will be a café called The Upside of Down, an idea that came from the volunteer workers themselves. Some of the food sold would be upside down “just to challenge what people’s ideas about what normal is and say, actually, it’s OK for us all to be different,” says Mary.

Shane Rufer

Passing it on

Shane Rufer was one of the first New Zealanders to play professional football in Europe, and has been one of the biggest influences in developing and promoting football in this country. To call him something of a football superstar is not a stretch, and since settling in Palmerston North to be
closer to his children, Shane’s work with the local football community has influenced a large number of talented children.

Shane RuferWhen he first returned to New Zealand after a decade of playing and coaching for Swiss professional teams, Shane and his brother Wynton had a dream of starting football academies. They hoped to discover talent and develop football in our country. The brothers started their first academy in Auckland, and upon his move to Palmerston North, Shane decided to go solo and the Shane Rufer School of Football was born.

“Football is underdeveloped in New Zealand, so it was natural for me to bring my experiences from Europe and pass them on,” Shane shares.

He enjoys working with talented players, but admits that it is rare to discover talent. However, there is space to develop and influence children through sports life skills, like teamwork, discipline and self-esteem.

Shane lives by the principle of “you need to love what you are doing”, because he admits that it is difficult to make a living in football in New Zealand. Through his diverse programmes in the School, he gives his students the opportunity to go overseas, to New Caledonia and Japan, to train and discover the world of football. In turn, he invites foreign students to visit here and interact with the Kiwi culture.

Through the pursuit of discovering new talent and refining their skills, Shane does face stressful and taxing periods, but says, “You have to learn to be calm in the good times and calm in the bad times”.

Retirement for Shane is a far-fetched thought. “Every day you need to fight. Before challenging the world, you need to fight yourself.” For Shane it is something he has done all his life, and he looks forward to doing it for more years to come.