New science scholarship a pathway for future Māori and Pasifika academics

A significant bequest by the late Emeritus Professor Peter Holland has paved the way to an exciting new postgraduate scholarship at the University of Canterbury (UC) for Māori and/or Pasifika students in Ecology or Environmental Science.

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Professor Peter Holland

Two scholarships worth $21,000 a year are available, with applications now open for study in 2021.

The Stan and Jessie Holland Memorial Scholarship in Ecology or Environmental Science is being offered by the university for the first time in 2021, with one available to a Master’s student (one year tenure) and one to a PhD student, (up to three year tenure). Postgraduate students of Māori and/or Pasifika descent are invited to apply through the Scholarships website by 1 November.

Professor Holland was a leading expert in biogeography and environmental change, whose academic studies began at UC, where he graduated with a Master’s degree in 1963. After completing a PhD in Australia, he travelled and worked extensively around the world before resuming his academic career in New Zealand, at UC and the University of Otago. Aotearoa’s changing landscapes were of key interest and he had a long association with the New Zealand Geographical Society, which recognised him with an Honorary Life Fellowship in 2013. Colleagues fondly remember the professor, who was highly regarded by both students and staff.

His generous scholarship bequest, now poised to make a material difference to Māori and Pasifika students studying Ecology and Environmental Science at UC, reinforces his legacy as both a teacher and distinguished researcher.

For UC Professor Bronwyn Hayward, who was lucky enough to study with Professor Holland as an undergraduate student in geography in Otago, the bequest revives memories of a man who was a warm and enthusiastic teacher.

“While he worked in physical geography, his interest was also very much in communities and how cross-cultural understandings about other ways of seeing problems and issues can help us,” says Professor Hayward, Director Hei Puāwaitanga: Sustainable Development & Civic Imagination.

Even towards the end of his life, she says he never stopped working or supporting other scholars and was still writing papers, including collegial research aimed at unravelling the factors that help communities and young people cope with disasters and risk.

“I find it deeply moving and inspiring that he left a significant legacy to help a new young generation of students to learn skills and knowledge that can prepare them for difficult challenges that both they and future generations will face.”

The sentiments are echoed by UC academic staff researching and teaching today in the same disciplines that dominated Professor Holland’s life work.

“The Stan and Jessie Holland Memorial Scholarship in Ecology and Environmental Science for Māori and Pasifika postgraduate students is an exciting initiative,” says Associate Professor Sally Gaw, UC Director of Environmental Science and Associate Professor in Environmental Chemistry. “We look forward to welcoming more Māori and Pasifika students into postgraduate environmental research projects.”

Professor Holland’s bequest is set to lift UC’s national and international research profile, and will also positively impact on long-term academic development, says UC’s Assistant Vice-Chancellor Māori/Amokapua Maori, Dr Darryn Russell. “It is a thoughtful gift that fosters the University’s ethos of excellence, relevance and impact along with kotahitanga, and will make a significant contribution to UC’s resolve in addressing global sustainability challenges.”

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