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A Feel-Good Ara Timaru Graduation Celebrates Students, Staff - And Staff As Students

After a somewhat disjointed 2020 experience, Ara Timaru graduates were finally able to celebrate their success in a more familiar style on Tuesday April 27th.

Sixty-nine graduates who completed their study at the end of last year including students from the Trades, Enterprise & Digital Innovation, Humanities and Creative Departments joined their whānau, friends and other supporters at the Southern Trust Events centre. The ceremonies included a traditional academic parade, the wearing of academic regalia, formal welcome and speeches from Ara CE Tony Gray as well as Ara Board Chair Thèrése Arseneau, and of course the presentation of the long-awaited certificates.

Nursing graduate and student speaker Jessica Kerr was part of the first cohort of Bachelor of Nursing graduates from Ara’s Timaru campus. She gave a profoundly heartwarming speech, during which she demonstrated her gratitude for the efforts of her tutors. "A special mention and heartfelt thank you must go to two tutors who were with us from the beginning - Gail Foster and Liz Godwin. You were both unrelenting in your support, knowledge and encouragement. Your doors were always open and you championed and advocated for us from the very first day."

Fondly-acknowledged tutor Liz was in a position to uniquely appreciate Jessica’s sentiments, as she herself was graduating with a Masters’ in Health Practice, as well as a Certificate in Adult Education. Liz said that while her plans don’t include starting her Ph.D for now, and that she wants to continue "teaching all of our lovely nursing students", she does see the value of teaching staff demonstrating an appetite for life-long learning. "We need to ‘walk the walk’ and I think the students were proud of us, as we are of them."

In regards to her study experience in general, Jessica said "The small class sizes (at Ara) were fantastic for people like me who prefer to learn in that kind of environment, just to get so much support and one-on-one time . And I think it's awesome how we don't have to go anywhere; we don't have to go to the big cities, as I can study and then work in the community that I live in."

Jessica and the other 14 Bachelor of Nursing graduates have all gained jobs in their chosen profession, an enviable 100% success rate. Ara Timaru’s Senior Lecturer - Nursing Gail Foster says these employment figures serve as a powerful reminder that the appeal and relevance of nursing careers remain extremely high, with opportunities expanding in New Zealand and further afield.

"Nursing is vital to the safe provision of health care and there are many opportunities for nurses today to extend their skills and knowledge to progress their careers. We work closely with our clinical partners, recognising and responding to the need for nursing education programmes that reflect our communities and their healthcare needs" she says.

Other Ara staff members who had a special connection with this year’s ceremonies included Leonie Rasmussen, Manager of the Ara Timaru campus. "It’s a personal highlight for me that my sister-in-law graduated today with a Level Four cookery qualification. I was really pleased to be able to see her through the journey and celebrate that; my niece and nephew were here, so we got some really fun family photos!"

Leonie also commented that she was very proud of the success of her colleagues Liz Godwin and Jo Fraser, who both received their post-graduate qualifications on the day.

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