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Changing Young Lives The Goal For Graduate Of New Degree

A drive to help troubled young people get their lives back on track lies behind Alex Wilson’s decision to study criminal justice at the University of Canterbury (UC).

The 22-year-old will become one of the first six people to graduate with a Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ) degree from UC at a Christchurch Town Hall ceremony on Wednesday [April 14].

UC is holding three graduation ceremonies for nearly 1100 graduands in the central city this week, two on Wednesday and one on Friday.

Wilson initially had plans to apply for police college but her studies revealed other choices and opportunities, she says.

“I’ve learned so much about youth justice and it’s opened my eyes to what I really want to do. It’s really cool to be one of the first group to graduate with an MCJ. It’s a small class so we’ve become close and we’re looking forward to celebrating our graduation together.”

The post-graduate MCJ qualification, which gives students advanced knowledge of the criminal justice system, was introduced at the University of Canterbury for the first time last year.

UC Criminal Justice Director Jarrod Gilbert says the Masters course gives students an even greater skillset before entering the workforce. “I feel immensely proud of these first graduates. I think our criminal justice system will be better off with them contributing to it.”

Wilson, who already has a Bachelor of Criminal Justice from UC, has worked part-time at Te Puna Wai ō Tuhinapo youth justice residence in Rolleston while studying and is now looking for a full-time role where she hopes to help young people stay out of crime.

“Working at the residence has made me realise what these kids have gone through and how they don’t have support networks around them. I understand more about the importance of that support in preventing crime and trying to stop young people ending up in the youth justice system or in prison,” she says.

“The MCJ course was very discussion-based and we talked a lot of about what’s happening in our criminal justice system today. We also visited Rolleston Prison and had several experts come in and talk to us about their experiences.”

UC Tumu Whakarae | Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey says graduation ceremonies are important occasions that recognise and celebrate the commitment and hard work that go into achieving a degree.

“The University has strong connections with the city and we invite local people to take this opportunity to share in our students’ success after years of hard work.

“University of Canterbury graduates make a significant contribution to the Canterbury community and economy. Almost half – 47 per cent – of employed UC graduates who finished their study in 2019 found work in Ōtautahi Christchurch and the surrounding area.”

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson says the influx of students and their whānau this week will bring a welcome boost to local hospitality and retail businesses.

“Graduation ceremonies bring a real buzz and excitement to the city and they also demonstrate that Ōtautahi Christchurch continues to be a hub of quality education and innovation. We congratulate UC graduates and wish them every success for the future.”


UC April Graduation Ceremonies at the Christchurch Town Hall:

Three UC graduations are being held in Christchurch this week, including two on Wednesday and one on Friday. The events – involving nearly 1100 graduands from a range of Colleges will draw hundreds of people into the central city each day as students wearing academic regalia parade from The Arts Centre to the Christchurch Town Hall before attending their ceremonies.

Wednesday 14 April


  • Te Rāngai Pūkaha | College of Engineering


  • Te Rāngai Umanga me te Ture | College of Business and Law
  • Te Rāngai Ako me te Hauora | College of Education, Health and Human Development

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