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Advising UC students proves a rewarding role

22 June 2023

It’s a motivating feeling helping students get back on track by being a sounding board, adviser and problem solver.


Raymond Stowers is a Kaitoko Student Advisor at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury and finds it rewarding helping students get back on track.

Raymond Stowers has been a Kaitoko Student Advisor at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) since April last year, and he finds it satisfying when a student comes back to say thanks for the advice he has given them.

“It does feel rewarding hearing those success stories, and it’s nice when they come back to give us an update on how they’re doing.” 

Raymond is one of 10 Kaitoko (te reo Māori for ‘people who support’) who are available to provide one-to-one help, academic advice, and general support to first year and new students at the University as part of a system introduced at the beginning of last year. Kaitoko are based in Te Pātaka, the student services hub which offers a wide range of student services.


Providing advice about courses is a big part of Raymond’s role but he says sometimes all a student needs is a sounding board, a chat, reassurance that they’re on the right track, or to vent about a bad day.

Raymond, who is Samoan, says remembering how it felt when he moved from Auckland to Christchurch to study at UC several years ago, helps him relate to and empathise with students who are feeling overwhelmed.

“I know the challenges of coming to university from another city and what it’s like being in the halls when you don’t know anyone.”

Often he only meets with a student once, but there are some who he sees several times over a longer timeframe. He supported one student who was dealing with a lot of challenges last year and had to withdraw from courses but has now re-enrolled, gradually increased their workload, and is now hoping to return to full-time study. “Seeing their progress has been really great. It hasn’t been easy for them, but feeling like I’ve helped them and seeing the difference in their life is really fulfilling.” 

Raymond graduated from UC with a Bachelor of Commerce in 2019 but realised working in marketing wasn’t his thing. He was a residential advisor in the halls and a mentor in the Pacific Development Team when he was studying at UC and found a job as a student advisor at Ara Institute of Canterbury before moving to the role at UC.

“There’s quite a lot of variety in the type of things we have to tackle, from changing courses or degrees to more pastoral care and mental health stuff,” he says. “I think the main thing is guiding students towards a solution. We might not be able to solve everything, but we know where they need to go to fix any problems they’re facing.”

First year student advising is part of UC’s Kia Angitu student success programme which brings together a range of initiatives to help students navigate university life. UC Dean of Academic Success Julie Mackey says the Kaitoko play a vital role.

“The transition to tertiary study can be daunting and the Kaitoko team provide a personalised point of contact making it easier for new students to access what they need from the many specialist support services available on campus. We’ve had really positive feedback from students saying advice provided by our Kaitoko has helped them settle in and thrive.”

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