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Bridging the STEM gap

Bridging the STEM gap

  • 20 Sep 2020
  • |
  • Cook Islands
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Toloa Tertiary Scholarship recipient Kiriana Andrews is clear-sighted about what she wants to accomplish when she graduates with an Engineering degree. 

“This degree gives me the opportunity to help Pacific nations with their developing infrastructure needs,” Kiriana says. 

“Through organisations such as Engineering Without Borders, later in my career I will be able to use my skills to help advance the capabilities and resilience of countries across the Pacific.” 

Kiriana, whose grandfather was born on the island of Atiu in the Cook Islands, says she identifies as a New Zealander and Cook Island Māori. 

She is eager to engage in programmes where she can discuss her experiences in the hope to encourage more Pacific people to undertake engineering degrees, she adds. 

Born in Blenheim, Kiriana attended Marlborough Girls’ College before moving to Christchurch to study a Bachelor of Civil Engineering with Honours. 

“I am currently in the final semester of my degree; next year I have signed a job as a Structural Undergraduate Engineer in a team focused on bridges.

“I hope to eventually lead large bridge projects as a capable Structural Engineer.”  

Receiving a Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) Toloa Tertiary Scholarship earlier this year has made Kiriana’s time at university more focused and less stressful without having to worry about how she will finance her degree. 

The initiative aims to encourage more Pacific student numbers participating and pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related studies. 

Kiriana’s interest in STEM started when she elected Physics, Chemistry, and Calculus during high school. 

“These were subjects I excelled at and I looked towards university degrees which I could use these strengths. 

“Engineering was a degree that had strong foundations in these subjects while also allowing for collaboration and teamwork which was important to me.” 

The Toloa Tertiary Scholarships initiative is part of MPP’s overall Toloa programme where we are supporting Pacific communities and providers to deliver targeted Pacific programmes and workshops to increase interest and encourage greater participation in STEM subjects right across Pacific communities, including at the ECE, primary, intermediate and secondary school levels. 

Budget 2020, through the Pacific response package, provides funding for a range of Pacific focused initiatives as part of the COVID-19 recovery and includes $4.9 million for the Toloa programme.    

With the increased funding allocated in Budget 2020 this year, the Toloa Tertiary Scholarship Fund will double the number of scholarships offered providing 50 scholarships at $10,000 per academic year for outstanding undergraduate and postgraduate Pacific students who are pursuing STEM related studies in 2021.

“Being awarded the Toloa Tertiary Scholarship and being recognised by MPP has given me a huge sense of pride and accomplishment,” Kiriana says. 

“I would recommend all Pacific students to investigate studying STEM-related subjects and to apply for the Toloa Tertiary Scholarship.” 

Applications for the Toloa Tertiary Scholarships are now open and will close on November 9.  

Visit MPP for further information and how to apply.