Thursday, June 13, 2024

UC Professor inspiring Young NZer of the Year semi-finalists

Internationally acclaimed sustainability expert and University of Canterbury (UC) Professor Bronwyn Hayward MNZM is being praised as a mentor and a pioneer by two former students who are now receiving recognition of their own.

Professor Hayward is a semi-finalist for the inaugural Department of Conservation and Ministry for the Environment New Zealand Environmental Hero of the Year Award.

She says she feels very honoured to be named alongside two of her former students, Josiah Tualamali’I and Abbas Nazari, who are both semi-finalists for this year’s University of Canterbury Young New Zealander of the Year Award.

She refers to a whakataukī (proverb) that resonates with her work: Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari kē he toa takitini – success is not the work of one but the work of many.

“The challenges we face are cross-generational, as teachers our role is to support new leaders and help in small ways to systematically build the capacity of those who will carry on important mahi to effect change over time.”

“It is a privilege for any teacher to work alongside students like Abbas and Josiah, who are each being recognised for the incredible and important difference they are making now and will continue to make into the future,” she said.

Josiah Tualamali’i (pictured, right), who has been recognised for his advocacy of mental health, equity, and the Pacific community, studied some of Professor Hayward’s politics courses at UC. He says she inspired him to speak for the generations to come and the environment of tomorrow.

“Bronwyn is more than a lecturer; in each class she encouraged our potential and empowered us to be critical thinkers. We would unpack current political issues as they were happening and these were never watered down,” says Tualamali’i.

“Bronwyn always welcomed my lived experience as a Samoan New Zealander and stories, from my cultural upbringing to our time together, to share for our collective learning.”

He said the support of his community has been significant for him in being recognised by the Young New Zealander of the Year Awards judges.

“Being made a semi-finalist is a product of the Pacific Development Team’s support to our Pacific communities, and the University of Canterbury’s growing support.”

“This recognition means the community that has helped raise me and my peers, including many UC staff and former students in our Pacific youth projects, are being acknowledged for the investment they made. From running the first PYLAT Pacific Youth Parliament in 2010, to believing in us through all we’ve achieved since then and growing intergenerational advocacy and connection, I could not be more grateful, alofa atu.”

Another of Professor Hayward’s students, Abbas Nazari (pictured, above), is being recognised for his work advocating for greater assistance for Afghan refugees and has shared his inspiring story in his bestselling autobiography After the Tampa: from Afghanistan to New Zealand. While studying at the University of Canterbury, he took Professor Hayward’s course in New Zealand Politics.

Reflecting on his time as a political science student, Nazari says: “Professor Hayward is a pioneer, advocating for the wellbeing of youth long before it was cool. She has that deft ability to communicate the many connections between academia and civil society.”

Since the turning point of his family gaining refuge in New Zealand, Nazari has seized every opportunity, from childhood spelling bees to winning a Fulbright Scholarship, which enabled him to complete a Master’s degree in Security Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

“Being named among this group of exceptional Kiwis is humbling and gratifying. Everyone has their strengths, and I am proud to be representing my family and my community,” he says.

Professor Hayward is also named as a finalist in the Westpac Women of Influence Awards alongside another of her former students, Hannah Watkinson who graduated in December with a Master of Fine Arts and is a finalist for the 2021 Women of Influence Arts and Culture Award. Professor Hayward is a finalist for the 2021 Women of Influence Environment Award.

The 2022 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards winners will be announced at an Awards Gala Dinner on Thursday, 31 March.

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