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Hi Elliot, can you tell us what you’ve been up to since graduation?
Our academic years start in February, so after graduating, I lived with my family for eight months, working fast food full-time and organizing a final iteration of the Traveling Shorts Film Festival (a yearly film festival held at TGS), as I wasn’t quite ready to let that go as a TGS institution. Then in 2019, I started my degree in ecology (and media studies) at the University of Otago in Dunedin.
I spent the three years of my degree really settling into the city and putting down roots after being nomadic for so long. While I hope to change it soon, I haven’t left the country since graduation five years ago. I’ve been writing for Critic Te Ārohi, the student magazine here in Dunedin, and I’m now the features editor. Last year I started my master’s degree in ecology, and after a wee break, I’ll start my field research on native geckos at the end of this year.
The other big thing I’ve been up to is that I was elected to the Otago Regional Council last year in our local government elections. It’s been a really big privilege, and it’s been really rewarding to be able to have such an impact on environmental and social decisions for this region.
What has been the most gratifying project you’ve worked on since graduating?
There are so many to choose from; I think a lot of the pieces I’ve worked on for Critic Te Ārohi have been very gratifying, with a lot of research and talking to people involved and you get to share a lot of people’s personal stories with the world. One of those articles involved me going undercover in a small neo-nazi here in New Zealand, which received substantial coverage in the media.
The election campaign I had was super gratifying, too — having people from the community come and show their support for your vision for the region. People having my back in so many ways was super inspiring and pushed me to actually win.
I haven’t properly started yet, but in a year’s time, I might say my master’s thesis because getting to work with native lizards and help fill significant knowledge gaps in the New Zealand scientific community about them is something I think will be very gratifying.
I haven’t properly started yet, but in a year’s time, I might say my master’s thesis because getting to work with native lizards and help fill significant knowledge gaps in the scientific community about them is something I think will be very gratifying.
How do you feel your TGS education has benefited you in your career (or secondary education) so far?
The curriculum really prepared me for academic life at university. It helped me thrive in a number of my papers, and it also helped my problem-solving and work ethic generally.
Traveling with TGS to so many places, and not just traveling but living in and fully embedding in so many different places truly helped me think more broadly about every problem I’m faced with. Whether it’s the media I read/watch/listen to, the food I cook or eat, the people I talk to, or the morals I live by, I feel that my horizons for what is possible have been broadened so much by the exposure to so many places and cultures.
What would you like to see yourself doing five years from now?
I truly have no idea. My elected terms are three years long, so potentially working through a second term. I might be involved in some journalistic work or some political advocacy. I know that somewhere down the line, I want to get my PhD in ecology, too, and go into conservation research here and/or overseas.
Any advice you’d like to pass on to current and prospective TGS students?
It may sound cheesy, but believe in yourself; reflect on the past, prepare for the future, but live in the present. And assume everyone around you is acting in good faith and with good intentions unless you’ve got evidence to the contrary.