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Student story

Alyce Lysaght

20 July 2023

"I believe engineers have a large role to play in the protection of te taiao..."


(Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui)

Diploma in Global Humanitarian Engineering

Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Natural Resources Engineering with a minor in Water and Environmental Systems Engineering

Graduate Water Engineer, WSP New Zealand

Physical Sciences Committee member, Return on Science, UniServices

Te Ao Māori Testing Panel member, Te Waihanga | New Zealand Infrastructure Commission


You’re involved in so many projects within the engineering industry. Where did your love for engineering start?

My physics teacher studied as a civil engineer at UC and mentioned that pathway to me too. The more I looked in to it, the more I realised the power engineers can have within society. The ability to design environmentally low impact solutions for the natural and built environment that benefit te taiao and in turn communities for generations to come. 

How did your Engineering studies go?

The Engineering School at UC is really hard to compare to any other. Its high ranking as well as its mix of practical and theoretical mahi appealed to me greatly. 

As a Water Engineer and a member on two advisory committees, how has your degree prepared you for such important work in the industry?

It has prepared me well! It has given me the foundational knowledge and tools to solve problems. I have often said that Engineering is a ‘problem-solving degree’ and that we are taught ‘how’ to think rather than ‘what’ to think. My study journey has given me the confidence to know that no matter what problem I will be faced with, I have the tools I need to solve it effectively. 

So it’s a bit of a challenge?

It is hard, and that’s what makes it great. 

Where you are currently, is not where you will always be. I mean that in the sense that even though you may fail or do not as well as you thought you may have academically in a paper, then that is not the be all and end all. It will get better and you can improve if you have the determination to do so. 

No matter who you are, you can do it. 

Did you get any support while you were studying?

Āe, in 2021 I was lucky enough to receive an award from the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre. It was offered in recognition of my performance in engineering and innovative thinking and contribution to support Māori in Engineering. 

What was your contribution?

In 2020 and 2021, I was involved in Te Akatoki (Māori Student Association) as the Academic Representative for Engineering. It entailed representing tauira Māori in Faculty of Engineering hui alongside the UCSA representative. 

Representing tauira Māori in spaces such as Engineering is something I am immensely passionate about and it was an invaluable experience. I also loved being a part of such a whānau-minded community that is Te Akatoki. 

And you were also super involved with the UC Student Volunteer Army.

I was on the executive team for three years. During that time, I fulfilled the roles of Vice President, Events Manager and Schools Coordinator in the years 2021, 2020, and 2019, respectively. The UC SVA meant I was able to combine my love of the outdoors, helping people, and organisation to make it a part of university life. I met amazing and likeminded people who I am lucky enough to say are still in my close circle of friends to date. 

The opportunities that were formed through the UC SVA were also pretty cool, throughout the 3 years on exec I was able to travel around the South Island for volunteering camps, be a part of the SVA Covid-19 National Response, attend the New Zealander of the Year Awards, as well as represent NZ in Taiwan to attend a Global Youth Trends Forum.  

Choosing to do the Diploma in Global Humanitarian Engineering makes sense with all of your efforts supporting others.

I knew ‘good’ engineering came from understanding people too. It enabled a pathway that meant taking papers in Te Reo Māori, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as well as the interactions of the society and the environment. Completing both qualifications together has opened my eyes to the social inequities that are in Aotearoa and how the technical design aspects of an Engineering degree must also consider this. 

I believe engineers have a large role to play in the protection of te taiao and a way to do that is to honour and utilise te ao Māori through its people and practices. In particular, my goal is to work in the realm of iwi engagement and Water Engineering. 

I started a podcast this year titled ‘Māori in Engineering’ which enables me to do just that and to showcase the awesome people in the engineering industry.

You’ve accomplished so much – what’s been the biggest highlight for you?

It’s hard to pinpoint! The friends I have made along the way, the genuine support from lecturers and wider staff, and the course content (of course) are points that stick out for sure! I have genuinely loved my time at UC and I am sad to be moving on from it. It’s a place where I feel people who are engaged can truly fulfil their potential.

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