Trio of family members graduate
Publish Date: Wednesday, 6 December 2023
Trio of family members graduate
Pictured from left, Family members Mel Powell, Scott Perkins and Melissa James all graduate this week at the 2023 SIT Graduation Ceremony, held at Invercargill’s Civic Theatre.
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Melissa James’s insatiable desire to learn has seen her achieve a variety of academic qualifications over the past eight years; the latest is a Master of Applied Management which she will receive at the 2023 SIT Graduation Ceremony. Also graduating is her son, Scott Perkins and his partner, Mel Powell, who have both completed Bachelor’s degrees and won awards for excellence. Needless to say, there will be graduation celebrations to acknowledge the trios many successes.

Ms James waited until her four sons were teenagers before she re-entered education in her forties. She enrolled at SIT in the Bachelor of Fashion (Design and Technology) and, after feeling like she’d not achieved much at high school, Ms James realised she could actually do well at study. “I surprised myself by getting As,” she said. “I discovered a love of learning and I just wanted to carry on.”

Currently a Programme Operations Manager with SIT2LRN, SIT’s distance learning faculty, Ms James manages a range of certificate and diploma programmes. Having held a variety of job roles within the institute over the past 11 years, and ‘walked the talk’ in taking on study as a mature learner, she said “during my degree I discovered I like helping people to learn,” and she enjoys continuing to work in the tertiary education sector. 

Admitting she uses much of her available spare time in study, this year Ms James has also completed certificates in Te Reo Māori Levels 1 and 2, as well as three papers for a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning Design. “I wanted to do te reo to be able support my three granddaughters as they learn the language at school,” and the learning design study combines many elements from her previous study and work. “Everything somehow feeds into each other,” Ms James explained, and she enjoys “bringing it all together to improve what we can offer to SIT2LRN students.”

Aiming to cut back the study a bit in future “to spend a bit more time being Grandma”, Ms James has one more paper to complete next year for her learning design qualification. However, study is a hard habit to break when learning holds such a strong attraction and she admits there is a good possibility of more study in her future, she is just not sure what yet. Ms James says it’s her natural curiosity which fuels her - “there’s just so much out there to learn!”

Ms James’s son has also found his career path through studying at SIT, and will graduate this week with Bachelor of Information Technology. After high school, Mr Perkins went into farm work, then tested the waters with study by doing a Certificate in Information Technology. He reckons it was good for him to have gained work and life experiences between school and starting his bachelor’s programme, “[otherwise] I think I would’ve wasted time,” he said.

During his degree programme Mr Perkins has discovered web development is “what interests me the most”. He is settled locally and intends to work in Invercargill. He particularly liked making industry connections during his programme, such as working on a project for the Invercargill Central Mall, which provided access to local employers. Mr Perkins is also finishing his degree on a high note with two awards - the Joint Award for Top Group Project for Year Three Bachelor of Information Technology students, as well as Top Software Development Student in his year. “To be honest, our group expected to get the award. We were meeting all of our goals as we progressed through the project,” he explained. However, also receiving the top software development student was an unexpected bonus.

And partner, Ms Powell, has also achieved accolades upon the completion of her Bachelor of Sport and Exercise. Fresh from winning second prize at SIT’s three-minute thesis contest, where she spoke on The Green Prescription (GRX): New Zealand’s Time-Tested Health Ally’, Ms Powell is receiving two awards at SIT’s 2023 award ceremony: Joint Top Student – Excellence in Sport and Exercise Year 3, and the SIT Award for Outstanding Progress in a full-time, full year programme. “I’m still buzzing from the 3MT competition. It was a cool experience,” she said, admitting “I’m quite shy and wouldn’t normally try something like that.”

Ms Powell has had a hectic year juggling full-time study with 30 hours of work weekly: a 20-hour per week role with Active Southland, as well as a group fitness class at Primal helping people to keep on track with their fitness goals, and she also squeezes in personal training with individual clients. Whilst she has “absolutely loved it”, Ms Powell says at times she has had to manage potential burnout from her full schedule, and is grateful for the support she has received from SIT tutors, friends, family, and work colleagues.

At Active Southland, Ms Powell works with people who’ve been given a Green Prescription and referred by their GP. “We help them with goals around healthy eating and physical activity, covering topics such as portion control, cost, and by providing healthy recipes - it’s a very individualised approach,” she explained. Ms Powell enjoys health promotion and providing scientifically backed information; however, there is so much available information on health, fitness and nutrition, she has found it can be difficult for people to find the right information.

“I’m also interested in rehabilitation; people who don’t expect they can do physical activity, or have barriers in being able to participate ... I like finding ways to adjust activities to meet their needs. The biggest thing is helping to improve quality of life; I think that’s the connector between all these things,” said Ms Powell.

The three graduands are looking forward to going out for a meal to celebrate in the company of friends and other family members who are travelling to Invercargill from Sydney and around the South Island for the occasion.