Former Opotiki College head boy Toiroa Williams has received international recognition this week.
Auckland University of Technology with Kea New Zealand held an inaugural event in New York City on Wednesday to celebrate globally-influential Kiwis making an impact on the world stage and specifically in the United States.
Toiroa and Te Whanau-a-Apanui filmmaker Taika Waititi both received awards.
Taika received the first World Class New Zealand Award presented offshore and Toiroa received the AUT Internz Ambassador Award, which is the first of its kind and recognises an Internz recipient who is an excellent ambassador for the university and the country.
Toiroa recently graduated from Auckland University of Technology with a master of arts degree in Maori development and communication.
Prior to this, he completed a Bachelor of Communications degree majoring in television.
His research looks at developing opportunities to support youth to achieve within his home community.
He was awarded a graduate scholarship to complete a three-month internship in the Native American and Indigenous Programme at Sundance Institute, founded by Robert Redford.
On completion of the scholarship, he joined Sundance’s programming team and is helping with preparations for the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, being held in January 2018.
Creating entertaining and thought-provoking films is an area he wishes to pursue in the future.
Toiroa introduced Te Whare Tapa Wha, a Maori holistic health and wellness philosophy, to the strategic plan for Sundance’s Native American and Indigenous Program.
AUT chancellor John Maasland says the Internz programme provides once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for students.
Toiroa’s award recognises the impact he has made through his internship with the Sundance Institute in Park City, Utah, he says.
“The Sundance Institute was highly impressed by Toiroa’s contributions and enthusiasm for his internship and offered him a full-time position.”
John says the new award was going to someone who had taken advantage of the opportunity to share the New Zealand culture with the US and to soak up all the learnings that come from operating in a global market.
“To someone who has truly embodied what it means to be an AUT intern,” he says.
“In the past students have interned with Apple, Dropbox, Facebook and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Working for such well known and influential companies is a huge opportunity for Kiwi graduates.”
INDIGENOUS: Toiroa, below, with Maya Soils and Adam Piron, managers of the Native American and Indigenous Programme, and programme director Bird Runningwater.