Kass Saimoni has worked her way up in her profession and at the same time, advanced her qualifications to keep pace with her career development; a successful student, she has gained a certificate, two diplomas, and most recently, a degree, all of which have been achieved through distance learning.
Balclutha based Kass has recently changed jobs after finishing a Health Coordinator role at Silver Fern Farms for around eight years; now with the Clutha District Council in the finance team – a change from the occupational health and safety sector – she’s up to the task with a newly completed degree to her name, a Bachelor of Applied Management.
“I have always been passionate about occupational health having worked in the industry for eight years with a real focus on preventing injuries,” said Kass. Having previously completed the Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety, it was always her intention to complete a degree in an area she was passionate about, but also to study something she could complete while continuing to work, and without having to travel to a campus. Other interests include business and human resource management, which were all part of her degree course.
Kass has largely flown under the radar with her studies, completing them in her own time, at night-time and weekends.
“My former employer didn't realise until I completed the internship how much study I had done along the way. I had previously completed a Certificate in Health Science, Diploma in Business and a Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety prior to commencing employment at Silver Fern Farms.”
Having already achieved these qualifications, Kass knew the opportunity was there to study a degree with SIT2LRN, and was keen to enrol in the Bachelor of Applied Management once she reviewed the course content. Her previous studies meant she was already familiar with distance learning and knew what to expect.
“I decided to study through SIT2LRN again, as it gave me the flexibility I needed for my family and work commitments,” said Kass. She was still with Silver Fern Farms working full-time, as well as “being a mum of four amazing children”, one of whom was born part way through her studies.
Finishing the Bachelor of Applied Management with a major in Occupational Health and Safety in November 2021, Kass said she learnt a number of valuable skills throughout the degree programme, from report writing to preparing recommendations for business occupational health and safety systems, along with the legislative requirements needed, ensuring that all elements were covered.
“The degree covered business papers, accounting papers, occupational health and safety papers, along with human resource management papers; all have contributed to my current skill set and has been adaptable to different work environments.”
She said the degree teaches a level of professionalism that is developed over the course of the studies. “On a personal level, when I completed the dissertation, the growth on an academic level was definitely noticeable,” Kass added.
“The studies I have completed along the way have well and truly set me up to be proficient in my roles and I have grown and developed so much along the way, appreciating everything I have learnt.”
Achieving what she has hasn’t come without some stress and sacrifices says Kass. “The greatest challenges were by far the time management and over commitment. Working full-time and raising a young family is no small feat on its own, but to add in studying for a degree was definitely a challenge.”
In 2020, having baby number four and taking only five months maternity leave from work, created a number of demands for Kass. She overcame these pressures by prioritising what she needed to finish and always communicated with the facilitators if she felt she might not be able to meet a deadline. “All of my programme facilitators were approachable, supportive and gave guidance where applicable,” she said.
“Definitely the most rewarding highlight for me while studying was achieving the dissertation. I found this to be a great time to reflect and combine all the previous study I had completed and really utilise the skills and knowledge I had gained. It was also an awesome time to reflect with my workplace as they were unaware of the study that I had undertaken!”
Kass identifies as Māori and said she felt comfortable in her study environment due to the fact it was in her own home; she also felt supported throughout discussion boards and working with facilitators, that she always had the ability to identify as Māori without any judgement.
“I did feel an immense sense of gratitude and thankfulness to be able to identify as Māori, to help pave the way for future Māori students and to let them see that the possibilities are endless with the ability to study from anywhere.”
Studying remotely through SIT2LRN worked incredibly well for Kass. Being able to remain in full-time employment and still complete the degree from the comfort of her own home meant there was no financial impact on her family while she pursued her learning.
“It also meant the study was aligned with the work that I completed on a daily basis, which meant that I had access to resources - given that my role was heavily involved with occupational health.”
Kass said studying her degree through SIT2LRN changed the way she perceived how she could achieve her goals.
“You don’t need to move to the city to be able to complete a degree, which is a massive bonus when you have a young family and live in a small town that doesn’t have tertiary campuses available for your desired course of study.”
In Kass’s current job as Senior Rates Officer at the Clutha District Council, she says the Bachelor of Applied Management has definitely given her the skill set she needed to secure a role in the finance team and working for local government.
“My degree has opened up so many opportunities for me on a professional and personal level. In the future, I can see myself utilising the skill set I have in occupational health and safety, but for now, I intend on developing the business skills I have, which align with my current role.”
And Kass’s philosophy of ongoing learning continues, she has plans to accomplish some postgraduate study very soon! She encourages others to “GO FOR IT! Always ask for help when you think you need it, there is plenty of support on offer with SIT2LRN and they will always ensure you are supported to complete your studies.”
“Upon reflection on completing my degree, I have an immense feeling of gratitude for my supportive husband and very patient children. Throughout the three years of study there was many a weekend and evening that was socially non-existent due to my study commitments and for that, I am forever grateful.”