Scholarship fund helps AUT better support deaf students

A scholarships helps students

Pia Jane, recipient of the 2019 Sir Roy McKenzie AUT Deaf Scholarship

For non-native English speakers, tertiary level study can bring its fair share of challenges – but Kiwi-Filipino student Pia Jane has had to overcome more obstacles than most.

Not only is English her second language, but Pia is Deaf, and uses New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) as her primary method of communication.

One of just two universities in the country to offer an NZSL programme, AUT has played a pivotal role in helping the hard-working 30 year old shape her future.

“I didn’t really know what psychology was, but I did a course at AUT and found out that’s exactly what I wanted to be,” says Pia, who began her study pathway at Victoria University of Wellington, where she completed the Certificate in Deaf Studies: Teaching NZSL.

Now she is studying at AUT, working towards her long term goal of becoming a Deaf psychologist.

“I want to work with hearing people in the mental health sector to help them better understand the needs of the Deaf community, and to develop the materials and resources necessary to support them.”

Her Bachelor of Arts in New Zealand Sign Language & Deaf Studies with a double major in Psychology will be a great springboard. And thanks to an award established at AUT to empower the Deaf community, her efforts have been given another welcome boost.

Pia is the first-ever Sir Roy McKenzie AUT Deaf Scholarship recipient, and will benefit from a $3,000 grant towards her studies in 2019. Named after one of New Zealand’s most prolific philanthropists, the award is funded by a gift from the JR McKenzie Trust Deaf Development Fund (DDF), established by Sir Roy. Its aim, to encourage and enable Deaf people who use NZSL to achieve a tertiary qualification at AUT.

Pia – who was also awarded a DDF scholarship during her Victoria University studies – is delighted.

“I was so happy, and really surprised, when I received this scholarship, especially as English is my second language. Although I never had the opportunity to meet Sir Roy, I am so appreciative of the great work he has done supporting the Deaf community.”

DDF has been granting study awards for Deaf students since 1997, and when it wound up in 2019, funds were gifted for a new scholarship at AUT, in recognition of the University’s track record of delivering NZSL studies and supporting Deaf students. The scholarship reflects the valuable contribution AUT is making to New Zealand’s Deaf community.

AUT Development Specialist, Rachel Cleary says, “AUT is committed to contributing to social, economic and environmental development. This includes encouraging our Deaf students to form a sense of community at AUT, within Tāmaki Makaurau, and Aotearoa.

“I hope that our students can help to break down some barriers between the hearing and Deaf communities and recognise that they are contributing to a community that we often unintentionally overlook.”

AUT is doing its best to change that. The Bachelor of Arts NZSL-English Interpreting programme and the major in New Zealand Sign Language & Deaf Studies are the only programmes of their kind in the country. Bolstered by the generous support of organisations like the JR McKenzie Trust Deaf Development Fund, the voice of NZSL and New Zealand’s Deaf community can only get stronger.

Donate to AUT

No gift to AUT is too small. You can make a donation online now, or find out about other ways to make a gift and make a difference to the lives of our students.

Ways to give to AUT

Website search