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Mentoring students through the Tukutuku Māori mentorship programme

Tukutuku Māori mentorship programme

Christian Hawira-Seanoa

Christian Hawira-Seanoa is studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the College of Creative Arts. In his spare time, he helps fellow students with their studies as part of the Tukutuku Māori mentorship programme.

Christian is in his third year at Massey, specialising in Contemporary Visual Arts and Toi Māori. He works with paintings and ready-made sculptures as well as other disciplines throughout his classes.

Christian has a busy schedule, juggling his own studies as well as mentoring students, but says he always manages to find the right balance.

 “The organisation required to do my own studies and be a mentor could be a degree in itself! But everything is a give and take and you must be willing to compromise, knowing that with your passion comes the work needed for it. If I find that I have too much on my plate, I look for ways I can be more productive. After a busy week, I save the weekend to spend time with my whānau.”

Christian says he has always been passionate about art.

“From a young age, I always found art the best way to express myself. When I went to schools growing up, I found it easy to crack jokes and laugh with others, but discussing my inner emotions was something I was never comfortable with. I use art as a spiritual tool, and a method to help me converse with others. Whether it would be my physical or mental wellbeing, or my vulnerabilities. Choosing this degree has created a cool sense of independency for myself and has allowed me to be more open with people.”

“Most importantly I do this now for my family and reconnecting with my whakapapa. My parents have given me everything and continue to give me everything I need to stay on my feet. My brothers have been role models and shown me the greatest support. When I finish my degree, I want to pay them back with the same love and support.

“The Tukutuku Māori mentorship programme was created to provide support for Māori students at Massey, whether that be educational, daily life support, counselling or any other ways help can be offered. We have great support, in particular our Māori staff who guide us in how we approach and tackle issues and avoid risks when it comes to helping students and making changes in the systems.

“Although we are fairly new, we have managed to hold our first study wānanga in August. We also reached out and got in contact with all of our Māori students during the recent lockdown to see if they were in need of any support or needed supplies to get them through. We are a collective of experienced staff who work to take care of our students. We are also students who have multiple years of university study under us, whether that be two, three or four years of study. It makes more sense to have mentors with multiple years of study because they have had the full experience of two semesters of work. We focus on looking out for all our students, not just those in their first year of study. Although we are called mentors, students who get involved in the programme contribute just as much to helping and supporting each other.

Christian says he joined the mentoring programme in this year because he wanted to make a change and help others.

“I became a mentor because of my experiences at Massey. On occasion, lecturers wouldn’t quite appreciate my point of view, or looked past particular areas of my work. While it was disappointing, I never took it to heart – some classes have a high number of students so the lecturer doesn’t have the time. But I know other students, particularly first year students, may not appreciate this feeling.

“I expected to learn just about art, but I came across all sorts of topics and subjects that dealt with political and social issues. I then started to have big conversations with friends and other students who were also Māori or Pacific about their struggles while studying. It then became clear to me that I should help them.”

“Being a mentor while still being a is a great area to make meaningful chances for Māori and Pasifika students. As a mentor and a student, we can speak for other students that want to facilitate change, to both staff and other students. It's much better for students to hear another student’s perspective because we relate more to each other.”

“I also want to see students get through university and not give up due to any difficulties they may be facing in their programme of study.”

Christian says being a good mentor is never planning how you can help students, but rather listening and understanding where they need help.

“The thing you need to keep in mind is regardless of the difficulties you may have faced, or the things you think they might need help with, every person is different and has their own struggles. Being there, listening, learning, and understanding what they need help with is important before you can take action to bring forth change.”

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