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A message from the AVC

14 July 2023

Assistant Vice-Chancellor Engagement Brett Berquist speaks on 150 years of UC. How we celebrated our past, present, and future and about the key objectives of UC's 150th anniversary. In 2023 we were more inspired than ever to be driven by our vision - empowered to act for good and determined to make a difference in the world.


Ka titiro whakamuri, ki te anga whakamua | Guided by the Past, Shaping the Future

The past, the present and the future are intertwined. At UC the past is central to shaping our identity and how we act today. We carry our past into the future along with the mana of previous generations. We are also driven by our vision - empowered to act for good and determined to make a difference in the world.

2023. A year of celebrations to mark this significant milestone.  We’ve celebrated, debated, published, hosted, launched, fundraised, convened, and thanked. 

What an occasion to re-engage with open borders and reconnect with alumni from near and far.  Over 10,000 attendees across 40 separate events in Waitaha Canterbury and offshore. 

We kicked off the year with events honouring mana whenua and we shared the first public assessment of community impact of a NZ university.  The Community Impact report and the new Te Kakau a Māui scholarship framed much of our messaging and efforts this year and will continue to do so for the next few years.

Over 150 staff and students, including our VC, underook the City to Surf event in March.

In April, over 1,000 students and staff paraded through the city, flags and stiltwalkers marking the occasion and a toast by the mayor. 

We lit the city red for the Chancellor’s fundraising gala dinner at Te Pae, where we announced over $1m in support for the new Te Kakau a Māui scholarship.  The next day Ian hosted a golf fundraiser and then we fed over 300 people at Aldersgate Centre for a community feast. 

UC academics ‘raised the bar’ by taking their research to different venues around Christchurch on 2 May. More than 1,400 people attended the 20 free talks held in across 10 venues in Christchurch City, Lyttelton and Lincoln, marking the inaugural Christchurch ‘Raising the Bar’ event. This was an excellent opportunity to increase our presence and impact in Waitaha Canterbury and we plan to host this event again.

We marked the official date of our founding in June with cake, raffled gifts, photo booths, and a group photo.  And fed students cupcakes, popcorn, and ice cream when they returned to campus in August.

Over 3,000 people visited the brilliant exhibition at the Arts Centre put together by Terri Elder and her team.  And we took our exhibition on community impact to five regional towns.

We commissioned a new work from our composer in residence and filled Town Hall with a CSO programme of music dedicated to UC. 

Alumni travelled from across the country and the world to our alumni and community weekend in October.  I enjoyed speaking with a lady who started her studies in science in 1949 and travelled from Ottowa to join us. 

Connecting back to our origin story, Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford dedicated evensong and a special dinner to the historical connections with UC, including the 14th century wood in our ceremonial mace.

And finally, after more than three years of work, the book ‘A New History: The University of Canterbury 1873 – 2023’ was launched commercially at the Great Hall in December.  It is an independent analysis of how the university has changed over the decades and how we fulfil our role of critic and conscience. 

For me personally, what a fascinating way to dive deep into an institutions’ culture and history.  Thank you for your support.  Hundreds of people were responsible for making all this happen.  A university is a community and 2023 celebrated the dedication and hard work of thousands of UC staff, students, alumni and friends from our origins to today. 

Brett Berquist 

Amokapua te rōpū pāpori | Assistant Vice-Chancellor Engagement 

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