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Student story

Siobhan McMillan

20 July 2023

Waikato Tainui

"At honours level, you begin to discover more complicated theories..."


(Waikato Tainui)

Bachelor of Arts in Māori and Indigenous Studies with a minor in Human Services

Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Cultural Studies

Kaiāwhina, UC Māori Development Team

Director, Smooshie NZ

Siobhan has always been interested in the way people negotiate their identity, both individually and socially, so her motivation to study Cultural Studies was her keen interest in the variety that exists within human and animal life.

"I enjoy discussing the power of cultures, and thinking about the spectrum of intersectional influences that mould us as individuals. At honours level, you begin to discover more complicated theories that assist you to focus on one particular subject for master’s."

When her son was still young, Siobhan was seeking study that would provide ‘intellectual nourishment’ and also offer a flexible environment. Living in Canterbury, and the range of study options available, made UC very attractive, and she chose to study the Certificate in Learning Support to support her son’s education.

On the second day of her BA studies however, the February 22nd 2011 earthquake struck, but support from UC kept her going strong.

"I was so grateful to the University for its support and encouragement during those times. My degree and learning was not affected - in fact, I feel the experience provided the staff and students with a deeper connection which I find is so important, when engaging in knowledge," she says. "I don’t know many students who can say that they had the novelty of attending Law, Māori and Media lectures in large white tents – but I can. I will never forget my experience at UC."

Siobhan received guidance from the Māori Development Team, who she says ‘are very approachable’. She took part in their Tuakana Student Mentor programme during her first year to help navigate her studies, and later became a Tuakana herself to help other new students. Siobhan is now working as Kaiāwhina or assistant for the team and can testify to how valuable the service is.

She has also studied Summer courses during her undergrad, including a bridging course to introduce her to uni study, and Māori language and culture courses.

"I would definitely recommend Summer School to students who want to either continue studying throughout the summer break, or for those who want an opportunity to decrease their workload during the year," she says.

Now doing Cultural Studies for her honours, Siobhan is particularly interested in human-animal cultural analysis. The advice she would give to someone considering studying Cultural Studies is to read – a lot.

"Read different types of texts; poetry, philosophy, academic writing, news articles, blogs, Facebook posts – it’s all relevant."

Her studies tie in well with her pet products business Smooshie NZ, which she juggles between university, looking after her son, and caring for her French bulldog Boris. Her husband Don "has been a pillar of support" throughout her journey with family, business and study.

Although she hopes her business will continue to flourish, Siobhan is a devout academic.

"My goals include passing my honours year, completing my master’s and then my PhD, whilst simultaneously expanding and developing my business," she says. "During this time, I would also like to continue tutoring and eventually become a lecturer or researcher within a university."

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