'It is inspiring to be working within a niche that is rapidly developing and where new ideas are constantly emerging...'
Bachelor of Science in Geography with an endorsement in Environmental Science
Wanting to become an Architect, Tessa planned to study undergraduate Geography at university to start towards her career goal. When her UC Science degree introduced her to the human element of Geography, however, she decided to change her focus with the Master of Urban Resilience Renewal (MURR).
‘I am captivated by how our built environment can affect our livelihoods, and the MURR allows me to analyse this on broader scale than I could have done doing Architecture. It is more about processes on a city-wide and societal level, and I think it is more about people than it is about a design brief,’ she says.
Tessa ended up receiving a Leigh and Judith Pownall Prize in Geography, after finding her new inspiration. A particular highlight from her undergrad studies was attending a field trip for one of her courses with a small group of classmates, which added a lot to her experiences looking at the human side of Geography.
‘It was a brilliant way to get to know other students and staff and an energising learning experience to be using equipment in the field,’ she says.
Moving from Geography to Urban Resilience Renewal, Tessa has the opportunity to explore her interests in city development and response to rapid change.
‘I am a big picture thinker, so I enjoy how multifaceted and dynamic the subject is! Urban resilience is also a relatively new subject, so it is inspiring to be working within a niche that is rapidly developing and where new ideas are constantly emerging. These ideas are ones that could have a significant bearing on how we live in cities in the future.’
Tessa originally attended Auckland University, before transferring to UC after visiting a few times with friends and enjoying what she saw.
‘I felt a real energy on the campus,’ she says. ‘I think this is attributable to its compact nature, as well as the buzz of the University’s club culture and student life. UC has got an awesome atmosphere and great support networks, so I found the transition to living away from home really easy! Being here has completely transformed my experience as a student.’
She initially stayed in College House accommodation, which ended up being a great way to be introduced to UC life. Tessa was given the Award for Outstanding Technical Ability in a College House Annual Art Exhibition.
‘I really enjoyed being in an environment that encouraged academic success as well as extracurricular involvement and sociability. College House is also unique in the way it has maintained a lot of its traditions, and because of its small roll we are quite a close knit group.’
Tessa has really taken on UC’s community with involvement in a lot of different clubs – being an Executive team member for the Golden Key Society helping organise events, a Treasurer for the Geography Society running networking and tutoring sessions, and is the current Vice-President of the Student Volunteer Army.
It is through her role with the SVA that Tessa has been able to make a lasting impact on both Christchurch and UC.
‘It’s been incredibly rewarding to play a part in seeing the club transform how students engage with other people in the city as well as creating a platform to do some good while we are here!
‘It has also enabled me to learn more about the human dimension of Christchurch, and how we relate to each other and what support networks exist in a post-disaster context. It’s been a real privilege to be part of SVA while studying a discipline that ultimately has people and their livelihoods at its core.
‘Over all, my involvement with these different clubs has allowed me to wear many different hats! And to develop a wide set of skills that I wouldn’t have had the chance to develop if I were to only focus on my studies. They’ve been invaluable.’
Easily her favourite aspect of being at UC was how well the Christchurch rebuild fitted with both her social aspirations and urban studies.
‘Aspects of the University that drew me here in the first place have continued to make my experience here really incredible. I value my learning experience here because I have had the opportunity to do practical work in the rebuild context, and I find the academic staff very personable and supportive.’
As an artist in her spare time doing commission works, being able to combine science with art in a career path is ideal for Tessa, who plans to contribute to the future developments of New Zealand cities.
‘I see myself eventually doing Urban Design or a similar discipline,’ she says. ‘I want to draw on my creative side and academic side, and to make tangible differences in the built environment around me from a perspective that prioritises design that is environmentally and socially resilient. I’m really fascinated with how we can encourage and nurture more creativity in cities.
‘I think having a unique sense of place in our cities is incredibly important, so I can see myself working at the intersect of urban design and community development. I want to contribute to making cities as healthy, safe, exciting and resilient as possible, with a real emphasis on the lived experience of people being a positive one.’