Student leadership richly rewarded

15 October 2021 | News

The annual Future Leader awards evening was held on Wednesday 13 October, offering an opportunity to recognise some of the institution’s most exceptional scholars for their community contributions.

The Future Leader Scholarship programme is aimed at school leavers with leadership potential and gives them the chance to form teams and take part in community projects alongside their academic studies.

In her address on the night, Future Leader Programme Coordinator Ilse von Hirschberg said the event was a fantastic way to recognise those who had developed significantly as a result of the scholarship.

"It has been an absolute privilege to work with these scholars," she said. "I have the best job in the world."

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Bruce McKenzie was on hand to present Future Leader and Servant Leader awards to a group of extremely deserving recipients from each year level.

Winners included Sophie Williams (First Year Future Leader of the Year), Fergus Lee (First Year Servant Leader of the Year), Luke Robb (Second Year Future Leader of the Year), Ben Chambers (Second Year Servant Leader of the Year), Kate Smitstra (Third Year Future Leader of the Year), and Amy Wells (Third Year Servant Leader of the Year).

Runners up for the Future Leader of the Year award in each level were Abdullah Wahidi (first year), Caleb Smith (second year) and the 2021 Future Leader Executive Chair, Mils Gray (third year).

Winners and nominees were decided by the scholars themselves.

Ilse said the servant leaders were students who saw leadership as an opportunity to give service to individuals, the university and the community, rather than as a vehicle to personal power and prestige.

"Servant leaders have very high moral integrity," she said.

She described the Future Leader award winners as living the values of the programme in terms of role modelling excellence and integrity, having high levels of self-management and challenging assumptions.

"They contribute to discussions, listen, and are genuinely interested in leadership."

Additionally, a new category – the Future Leader Growth Award – was introduced this year, with Shannon Fitzgibbon taking out the honour, as selected by Ilse and Scholarships Manager Sue Smart.

"Sue and I are excited to introduce the new Future Leader Growth Award," Ilse said. "We see the students through their ups and downs from the point when they first apply for the programme from school, and we really notice the people who have grown tremendously."

In the category, Project of the Year, Kate Smitstra’s team took out the award for their inspirational initiative, 'Your Future in New Zealand Agriculture'. 

The group’s aim was to create lasting networks between current agriculture students and industry professionals to inspire and guide students to their dream roles.

"We also wanted to give students an insight into their future potential with an agri-based degree, and the vast opportunities available to them that they had not heard of," Kate said.

The students presented their project earlier in the year to a huge turnout, and recruited high-profile speakers, including Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor and Stephen Macaulay, CEO of NZIPIM.

The awards ceremony also involved third year scholar Tom Shallard delivering a short address on behalf of the students to thank Professor McKenzie for his continued support of the programme and the scholars themselves.

"Bruce was at our Sunday morning Future Leader welcome ceremony when we started three years ago, and he is here again tonight as some of us finish this programme that has offered so many amazing opportunities," he said.

Although the usual networking and food sharing part of the evening was cancelled due to alert level 2 restrictions, Ilse pointed out that one of the key areas of focus for the scholars was an attitude of gratitude.

"Let’s be grateful that we’re not stuck in level 3 and are able to celebrate here tonight," she said.


Front, from left: Fergus Lee (First Year Servant Leader of the Year), Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Bruce McKenzie, Caleb Smith (Second Year Future Leader of the Year Runner-Up).

Middle, from left: Abdullah Wahidi (First Year Future Leader of the Year Runner-up), Sophie Williams (First Year Future Leader of the Year), Kate Smitstra (Third Year Future Leader of the Year), Amy Wells (Third Year Servant Leader of the Year), Ben Chambers (Second Year Servant Leader of the Year), and Luke Robb (Second Year Future Leader of the Year).

Back, from left: Mils Gray (Third Year Future Leader of the Year Runner-Up), Shannon Fitzgibbon (Third Year Growth Award).