Otago Polytechnic
SOS profile AndrewIsger 004
I’d like to be able to help people who are going through similar experiences.

Andrew Isger
Bachelor of Social Services

Andrew Isger knows a bit about the ups and downs of life

The third-year Otago Polytechnic student, who is about to graduate with a Bachelor of Social Services, specialising in Mental Health, is therefore keen to use his experiences -- and the skills he has learned -- in a positive way. 

“I’ve experiences depression and anxiety so I was inspired to study through my own experiences with counselling,” the 24-year-old says. 

“I moved from South Africa to New Zealand when I was three and that was pretty momentous. It led to abandonment issues that I carried around for many years until, at the age of 21, I had a breakdown and moved back into my parents’ home in Oamaru.

“I spent about a year and a-half going through hell.

“Through the support of my family and my experiences with various mental health services, I chose to study this stream,” Andrew says.

“I’d like to be able to help people who are going through similar experiences.” 

Andrew says the Bachelor of Social Services programme has also helped him gain a deeper understanding of himself, which in turn means he is able to make deeper connections with others.

“I think this programme has really helped me grow as a person. It is definitely a case of practising what you preach. Having gone through some tough times will help me help others.

 “I have applied for a few jobs. In fact, I have an interview next week."

SOS profile SarahBooth 004
It’s about enabling people to get the tools to navigate their way through life.

Sarah Booth
Bachelor of Social Services

Sarah Booth used to be shy.

However, the past three years spent studying Social Services at Otago Polytechnic have imbued her with a confidence she believes she can use to empower others, too.

Sarah is about to graduate with a Bachelor of Social Services. It will be her second degree, the 31-year-old mother-of-one having completed an art degree three years ago.

“I went straight from high school to study art but pulled out in my third year. I was just too young and had other things going on. So I worked and travelled and lived life a bit,” Sarah explains.

“I ended up having my son, Caleb, who is now eight, and decided I wanted to go back and finish my art degree.

“I wanted to work in a field that was creative but also involved people. So I looked into incorporating counselling with my art and enrolled in Otago Polytechnic’s Bachelor of Social Services programme.”

After her first year of study, Sarah decided to specialise in Career Practice, one of four disciplines within the Bachelor of Social Services programme (the others are Disability, Mental Health and Counselling).

“You are really working with the person, helping them work through their values, interests and skills. It’s about enabling people to get the tools to navigate their way through life.

“We’ve also run a lot of expos and seminars, so I’ve learn about standing up in front of large groups – as well as one-on-one contact.

“I’m definitely more confident.”

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I believe everyone brings a set of unique strengths and talents to everything they do and my role is helping to understand and unlock these

Grant Verhoeven
Bachelor of Social Services

Grant Verhoeven graduated with his Bachelor of Social Services Career Practice in 2015, through Capable NZ at Otago Polytechnic.

Grant has significant involvement in the career development profession.  He is on the executive committee for Career Development Association of New Zealand (CDANZ), the professional development committee of the National Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, Australasia (NAGCAS), and he presents at national conferences, conducts research and encourages upcoming career practitioners.

In his role of Career Development Consultant at Massey University, Grant manages the career and employability service on the Wellington campus.  Within this, he enhances student digital career literacy, an important new field in career management.  For this work, he was awarded the Rising Star Award at the National Association of Graduate Career Advisory Services.

Grant is an active member of the community, serving as a mentor on the ‘Inspiring Stories Trust Live the Dream’ programme which develops young New Zealand entrepreneurs.  He is also a trustee on the Wellington Life Education Trust.

Before becoming a career professional, Grant ran an award-winning sales business as a young entrepreneur and he’s a past president of the International Coach Federation NZ Central Branch.

Grant says he has a passion for discovering the potential of aspiring New Zealanders.

“I believe everyone brings a set of unique strengths and talents to everything they do and my role is helping to understand and unlock these”.

Read about the Bachelor of Social Services.

See the 2017 Otago Polytechnic Distinguished Alumni.

SOS profile TeAniRakete 004
With plenty of support, I’ve actually learnt to like the academic aspects of the programme. I enjoy writing essays now!

Te Ani Rakete - Ngāpuhi & Ngāti Kahungunu & Ngāti Porou
Bachelor of Social Services

Te Ani Rakete has always wanted to help people and share the experiences of his troubled youth.

“When my mother in law and sister enrolled at Otago Polytechnic, I decided to apply as well.  I nearly didn’t … when it came to the police vetting, I knew there’d be issues.”

Te Ani grew up in a gang and has been in and out of prison.  But he was ready to make a change, and the staff at the School of Social Services encouraged him to enrol.  He started with a Certificate in Human Services.

“The academic side was hard, I’d left school at 14 years old, but the teachers helped me heaps.  They’d even stay into the evening helping me in their own time.”

Te Ani got so much out of it, he came back to study for a Bachelor of Social Services.

“I’ve always been a practical person. I prefer hands-on learning to theory, but with plenty of support, I’ve actually learnt to like the academic aspects of the programme.  I enjoy writing essays now!”

Inspired by his studies and desire to help people, Te Ani and his family set up “Whānau Whānui” which means ‘Extended Family’.  It started with just his immediate family and has now grown to about 80 people.  They focus on the whole person – promoting sport and healthy living to everyone, from children to grandparents. 

Te Ani says the skills he’s learning through his Bachelor of Social Services are taking him closer to his dream: to establish a facility that caters for all aspects of life; counselling, mental health, physical health … addressing any issues someone might face in their life.  This holistic approach is very much modelled from a Māori world viewpoint. 

“That’s my end goal, and I can see that my studies will help me in that quest.”

Read more about the Bachelor of Social Services.

More Social Services programmes.

SOS profile MelanieTaylor 002
Life can throw you curveballs and challenges, and my role is to give others the support they need.

Melanie Taylor
Bachelor of Social Services

Melanie Taylor always wanted to be a social worker, but ended up working in the insurance industry after leaving school.

Then, after some big life events, she decided the time was right to follow her passion for helping people, and so she enrolled at Otago Polytechnic to begin her journey.

"It wasn’t always easy returning to study. I put high expectations on myself and it was hard to juggle full-time study with being a mum. The biggest challenge was finding the balance. However I now work as a full-time counsellor for Anglican Family Care, which  is very rewarding. I’ve worked in the position for a few months now, since graduating. I see a mix of self-referrals, and referrals from other team members – and my caseload is steadily growing.

"I’m currently working towards my full New Zealand Association of Counsellors membership. At the moment, I help individuals, but I would like to expand my expertise so that I can work with couples and families too. Counselling really is a journey – every client teaches you something – and it’s also a personal journey of discovery into your own life!"

Read more about the Bachelor of Social Services 

More Social Services programmes > 

SOS profile PetraHass 001
It’s great to see others benefit from my guidance and advice.

Petra Hass
Bachelor of Social Services

Petra Hass is a Career Adviser at the University of Otago’s Career Development Centre. Her role is incredibly varied. She helps with everything from CV preparation and cover letter writing skills, to job search strategy and interview coaching. She also designs and runs workshops to help students improve their interpersonal communication and networking skills.

“My Bachelor of Social Services (Career Practice) was instrumental in helping me launch my career in Dunedin. I worked in the print media industry in Germany, before moving here, and was ready for a career change. I wanted a New Zealand qualification that would help me find meaningful work – the degree programme at Otago Polytechnic was exactly what I was looking for!" says Petra.

“The programme was both fun and practical. It was a great way to make connections in Dunedin and build a network of friends and contacts. It also provided a fascinating introduction to Māori culture. My degree definitely helped me gain employment. It connected me to work placements giving me plenty of space to hunt out my own opportunities.

“This career requires a high level of commitment, and it is very rewarding. It’s important to enjoy working with people, and to have a good knowledge of the employment market. In the fast-paced and constantly changing labour environment, a willingness to learn and to keep up-to-date is essential!”

SOS profile TaniaGilbert Kennedy 005
One of the attributes for me is having compassion. And that is ingrained in the programme. I certainly know a lot more now than I did three years ago

Tania Gilbert-Kennedy
Bachelor of Social Services

Tania Gilbert-Kennedy and her daughters often joke that they might one day set up a family business helping others.

Tania, who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Social Services from Otago Polytechnic, has chosen a path that encapsulates her love of people.

She has passed on these values to her daughters, Ripeka (27) and Catherine (26), who have just completed their second year of the Bachelor of Social Services programme.

“When I moved to Dunedin in 2007 with my husband and two youngest daughters, I thought about my future,” Tania reflects.

“I knew I liked helping people, so I enrolled in the Bachelor of Social Services programme.

“One of the attributes for me is having compassion. And that is ingrained in the programme. I certainly know a lot more now than I did three years ago.”

“Self-evaluation is a big part of the programme. We learn cultural identity, too. I think that is very important," says Tania (Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Tuwharetoa, and Nga Ruahine).

“I have grown up within a very large whānau, very marae-based, on the Kapiti Coast. I am very conversant with my hapū and iwi. You could say I have a cultural resilience.”

Catherine says her own passion for helping others stems from her childhood.

“I have watched my wider whānau care for one another. My mum is my cultural backbone and support”

Ripeka says studying with her mother and sister has added “strength and substance” to her learning, as well as enabling her to discuss ideas and thoughts.

“I’m looking forward to completing my final year in 2018 knowing that I have Mum’s support.”