Giving back in so many ways

20 March 2014
Volunteer function
Volunteer function

Being “relevant and impactful” requires a business school to provide more than outstanding faculty and great students, and it also requires more than a passing engagement with prominent business people. For the Business School to produce the type of business savvy graduates you require to run your companies, we recognised we have to value-add to the classroom experience.

So, how do we do that? We do it with a co-curriculum that emphasises real-life learning experiences. On Thursday 20 February we recognised the 700-plus volunteers who bring that real-life learning to our students. But it’s more than the occasional lecture, it’s an integrated and expected part of our academics lives that they will connect with industry. Many of our volunteers serve multiple roles and for multiple years on advisory boards, developing cases, mentoring our top young women, providing internships, jobs and meaningful relevant projects for our undergraduates and MBA students. The work undertaken on these projects is often at a standard that adds insights to a company’s marketing strategy, informs their global customer network strategy or takes a new product to market.

It also creates an ethos of giving back. Students learn that to be a member of society it is not just about making money and taking, it is also about giving time and financial support. Many of our volunteers are alumni who have already experienced the support and benefit from the co-curricular activities and want to ensure students today have similar opportunities.

Denis Snelgar, a long-time volunteer, spoke on behalf of the volunteers at the event.

“I get so much out of being a volunteer, in fact I’ve kept coming back over the past ten years,” says Denis. “I’ve seen students flourish into leading business people, seen babies born – not literally of course – and had the opportunity to learn so much from the younger generation.”

Denis is no retired businessman looking for something to occupy his daytime hours. He is on the board of various companies in IT, health devices, dental, asset management, rehabilitation and, fashion and beauty industries. Through his consulting business he provides coaching and mentoring, strategic management advice and facilitation to start-ups and SMEs. He has also spent part of his career as CEO for Waitemata Health District Health Board, CEO for NorthTec and as a Consultant to Fortune 500 companies.

As Denis observed, it’s not a one-way street with students or academics being purely sponges absorbing knowledge. It is a two-way learning process that can be a powerful and satisfying learning experience for both parties.

“We’ve found that the networks generated by volunteerism extend beyond the student/volunteer relationship,” says Greg Whittred, Business School Dean. “The informal networks established between volunteers themselves also helps them with broadening their business networks. It really is a win-win situation.”

If you would like to find out more about how to become a Business School volunteer, please email Brendon Potter, Student Development and Engagement Manager, at

You can view photos from the Volunteers Function on the Business School Facebook page.