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Belonging at Massey

Courtney Ngata-Turley

“I started studying at Massey because of their BA Psychology programme. I came here a few times on open days and immediately knew this was the place I wanted to study. The staff and students were great to talk to, and I really related with how the Massey BA was set out" - Courtney Ngata-Turley.

Courtney Ngata-Turley, Taranaki, a Student Support Advisor Māori at Bachelor of Arts Student Engagement (BASE+), recently completed her master's in psychology with a topic that is close to her heart and her work.

“My thesis was titled ‘To Stand, Belong and Flourish: Exploring the Belonging and Success of Aotearoa University Students’. I explored the relationship between students' feelings of belonging and their feelings of success at university,” she says.

Courtney’s research was based on previous psychological literature that supports the idea that the greater a student's sense of belonging to their university, the greater their feelings of academic success. Her research also looked at how students understood what it meant to be successful at university.

“My study found support for the idea of belonging equating with success, and it also found that students’ understandings of success at university consisted of multiple and fluid aspects that were not just about grades and getting a degree.”

Courtney chose this topic after her supervisor, Dr Michael Philipp from the School of Psychology, introduced her to the “amazing topic of ‘belonging’”.  

“I personally would have not made it this far without feeling a sense of belonging to Massey. This was the first place that really accepted me and my interests, as well as having amazing staff members that engaged with me and reminded me I was worthy of being here. Without that I know for sure I would not be here six years later.

“I started studying at Massey because of their BA Psychology programme. I came here a few times on open days and immediately knew this was the place I wanted to study. The staff and students were great to talk to, and I really related with how the Massey BA was set out. The opportunity to critically engage and explore topics in humanities at deeper level was really exciting to me. It also had a rich and diverse number of courses to take, which is great for me, as I wanted to experience as many subjects/topics as I could.

“My next goal will be starting my PhD in 2022. I have a lot of things I would like to explore, so for now it's just deciding what do I really want to take from a PhD.”

Experience with BASE+

“I found out about BASE+ in my first year of Massey when my friends brought me along to the space. It was great as we got to have our own space to chill, make food and drinks, and study with one another.”

After getting to know the team, Courtney and her friends found BASE+ was a great support system. “We could go and ask them as many questions as we wanted, no matter how big or small they were. They also made sure to get to know us and ask how we were going. As someone who had just come out of high school, this level of support and care was something new to me, and it made me realise how valuable student support is.”

After having such great experiences in student support, Courtney decided she would like to help other students who may be experiencing the same challenges that she did.

“BASE+ is special because of the people that make it up. The team is so diverse in their own experiences at university that they give a great holistic view of support to students and understand how different kinds of students, such as distance or part-time, may need help.”

Heather Reedy, BASE+ Manager agrees. “We are privileged to have Courtney as a full-time member of the BASE+ team. While studying, she was part of a core group of students who regularly provided feedback on our work. Courtney’s thesis now adds an academic lens to the insights she shares. This is incredibly valuable in the context of our work.”

Passion for learning

Courtney believes her experience with Massey changed her as it made her realise her passion for continued learning and education. “I may be here for a degree, masters and PhD, but the end goal of a piece of paper and title is also equal to the journey of getting them.

“Studying is tough but finding what you enjoy and are passionate about is a huge drive in your life and it made me realise that learning can be fun, not something that you feel you are forced to do. By changing my perspective on this, it has helped me become a larger advocate for continued education for those around me.

“Everyone deserves an education, but they also deserve an education that they are passionate for and will help give back and benefit their whānau and community,” she adds.

Advice to other students

“My first piece of advice to students would be to ask as many questions as you can, even if you are feeling whakamā. When I first started university, it was intimidating asking for help from staff, especially if I thought the question was 'stupid'. But after gaining more confidence over the years, I realised how far Massey staff will go to help you get through your study.

“You're in a huge university full of experts and experience, definitely use that to your advantage. Don't be afraid to give them an email, even if you have never met,” Courtney adds.

“My second piece of advice is that you don't need to plan out your entire life when you first come here. It's normal to change courses, majors, disciplines and job prospects. Do what you feel pulled to, but also check in with academic and career advisors so you do know what options are best for you.”

Courtney’s time is usually filled up with either study or work, but when she has free time, she likes to get away in nature and Papatūānuku (Earth mother).