Kupe news


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Taking advantage of the visit to New Zealand by the founding donor, John McCall MacBain, the University of Auckland arranged an evening function to officially launch the 2019 Kupe Leadership Scholarship programme. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect him with the other 10 donors who have generously supported the Kupe Leadership Scholarships, along with the Scholars and their Mentors. 

The event was also attended by other key stakeholders and invited guests, who were treated to a keynote address from Sir Peter Gluckman. In his address on The Critical Leadership Challenge: Democracy, Difficult Conversations and Truth-Decay, Sir Peter issued a challenge to the Scholars. Your potential to be leaders, to make a difference, comes at a critical time in our history as a species”.

Sir Peter spoke of the unrelenting need for leadership in tackling the emergent social, technological and environmental issues facing the globe. “Leadership will mean ensuring truth prevails, that citizens have access to robust knowledge, that we find ways to address the existential and difficult challenges ahead and get beyond the short-termism that prevails in much current discourse and politics”.

In addition, Stuart McCutcheon, Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland interviewed John McCall MacBain on his commitment to philanthropy and the development of leadership, as well as his hopes for the Kupe Leadership Scholarships.

“We’re trying to create not just a pure academic scholarship but a scholarship that looks for those future leaders who may not be leaders today but who we see have the potential to lead…The interesting thing about giving scholarships is that your dream is that [the recipient] will go and change the world, but your downside case is that they change themselves and their family and their friends around them… So your failures are pretty successful, you’ve changed their lives”.

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Group photo with Dartmouth Scholars Piritahi maraeIn early March the 14 Kupe Leadership Scholars gathered at the beautiful Piritahi Marae on Waiheke Island to commence their year-long leadership programme.

Throughout the Orientation weekend, the Scholars explored the concepts of manaakitangi, whanaungatanga and kotahitanga, and put these into practice as they helped prepare meals, cook and clean, and began to get to know each other. Among tangata whenua of the marae who came to share their knowledge with the Scholars was Maikara Ropata, herself a descendent from Kupe, whose carving graces the inside of the meeting house. A series of activities, including waka ama in the nearby bay provided opportunities for discussion and reflection about leadership.

Sleeping in the wharenui was a special occasion and a first for many, as was having the privilege on Saturday of conducting the powhiri to welcome a contingent of students from Dartmouth College in the USA. The scholars had the opportunity to engage with a diverse group of leaders, from Bianca Ransom, who shared her experiences as a Maori entrepreneur and discussed her work with Maori prisoners, to Mike Maars, founder of the Waiheke Recycling Centre who illustrated what can be achieved through passion, commitment and a sense of purpose.

The Scholars arrived on the island as individuals, but left as a connected group who are excited about their shared journey ahead.


Group photoAfter many months of planning and discussion, the inaugural Kupe Leadership Scholars have been confirmed.

The 2019 Kupe Leadership Scholars were selected following a rigorous and competitive selection process. Candidates were required to complete a written application, with the shortlisted students being invited to engage in a full-day session that combined group activities with 1:1 interviews. The selection panel then had the challenging task of identifying the inaugural Kupe Leadership cohort from the talented pool of post-graduate students who applied. The successful Scholars represent a diverse array of disciplines across a number of faculties, but they each demonstrate evidence of leadership capability and share many commonalities in terms of their drive, determination, passion and humility.

AU Kupe Scholars 2018 011A2Canadian philanthropist John McCall McBain made a special visit to Auckland in December after his Foundation provided $1 million in seed funding to kick-start this initiative. The Kupe Leadership Scholars enjoyed the opportunity to meet with John and offer him some insight into their area of study, their passion and the difference they want to make for Aotearoa. 

Each of our 2019 Kupe Leadership Scholars have been assigned a mentor who will work with them to inform, challenge, support and nurture their leadership aspirations to help them make a meaningful contribution to New Zealand. Many Kupe Leadership Mentors are well-known to New Zealanders and have been hand-picked due to their expertise and experience.

The programme will consist of a series of workshops throughout the year where scholars will develop the mindset and leadership capabilities that will be so essential to their leadership work. We are very much looking forward to getting the formal programme underway and wish our scholars all the very best for the year ahead.