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Former NorthTec business student, Eloise Neeley, is making the most of the support provided by an educational trust which commemorates a trailblazing female academic.
Eloise, from Kiripaka, near Whangarei, is currently studying for her Master’s degree in Business Studies, majoring in Management, at Massey University in Albany. She was recently awarded a Master’s Degree Award by the Kate Edger Educational Charitable Trust, a foundation which assists female students in New Zealand. The scholarship is paying for Eloise’s course fees.
Kate Edger was the first woman in New Zealand to gain a university degree, and the first in the British Empire to be awarded a Bachelor of Arts. She graduated in 1877 with a BA, specialising in mathematics and Latin, from the Auckland-based University of New Zealand.
She succeeded despite the fact that there was no higher education available to women at that time; her application did not mention her gender and she was able to graduate as the only female in the top class of the Auckland College and Grammar School, which was affiliated to the University of NZ.
Eloise said she felt “very privileged and honoured” to be granted the scholarship, which is open to full-time female Master’s students studying in the Auckland area.
Coincidentally, she was notified about the award the same day as she walked across the stage twice at the NorthTec graduation ceremony, held at Forum North in March. That day, as well as receiving her Bachelor of Applied Management degree, Eloise was stunned to also win the NorthTec Council Degree Award for outstanding academic performance on the applied management programme.
When she returned home after the ceremony, she was delighted to discover, via email, that she had also won the Kate Edger award – giving her family, some of whom who had travelled to Whangarei to see her graduate, a treble reason to celebrate.
Before studying at NorthTec, Eloise had a career in agribusiness in the South Island. Originally from Whangarei, and a former student of Whangarei Girls’ High School, she and husband Bob owned a farm in South Otago. She also spent four years as Communications Coordinator for the Animal Health Board in Canterbury, Otago and Southland.
When the couple moved back to Whangarei, Eloise found that she lacked the strong business networks and connections she had built up in the South. She decided to study at NorthTec, majoring in Business Transformation and Change.
Eloise said: “I chose to study at NorthTec because I wanted to study locally, get the degree I had always wanted, meet Northland people and get back into my community.”
She found the programme more than delivered on her expectations, and thrived with the support of her “brilliant” tutors: “I just really loved it. It gave me the bug to want to carry on studying, and perhaps return as a lecturer at some point.”
Eloise also praised her tutors for continuing to support and encourage her after she completed her degree. She said: “I think we are very, very lucky with what we have here at NorthTec.”
She is now making the most of her scholarship, travelling to Albany twice a week for lectures and aiming to complete her Master’s degree by mid-2017.
Eloise said of the day she found out about her scholarship: “I was just floating around. I didn’t know I had won the NorthTec Council award – I didn’t know there was one. I got home from graduation, opened up my emails, and the message about the scholarship was there. It capped off an amazing day.” Her mother, who travelled from Oamaru for the ceremony, and her daughter, who had come up from Hamilton, were equally delighted.
In a unique twist, Eloise graduated that day in academic regalia hired from the organisation which funds the Kate Edger scholarships. The charitable trust grew out of the Auckland Branch of the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women, which started assisting with graduation regalia more than 40 years ago. The Kate Edger Trust now trades as Academic Dress Hire, which hires out regalia to graduating students at institutions across New Zealand, funding the 100-plus educational scholarships it awards each year.
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