Otago Polytechnic
ISA Profile EwanBrumwell 6
We were encouraged to gain internships while studying – and now I work at two of the organisations I previously interned for!

Ewan Brumwell
Bachelor of Applied Science*

Ewan Brumwell is currently employed by both the Otago Rugby Union and the Highlanders as a Strength and Conditioning coach. A keen sportsman himself since childhood, Ewan soon became aware of the importance Strength and Conditioning plays in helping athletes develop to their full potential.

Ewan studied as an international student from Scotland, and speaks very positively about his experiences in New Zealand. “It’s certainly one of the best places you could come to study,” he says.

“Young people in New Zealand are encouraged to be fit and healthy as well as play competitive sports. This is also great for students as there are various pathways for jobs and placements during study to develop your skills effectively.”

Ewan is similarly full of praise for Otago Polytechnic, where he completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Activity, Health and Wellness) followed by a Graduate Diploma in Applied Science.

He particularly enjoyed meeting new and like-minded students, and appreciated the support of lecturers in assisting them to make connections in the working environment. “I have developed a lot of theoretical knowledge along with my practical experience, so it has certainly helped me to sell myself to employers and give me confidence in my abilities.”

As a newcomer to New Zealand, Ewan found his time studying both challenging and rewarding. “I’ve become independent being so far from home – although it wasn’t always been easy,” he explains. “However, it’s definitely been a fantastic experience.” 


Read more about the Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Activity, Health and Wellness)

Read more about the Graduate Diploma in Applied Science (Physical Conditioning specialty)

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ISA profile MattMcKay 007
The only reason I could be a personal trainer is because of my degree. The final year is really about time management – it prepares you well for the real world

Matt McKay
Bachelor of Applied Science*

Matt McKay’s had about four hours sleep a night for the last month … there’s simply too much to do.  “When I started my personal training business, I knew it would be busy while I completed my degree - particularly over exam time.  But I found the more I learnt, the more confident I got, and the more the business grew.

It was all worth it for the brand new graduate, especially when he was announced the NZ Exercise Industry Awards 2016 Up and Coming Personal Trainer of the Year.  The award recognises Matt’s excellent teaching techniques, and the natural rapport he has in building skills and the trust of his clients.

Personal trainers can apply for the award within the first two years of their career.  Matt won it after only six months in the business.

Matt found his study at Otago Polytechnic instrumental to his business.  “The only reason I could be a personal trainer is because of my degree.  The final year is really about time management – it prepares you well for the real world.”

Matt runs his business through Dunedin company ABSolute Health and Fitness.  “It’s a great environment there that really breeds success” he says.

Matt’s personal training future is bright.  He’s developing an 8-week challenge, and wants to do more online coaching in order to help people all over New Zealand.

Then there’s always the next award to apply for. “I want to push myself even harder.  I’ll apply for the Personal Trainer of the Year within the next couple of years.  I’m really competitive.”

Read more about the Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Activitiy, Health and Wellness).

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HBM profile MeganBurke 001
My personal experience of massage therapy drove me to complete a qualification, and I could not be happier!

Megan Burke
Diploma in Advanced Therapeutic Massage (Level 6)

Megan loves the sense of freedom running her own massage therapy business provides. She manages all aspects of her job – and chooses her own hours and location. “My business is strong and healthy because I’m passionate about it,” she explains. “The desire to help others drives me to continually further my studies, to make me even better at what I do.” 

Megan wanted to become a massage therapist when she left school around 20 years ago, but it wasn’t considered a valid career path at the time. After working at various jobs and starting a family, she enrolled to study at Otago Polytechnic in 2014. She completed a Certificate in Stress Management and Spa Therapies with Distinction in 2014, and then graduated with a Diploma in Advanced Therapeutic Massage with Merit in 2015. 

“The fantastic tutors, amazing facilities and vibrant atmosphere were all highlights,” Megan says. She found the tutors very supportive and encouraging, and was impressed by the range and quality of facilities and services available – from the library to Student Health. 

The Diploma has allowed Megan to apply for positions that required recognised qualifications, and helped her in all aspects of her business. “I learned not only the hands-on massage skills, but also about communication, marketing, professionalism, managing a business and keeping within my scope of practice.” 

Megan recommends the Diploma to anyone considering a career in massage therapy. “Massage therapy has been going through considerable changes of the last 10 years and having a qualification is vital to making it in this industry.”

Read more about the Diploma in Advanced Therapeutic Massage (Level 6)

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ISA gen GradDipAppliedScience 063
I learnt so much over there, not just about strength and conditioning but also about myself, and how culture affects our interactions and understandings.

Nicole Herron

When Nicole Herron arrived in Argentina to study strength and conditioning she had no idea what to expect. What she found, was a family of over two thousand who did all they could to welcome her in to the La Plata Rugby Club.

Nicole has just finished studying her Graduate Diploma in Applied Science (Physical Conditioning).  As part of her qualification, she chose to travel to Argentina for a six-week work placement.  “It was the opportunity of a lifetime for developing myself as a strength and conditioning professional and discovering where my future direction and passion lies”.

Some of Nicole’s class-mates went to Fiji, Samoa and the United States, but for her Argentina stands above the rest, “I learnt so much over there, not just about strength and conditioning but also about myself, and how culture affects our interactions and understandings."

Nicole received funding from the Otago Polytechnic Education Foundation to help her in her studies “It meant I could concentrate on learning; I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to pay for my travel” she says.

Read more about the Graduate Diploma in Applied Science (Specialty)

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ISA profile TamaWalker 001
I like that there is solid research behind everything we are taught but that it is really practically-focused.

Tama Walker – Ngati Porou

Adult learner Tama Walker was already working in a field he loved prior to studying at Otago Polytechnic. As the Dunedin Cricket Development Officer for Otago Cricket Association, Tama was invited to a seminar held at Otago Polytechnic’s Institute of Sport and Adventure. At the seminar, Tama heard a presentation from the New Zealand Rugby Union’s head analyst and that was where the idea of studying Performance Analysis was born.

“I already knew I wanted to be involved in high performance sport. I thought about coaching but the coaching pathway is quite saturated. Performance analysis is something that I knew could complement my existing skills and add to what I do in my job day-to-day.  The exciting thing is that these skills I am learning are transferable from youth through to high performance.

“I chose Otago Polytechnic for several reasons. I work right next door so it was definitely convenient, but it was also really flexible. I can do most of my programme work online which suited me since I work full-time.

“The thing I was most daunted about before starting was going back to study after a 15 year break. Handing in my first assignment felt like a big achievement and relief.

“I’m really enjoying learning more and challenging myself and I can already see the benefits and results in my work setting. My programme coordinators have been very supportive as well.

“In the future I see myself leading Performance Analysis within Otago Cricket Association. After that – who knows? I can think big from there.”

Bryn Morgans
I take my job very seriously but being a personal trainer is almost like working in a big play pen; I have so much fun.

Bryn Morgans

Ever since he was five years old Hawkes Bay born Bryn Morgans played rugby and wanted to be a rugby coach. However only weeks before beginning his coaching training he broke six ribs playing rugby. Bryn recuperated by visiting friends in Otago, met an Otago Polytechnic Institute of Sports and Adventure student, and decided to become a personal trainer instead.

“The programme at Otago Polytechnic went way beyond my expectations. There was so much practical knowledge, understanding how the body moves, understanding the biomechanics, and all the lecturers helped you in every way. Otago Polytechnic is my first recommendation for anyone who wants to become a personal trainer. I wouldn’t be where I am today without doing the Diploma.”

Since graduating five years ago, Bryn has progressed from being a personal trainer through to his current position as Auckland Multi-Unit Manager for City Fitness.

“When I was at school I put on a lot weight, the majority being body fat, but once I left school and with the help of a personal trainer, I shed more than 20 kilos and man did I feel great! Having that experience inspired me to help others change. As a personal trainer, there are only so many people I can train 1:1 every day so the next step was to move into management. I now oversee the training and development of more than 60 trainers on a daily basis in the Auckland Region and act as a resource for the expanding team at City Fitness around the country.

Bryn says a personal trainer is much more than being a “gym guru”.

“You learn so many different life skills in dealing with clients. Seeing someone lose 50 kilos or even five kilos can have a huge impact on their life, and you become almost like part of their family. I get invited to weddings, children’s first birthday parties, it’s just amazing. I can’t think of a job that’s more rewarding than being a personal trainer.”

ISA profile ConnorOFee 001
Take all opportunities that you’re given, the only reason I am where I am now is because I took every opportunity offered at Otago Polytechnic.

Conor O'Fee

Hard work and a clear focus rewarded Conor O’Fee with his first job as Operations Coordinator at Dunedin Venues, the company which runs the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

“During my time at Otago Polytechnic I purposefully dedicated my time and energy towards building up a creditable CV for prospective employers,” he says. 

The Sports Management graduate did this by volunteering for several sports organisations, including coordinating the netball for the New Zealand Masters Games, helping with match management for Otago Cricket and assisting with video analysis for the Highlanders. 

Conor now works for Basketball New Zealand in Wellington as Tournaments Co-Ordinator and coordinates more than twenty basketball tournaments around the country annually.

“Basketball is a big passion of mine, to wrap it up into a job, and to watch what will be our next generation of our Tall Ferns and Tall Blacks play make the long hours and long days all worth it.”

Conor credits his placements at Otago Polytechnic for giving him the experience in administration required for in his job at Basketball NZ.

“My placement at Otago Cricket really helped a lot. One cricket match is never the same as another, and every day there was something different to do.”

Photo credit: Maylene Godinet

ISA profile KatherineRadford 008
If you want to be a personal trainer it’s a great qualification. Give it your all and you will get out what you put in.

Kath Radford

Kath Radford has always had a desire to help people and make a difference. When she first left school she wanted to become a nutritionist, however after taking some chemistry papers at university she discovered that typical theoretical study wasn’t for her. So instead she came to Otago Polytechnic to study sport, swapping book-based learning for a more practical hands-on approach.

In just over two years, Kath graduated with the Diploma in Applied Sport and Exercise Leadership (Level 5) with two specialties: Sports Management and Coaching and Personal Training and Exercise Prescription.

“My classes were quite small and personal. There was lots of quality time to ask questions and we got to have quite a good relationship with the lecturers.

“The qualification was really valuable in helping me learn how to build relationships with lots of people from diverse backgrounds and working together to achieve goals.”

After three years working as a Personal Trainer at a gym, Kath joined the Police and now puts her communication and people skills to the test every day.

“I really like working for the New Zealand Police. Every day is different, the work is challenging but I get to help people and do something good. There are so many different career options within the Police. I’m hoping to continue working within the Criminal Investigation Branch and work my way up to becoming Detective one day.”

ISA profile HollyRobinson 001
That’s the area I want to work in, where people actually want to work hard to get to where they want to go

Holly Robinson
Bachelor of Applied Science*

Holly Robinson was born with her left arm missing below the elbow but has always been “sporty”. Her earliest memory is playing rugby with her twin brother in Hokitika when she was three years old. At the age of 12, she “decided to start getting serious about something” and focused on javelin throwing. At the age of 16 Holly was offered a scholarship to train with a Paralympic coach in Dunedin and in 2012 Holly represented New Zealand at the London Paralympics. 

2012 was also Holly’s last year of school. “I had no clue what I wanted to do, so I looked at the Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Activity, Health and Wellness) degree at Otago Polytechnic.  It was a practical and applied qualification, and I liked that. It’s sort of the way I learn.”

Holly continued her international sporting career at the same time as her studies, winning a silver medal at the World IPC champs (Para Track and Field Champs) in Lyon in 2013 and recently in Doha winning bronze, throwing a personal best of 38.18m and breaking the NZ record in the process. 

“The lecturers here have been really flexible in terms of assignments with me being away quite a bit. I always want to do my best and I get quite stressed when I don’t have a plan, but they set out a time-line of when everything worked best for me. I couldn’t rate them more highly.”

Holly came back from competing in Doha to find she had been named Bachelor of Applied Science Ambassador for her work with BASES in South Dunedin (community development programme) and her group had won the top research award at Otago Polytechnic.

“I did a placement at BASES, working with unemployed youth and youth at risk, trying to get them more physically active. It was real cool seeing all the benefits they got out of the sessions I led. That’s the area I want to work in, where people actually want to work hard to get to where they want to go."

In the meantime, Holly's sports career has gone from strength to strength. She won the silver medal at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Read more about the Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Activity, Health and Wellness).

351x244 manassahkutia
Many opportunities are given to Māori students to help us succeed and aim high in life.

Manassah Kutia - Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungunu ki Heretaunga
Bachelor of Applied Science*

Otago rugby league representative, Manassah Kutia, started his academic studies at a university before deciding it wasn’t the right learning environment for him. 

But he still wanted to get a degree, so he looked to Otago Polytechnic’s Institute of Sport and Adventure to see what it could offer him.

“I have always been interested in health, fitness and looking after myself, and wanted to help others adopt healthier lifestyles so they can live longer, more productive lives,” explains Manassah.

He enrolled in the Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Activity, Health and Wellness), and welcomed the Polytechnic’s commitment to experiential learning.

“I really liked the fact that it wasn’t just theory, but also a lot of practical work,” he recalls. “The learning environment was great and the lecturers were very helpful.”

As a Māori student, Manassah felt well-supported by the Polytechnic.

“Many opportunities are given to Māori students to help us succeed and aim high in life,” he says. “It’s up to the individual to take those opportunities and make the most of them.”

Since graduating, Manassah is enjoying his full-time role at Moana House in Dunedin, a residential therapeutic community that offers support and treatment to male offenders and men with drug and alcohol addictions.  

Read more about the Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Activity, Health and Wellness)

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Amber Butler2
It was a super professional programme, with great tutors. They really inspired me to help people through massage, and they were always there to help.

Amber Butler
Diploma in Advanced Therapeutic Massage (Level 6)

Amber Butler is following in her grandfather’s footsteps.  He was a reflexologist and massage therapist and, like him, Amber’s always been drawn to helping people.  But while her grandfather was self-taught, Amber decided to gain a qualification for massage.

“I looked up massage courses online, and Otago’s seemed more in line with what I wanted to do.  Something professional, that I could get work with at the end” she says.

Amber graduated in 2014 with a Diploma in Advanced Therapeutic Massage (Level 6).

“It was a super professional course, with great tutors.  They really inspired me to help people through massage, and they were always there to help”.

Since graduating, Amber has run her own business.  She works part time at Otago Polytechnic as the hot stone massage tutor, so she gets to work with the people that inspired her.  She’s now the assistant manager of Benessere Studios – a creative space that includes massage, photography and yoga.  She also works for Flourish Retreats – a health retreat overlooking Blue Skin Bay in Dunedin.

“I know owning your own business can be stressful, but I’m aiming high.  One day, I’d like to run a business with franchise options.  I feel like I’ve found my niche in the world” she smiles, “I just feel I have so many more opportunities since completing my qualification.

Amber recommends Otago Polytechnic to anyone who wants to study massage.  In fact, she urged one of her friends to do the course, and now works alongside her at Benessere!

Becky Johnson
The opportunities I received – and contacts made – during my study opened doors I never dreamed possible.

Becky Johnson
Diploma in Advanced Therapeutic Massage (Level 6)

Becks has worked with several high profile New Zealand sporting teams and individuals since entering the massage industry, as well as all manner of recreational athletes. Big name clients have included the Highlanders, Otago Cricket, and Southern Steel netballers – to name a few.

Currently she is the lead Massage Therapist for the Highlanders and manages a team of 10 qualified therapists. “I especially love to help athletes get back on the field, pitch or court after injury – and help them maintain a high level of performance,” she says.

A keen sportswoman herself, Becks decided to enrol for the Diploma in Massage Therapy at Otago Polytechnic. “The body has always intrigued me,” she explains, “and learning how to make the body move in the most efficient way and recover quickly led me to towards massage therapy.”

Becks was particularly impressed by the quality of teaching at OP, and how friendly and helpful the staff were. “Many of the fantastic therapists there later became mentors,” she says. She was fascinated to learn about the various treatment methods and approaches used in massage therapy, and also made the most of extracurricular activities while studying – including volunteering at the Dunedin Marathon.

“Having the qualification to back you up is invaluable in this industry.”

Jim Young
Making a career out of my passion has to be one of my greatest achievements.

Jim Young
Diploma in Avalanche Studies (incorporating the NZMSC Avalanche Safety Stage 2 Certificate)

Jim Young has found his true calling in the mountains, and the Diploma in Avalanche Studies from Otago Polytechnic helped him get there. After leaving high school, he began training as an automotive engineer, but soon realised this path wasn’t for him. Now he’s working as a ski patroller at The Remarkables – and soon he will be off to Japan to work as a ski guide for the northern winter.

The Diploma programme at Otago Polytechnic’s Wanaka campus, incorporates the NZMSC Avalanche Stage 2 Certificate. This is a prerequisite for most industry management roles. 

“Otago Polytechnic is the sole provider of this certificate in New Zealand, and my diploma has already opened many doors within the ski industry,” says Jim. In the last seven years, he has worked twelve winter seasons as a professional ski patroller in Queenstown, Colorado and Canada.

The highlight of his time at Otago Polytechnic was the satisfaction of gaining one of the most respected avalanche qualifications from such a well-respected institution.

“The programme is run by Peter Bilous,” explains Jim, “who is renowned in New Zealand and North America for producing some of the leading people in the avalanche industry.”

Jim’s aspirations require further study, and he’s now working towards gaining his NZMGA Assistant Ski Guide qualification, with the exam coming up in September. “This will enable me to further my scope of work available within this exhilarating industry.”

Glen Riley
The Diploma gave me confidence in engaging people with the outdoors – and taught me how to get the best out of others in these environments.

Glen Riley
Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management (Level 5)

Glen’s typical working day at the Sinclair Wetlands involves lots of variety. He can usually be found undertaking ranger type restoration work, or instilling a love for the environment in schoolchildren, Woofers, or volunteers. “I really enjoy giving people the opportunity to experience nature and try their hand at conservation activities,” he explains. “It’s pretty addictive work and most people get a real kick out of it.”

Glen grew up on an organic market garden in Kakanui, North Otago. He’s always felt attached to the land, and is passionate about sports, recreation and the wilderness. So, when choosing a career, he was keen to work in an environment he could relate to, and felt inspired by.

Otago Polytechnic’s Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management set him off on the right path. The programme confirmed his love of the outdoors and exposed him to some magical and inspiring places. The instructors also made a great impression. “They were absolute role models – providing a challenging and safe environment, while looking out for us and encouraging individual development.”

Glen initially found work as an outdoor leader in adventure tourism, before coming to realise that he preferred taking people out to enhance the environment, rather than just ‘for a good time’. Either way, the course proved invaluable. “Today, I feel privileged to play a role in bettering New Zealand’s fragile environment. Much of our NZ flora and fauna is found nowhere else on earth and it’s up to us to protect it.”

Read more about Otago Polytechnic’s Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management (Level 5).

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AJ Carrick
I love everything about my job. I get to meet people from all over the world and learn new skills.

AJ Carrick
Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management (Level 5)

23 year old AJ Carrick grew up with a very outdoors lifestyle. “My parents took my brother and I camping a lot as well as getting us into mountain biking, tramping, orienteering and sailing. We were lucky enough to experience lots of different adventures which gave me a love and appreciation of the outdoors.”

So it was no surprise when AJ decided to study the Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management (Level 5). AJ chose Otago Polytechnic because the programme was very practical. “I’m more of a hands-on person and I learn by watching then doing it myself so the Otago Polytechnic setting was perfect for me.”

“I really enjoyed studying the Diploma. I loved being outside all the time, experiencing new challenges, meeting new people and also appreciated the enthusiasm of the lecturers and their love of teaching. The best thing about the qualification was it helped me get my dream job straight out of the programme and helped me gain other qualifications such as kayaking awards and first aid certification.

“I now spend my summers up in Abel Tasman working as a Sea Kayak and Walk Guide for Wilsons Abel Tasman. In the winter I get to spend time either travelling overseas, catching up with my family in Dunedin or working in other roles in the outdoor industry.

“My job is really fun. I have the best ‘office’ in the world. It really is a slice of paradise. I get to see a lot of different birds, New Zealand fur seals, stingrays and the occasional pod of dolphins or Orca.

“Since graduating I keep myself busy pursuing lots of goals and outdoor hobbies. I recently walked 100 kilometres non-stop to raise money for Oxfam and I plan to walk the Te Araroa Trail from Cape Reinga to Bluff shortly. I’m also planning on studying environmental science or biology to help learn more about the environment.”

Jeremy Shanks
The quality of study offered at Otago Polytechnic is exceptional.

Jeremy Shanks
Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management (Level 5)

An Outward Bound experience during his last year of high school shaped Jeremy Shanks’ career direction in ways he couldn’t have predicted. Despite not having much outdoor experience Jeremy was inspired to study the Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management (Level 5). A few of Jeremy’s friends had also signed up to do the programme and he had heard glowing reviews so he took a “bit of a leap of faith” and enrolled.

Now a graduate of the programme, working for the Outdoor Education Group in Victoria, Australia, Jeremy thinks the programme is the perfect gateway into a career that allows you to travel.

“The qualification gives you the ability to travel the world. Right now I have plans to camp in Europe during 2017. It’s that flexibility that I love.”

Jeremy also met fantastic people on his programme, including incredibly experienced instructors. The support of his peers and instructors really helped Jeremy during his second year of study when he caught Glandular Fever. “With the support I managed to fight through – and I received the Excellence and Ambassador Awards for my year which was such a proud moment for me.”

Through the programme and his job, Jeremy has had the privilege of exploring beautiful remote places and this has spawned a new passion for photography and videography. “I’ve recently become interested in taking photos and videos so I can share some of these special places that I get to visit with other people.”

Jeremy’s advice to others is: “If you like a bit of fresh air, teaching people and having a rewarding career then Otago Polytechnic’s Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management is just the ticket. Outdoor instructors from New Zealand are really sought after so there are plenty of opportunities out there.”

Dermot Mayock
I saw these young guys, some of them only 19 years old, flourish. I watched them grow with confidence as the year went on. It was magic

Dermot Mayock
Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management (Level 5)

After 35 years in psychiatric nursing, Dermot Mayock needed a break!  He’s trained Search and Rescue dogs for years – that, and his life-long passion for the outdoors led him straight to Otago Polytechnic’s Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management (Level 5).

Dermot loved his year of study (2013), his only complaint: it was too short “I wish I could’ve done the two years’!  But it’s really good that you come out with a practical qualification.”

Although Dermot loves getting out and about, he found the theoretical element immensely helpful.  “I learnt a lot about health and safety risk management and how to teach.  I really enjoyed that”.

At 53, Dermot was the oldest on the course, but he got on famously with his younger classmates.  “I saw these young guys, some of them only 19 years old, flourish.  I watched them grow with confidence as the year went on.  It was magic” he says.

“I kept up with them, it nearly killed me on some days” he jokes, “but I think there was a bit of mutual respect there by the end!”

Dermot says the programme sets students up well for the industry – planting them firmly on the first rung of the outdoor adventure ladder.

“The wealth of experience of lecturers is just phenomenal.  They’re so laid back, and teach the course so well” he says.

In the future, Dermot’s hoping to mix his experience of psychiatric nursing with his qualification in outdoor leadership.  “That would be the perfect type of job, and now I have the qualification to get it!”

Read more about Otago Polytechnic’s Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management (Level 5).

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