I have been in the job a few years now, some say too many. One of the best things about the job is working with awesome folk. What started as odd emails, then a strange phone call or two, a lunch followed by a flappy presentation has become a unique work friendship developed over mutual frustrations over incomplete applications and the magical phrase TGIF!. Let me introduction Jon Winnall, Scholarships Manager at Universities New Zealand.
Mel: Hi Jon, Welcome to the GRS blog, we are super happy to be talking to you. I guess to get the ball rolling do you want to tell us a bit about what Universities NZ is and why Otago Postgrad students should know about it?
Jon: Righto! Delighted to be here with you. What is Universities NZ? Universities NZ is the easy to use name of the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee – an organisation which works on behalf of all eight universities in New Zealand. We have number of focus areas for the universities – for example advocacy with the public sector, policy, research, international links and students, academic programmes and… Scholarships. Otago postgrads may see some of the effects and outcomes of what we do as an organisation – a new Masters programme here, a new research policy or initiative there, etc. But it is the scholarships work that we do that is probably closer to home.
Mel: Can you tell us a bit about the role you play in the awarding of scholarships and what the best bit about the job is?
Jon: Now that is the that most difficult of questions – What do I do? The scholarships team at Universities NZ manages nationally contestable scholarships – those scholarships that are open to applications from postgrads at any of the NZ universities. We manage the application process, convene selection committees, manage the committee process and (try to) keep applicants fully informed about the status of their application. This is becoming easier using our spiffing new on-line application system And the best bit about the job is making those ‘good news’ phone calls. All our scholarships are good, are notable and signify a real achievement for the winners, some scholarships are quite literally life changing. It is always a privilege to make those congratulations phone calls.
(The second best bit about the job is visiting Otago). (of course – Mel)
(The third best bit is having lunch at Government House twice a year )
Mel: You would have looked at a number of applications over your time at UNZ (that is scholarship talk for Universities New Zealand). What is the most common mistake you see applicant’s making?
Oh – where do I start …………….
Most common is not reading and understanding the Regulations for a scholarship and checking their eligibility. This is closely followed by leaving it to the last minute to submit an application. And this is closely followed by not understanding that they, the applicant, have to chase and hassle their referees to make sure that the references are in on time.
OK – I’ll stop there…..
Mel: We have a stellar record with the Rhodes scholarship and I was wondering is there anything you notice that sets Otago applicants apart from applicants?
Jon: Preparation. A Rhodes application is not something that should be gone into lightly. Otago applicants have been advised and guided throughout the process and for The three outstanding candidates that are nominated by Otago each year all are outstanding on paper. Those who reach the interview stage always prove their worth.
Mel: Finally, Would you like to fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?
Jon: I’m going to let Teddy answer that…………….
Unfortunately when Ted was questioned about horse -sized duck or duck sized horses he refused to comment.
If you think what you have takes to be the next Otago Rhodes scholar then contact the scholarship office about our upcoming information evening. Equally visit the UNZ website for more details about the excellent scholarships opportunities that are available.