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Eugene Hepi has moved from the Student Recruitment to be manager of Massey’s Te Rau Tauawhi, the Māori Student Centre.
Based in Manawatū, Mr Hepi, of Ngāti Tūwharetoa,Te Ātihaunui-a- Pāpārangi, Ngāti Raukawa, Whakatōhea, joined Massey after 16 years with the New Zealand Army as a physical training instructor and working with disadvantaged youth at the High Wire Charitable Trust in Auckland before moving to Palmerston North.
In the recruitment team he worked to support students coming to Massey and he says that experience has given him an understanding of the issues new students often face.
“University life is really foreign and unknown for many and I’m excited to be able to break down barriers for students and give them the message that there is heaps of support here for them – they can do this.”
Te Rau Tauawhi now has staff on all three campuses to support Māori students and Mr Hepi is pleased to see growing numbers making it a regular base. He also knows there are many Māori students who may feel uncomfortable about reaching out for help.
“My personal vision is for those who don’t firstly acknowledge themselves as Māori to know there is a place where they can feel comfortable. People may think they have to be able to speak te reo Māori to come to Te Rau Tauawhi, or may feel they have to have a really strong cultural upbringing. Personally, I’m still uncomfortable in some Māori spaces sometimes, but when I feel uncomfortable, I know it’s my challenge to become comfortable. I want to really encourage students to start their journey and get over the worry they might not fit in.”
Helping others reach their potential has always been part of his life. Outside Massey he co-founded an organisation called Organic Development that provides resilience and leadership programmes to corporates and sports teams.
He played representative rugby for Manawatū while based at Linton and played for the New Zealand Open Men’s Touch team in two World Cups.
“I’ve been very fortunate to experience the benefits that come from maintaining purposeful wellbeing and the real reward is seeing my two children also develop this mentality, where health and wellbeing is important to them.” One achievement of which he is particularly proud is having his son, Carson, playing alongside him at an elite level.
University was not a first option for him growing up, and he is glad that it is for his son and daughter. He is keen to ensure all Māori students have the support to excel in tertiary study and looking forward to helping students thrive through Te Rau Tauawhi including through health and well-being. “I see them eating their pies and their chips and I think, well we won’t stop that but we might just add some education around healthy options. They might see their vege bin full for once.”
Created: 12/12/2019 | Last updated: 13/12/2019
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