Kupe Alumni

"It felt like everything we were learning as young leaders was applicable to the real world.”

Michael Allison BE(Hons)

Mishriki Kupe Leadership Scholar 2022

Mentor: Rod Oram 

Sponsor: Fady Mishriki

Site Manager, Teak Construction Group

 DSCF9290Engineer Michael Allison confesses he didn’t initially realise just how transformative his Kupe Leadership Scholarship year would be. However, his selection as a scholar certainly felt like “a moment that a lot of doors opened,” he recalls.

One of these doors opened onto the University of Cambridge, no less. Alongside his work as a site manager for Teak Construction Group, Michael’s now studying for an MPhil as a Gates Cambridge Scholar, researching steel circularity in New Zealand’s construction sector. He has also been working with a Cambridge start-up, Eyeseagreen, to help improve the energy efficiency of multi-occupancy buildings and recently travelled to China with the university to connect with students from around the globe. “I believe the Kupe Scholarship was pivotal in me being awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship,” he says. “It essentially set me on a path to learn far more about the world than I would have without it.”

He’s also been selected as a member of the HERA Industry Advisory Group for their $10.3m Endeavour-funded project titled “Developing a Construction 4.0 transformation of the Aotearoa New Zealand construction industry”. HERA is a non-profit research organisation serving the needs of metal-based industries in New Zealand.

DSCF4614Michael’s Kupe Leadership Scholarship year was thus instrumental in crystallising his ambition to contribute to the development of New Zealand’s built environment space. “I plan to lead the way in industry to develop buildings and infrastructure which support all demographics of a growing population and achieve this sustainably – both environmentally, in terms of energy efficiency and material emissions, and socially, in terms of how the buildings shape the lives of those who inhabit them,” he explains.

By funding his final year of studies, the Scholarship enabled him to learn essential engineering and construction skills. More importantly, “The Scholarship taught me about the wider implications of our work,” he observes. “I learned about policy making, upholding Te Tiriti, social justice and other issues that are not a direct aspect of an engineering education. I also built a network which is helping me achieve my career goals.”The most rewarding part of the Kupe experience was “building a community”, he says. “We often see ourselves as parts of communities in education and work, but these can fade away after the year finishes. With Kupe, I am still in regular contact with scholars from my cohort (and other cohorts). They’ve become an important part of my professional network, building connections and having stimulating conversations, but more importantly, they’ve become a close group of friends. I think the community-building is based on fantastic shared experiences throughout the year.”

The relationship Michael formed with his mentor, renowned journalist Rod Oram, proved another highlight. “After the programme ended, we continued meeting regularly,” he says. “I imagine every mentor relationship is different, but mine was definitely much deeper than expected and was a critical aspect of my Scholarship (and post-Scholarship) experience.”

The programme offered Michael valuable insights on leadership, challenging his perceptions of what constitutes an effective leader. “I have realised the importance of letting everybody be a leader, rather than adhering to strict hierarchical models,” he says. “I am more aware of the forces at play in various scenarios and how these are impacting a group’s goals.”

Ultimately, the value of the programme lay in its relevance, he believes. “What really stood out in the Kupe Leadership Programme was how real it felt, how real the relationships were. It felt like everything we were learning as young leaders was applicable to the real world.”


"Kupe gave me that confidence boost and support to know that I not only belonged in these spaces, but could excel in them.”

Eden McCarthy (Ngātiwai) LLB(Hons)/BHSc

Heartland Kupe Leadership Scholar 2022

Mentor: Sharon Shea, MNZM

Sponsor: Heartland Trust

Junior Barrister, Bankside Chambers

DSCF7052Junior Barrister Eden McCarthy knows that opportunities for further academic study are often weighed against the cost and time commitment they require. Her selection as a Kupe Leadership Scholar “tipped the scales”, enabling the passionate young lawyer to continue her vital research into issues faced by Māori within the health and law sectors. “The academic and research space is in need of more Māori voices, but unfortunately the accessibility to these spaces is limited, whether this be from lack of financial resources or connections to different networks,” she explains. “The Scholarship provided me with the financial support, while also connecting me with various individuals to support my involvement in this area. Through my mentor Sharon Shea, I met with other Māori and Pasifika women who gave practical advice on my research, but also on my future career path.”

Crucially, the Kupe Leadership Scholarship gave Eden the confidence to pursue her academic ambitions. “Higher levels of study, such as Honours or Masters, can seem unobtainable if you don’t see yourself reflected in the student cohort for these courses. Kupe gave me that confidence boost and support to know that I not only belonged in these spaces, but could excel in them.”

The Scholarship experience also afforded Eden the opportunity to connect with a diverse group of people. “At university, the different faculties are often siloed and while there is academic debate, it is often with individuals with different perceptions, but similar perspectives,” she observes. “Engaging with a group of individuals with different backgrounds and perspectives allowed more robust conversations and broadened my approach to topics.”

It broadened her approach to leadership, too. “The Kupe programme allowed us to see various forms of leadership and have critical discussions about leadership, the different theories of leadership, and how it looked in practice,” Eden recalls. “The Kupe programme challenged what I thought of as a traditional leader and encouraged me to consider the different elements of leadership. From my time as a Kupe Scholar, I recognised the power of community and identified strongly with leadership models which were community-based and service-focused.”

July Chief Justice and Law ScholarsNow working as a barrister for Bankside Chambers in Auckland, Eden remains passionate about improving outcomes for indigenous populations, particularly in the health and law sectors. “I hope my work contributes to addressing the mass inequities faced by indigenous peoples, and allows indigenous peoples to see themselves reflected in decision-makers and leadership,” she says. Her mentor was instrumental in both encouraging this passion and empowering Eden to achieve her goals. “My mentor provided a space to discuss my passion and vision for my future, while also providing concrete steps for how I could get there,” she remembers.

Eden values the ongoing support of her cohort as she continues her leadership journey. In fact, she found the cohort experience one of the most rewarding aspects of the Kupe Leadership Programme, describing her fellow scholars as a “truly unique group of individuals, many of whom I keep in contact with regularly. While the programme has ended and I am now an alumna, I know I will cross paths with my cohort on our paths for change!” That’s what the Kupe Leadership Scholarship is all about, she believes – bringing together “a group of passionate individuals who are eager to contribute in their own ways to creating a better Aotearoa and world.”