Christian Baledrokadroka, the winner of this year's Geraldine Lopdell Award for Diversity in Communication, has always had a passion for connecting with people.
“Storytelling is a central element of my Pacific cultures - Fijian and Samoan. It not only helps us express our experiences and who we are, but it connects us with others and empowers us to build meaningful relationships," she says.
"I’ve always loved to talk and bear witness to the stories that make people who they are, and studying communication studies at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) equipped me to do this in a way that prioritises open, two-way dialogue and team engagement.
“At its core, communication studies is all about connecting with people; working with them and for them. While oceans, systems and privileges can separate humans, I believe that all we truly want is to feel connected, understood and accepted by others.
"One way that we action these desires is by building relationships through communication and authentic storytelling.”
Baledrokadroka plans to continue giving back to her Pacific community.
“I was taught by my grandparents that knowledge is power. The greater the wealth of knowledge you have, the greater the opportunities you will have. With this in mind, I chose to continue into postgraduate study, so that I’m in a better position to serve my people and provide for my family.
"I want to influence real change in the world, starting by challenging the narratives of Pacific people and what we can become.”
Eye-opening learning experiences
She would highly recommend AUT’s communication studies programmes to others, says Baledrokadroka.
“The communication studies programmes are exciting, thought-provoking and stimulating. The undergraduate and postgraduate programmes challenge students to expand their worldviews, learn new skills and ways of interacting with others, through a variety of mediums.
“At AUT, communication studies students are encouraged to pursue areas that they’re interested in from digital media to environmental communication, journalism, and performance communication, with access to incredible facilities.
"Most importantly, the programmes force students to question their worldviews and the impact of the media in contemporary society, forcing students of their comfort zones.”
As a proud Pacific Islander, Baledrokadroka particularly remembers how she felt when one of her lectures covered the notorious Dawn Raids in one of her classes.
“Sitting in a university lecture and having the Dawn Raids discussed was a huge breakthrough moment for me. It was the first time this topic had been covered for me in an education environment and it was freeing to have a dark aspect of New Zealand history spoken about openly in a space where we’re actively challenged to solve world issues and have difficult conversations.
"It was empowering to have Pacific injustices acknowledged, and it was in that moment that I knew I wanted to be on the other side of the lecture stand. The fact that this lecture was delivered by a Pacific lecturer, Dr Janet Tupou, was so inspiring and empowering.”
A supportive community
Baledrokadroka says she has been impressed by the sense of community at AUT.
“I’ve had incredible leadership, service and networking opportunities offered to me while I’ve been at AUT and these have made my time here the best.
“My friends, mentors and tutors have helped me to get the most out of university! Throughout my studies I've been a student ambassador, special admissions mentor and navigator for AUT’s Oceanian Leadership Network.”
* The Geraldine Lopdell Award for Diversity in Communication is an annual prize for an outstanding young female Pasifika communicator. It is sponsored by the Geraldine Lopdell Memorial Trust in honour of an Auckland educator, teacher and artist Geraldine Lopdell through the AUT Foundation and facilitated by the Pacific Media Centre.