In 1997, student numbers at Whitireia rose to a total of 1602 EFTs, with the still relatively new Kāpiti campus contributing a significant 197 of them
On departing Whitireia in 1996, founding chief executive Turoa Royal spoke of how many of the structures and systems were in place and that it was now "time to bring new energy, ideas and visions to the polytechnic." This fresh blood would come in the form of Deirdre Dale, who was quickly appointed to succeed Turoa Royal. Deirdre Dale had previously been the deputy chief executive at Whitirea and had worked in a variety of management and teaching roles in tertiary education and training. She stated that she felt very fortunate to be taking up the position at a time when Whitireia was still growing and was increasingly recognised as a highly successful organisation where staff went the extra mile to assist students.
Reflecting on her time at Whitireia, Deirdre Dale remarked that when she became chief executive, she wanted to maintain the important things that had already been established. "The first of these was the commitment to every individual's right to an education that enabled them to develop their unique abilities fully – to have their fair share of the education cake." This commitment was expressed through Whitireia values, in particular the importance of individual cultural identity. "These ideas and practices were embedded in staff induction, tutor training, and other staff development activities. We measured our success by the success of all of our students."
Under Deirdre Dale, Whitireia would experience a remarkable evolution, being led by her through a period of major expansion that would see the polytechnic grow and change whilst remaining true to those values she held to be fundamental. Student numbers increased, as did the polytechnic's reach as it became both a national and international player. Foreign delegations became a regular sight at Whitireia, with memorandums of understanding and other agreements being signed and relationships established.
Dierdre Dale's first year as chief executive coincided with the first degree graduation at Whitireia, as Bachelor of Nursing students completed a journey begun in 1995. The ceremony was held at Te Akapuanga Hall in Cannons Creek, with guests visiting from as far away as Tonga and Japan. "Whitireia is very proud of its first degree programme and of the success of these students," said Val Collins, acting chief executive.
A year after Whitireia as an institution had marked its first decade, the Visual Arts department celebrated its own tenth birthday with an exhibition at Page 90. Te Tipu Hua o nga Tau Tekau - The Seedlings of These Ten Years featured the work of 48 graduates, with a display of the divergent way in which the lesson's learnt at Whitireia had evolved over the years in the forms of furniture, fashion, jewellery, ceramics, weaving, painting and printmaking.
One of the graduates with work on display was Billie Mutton, who studied on the Diploma in Craft Design in 1992 (later returning to complete the Bachelor of Applied Arts when it was introduced), and who created elegantly-conceived body adornment. Titahi Bay sculptor Marie Parata-Munroe presented her work A Haven for Spiders, a giant bird skull carved in Oamaru stone, while two of the earliest students, James Molnar and Wi Taepa, showed work as now nationally-recognised artists. Aimee McLeod was one of four foundation National Certificate in Craft Design students showing work in Te Tipu Hua o nga Tau Tekau and it was noted that it was her passion for clay that had led the art department to invest in ceramic equipment. The paintings of 1996 National Diploma in Craft design graduate Caroline Beaufort reflected time spent in Samoa during the South Pacific Festival of the Arts, and Pacific themes were also a concern of 1995 graduate Leanna Leiataua, who not only displayed a large Siapo-themed painting but contributed the tenth anniversary cake, adorned with tropical flowers.
The Pacific-themed cake was cut at the opening of the exhibition by programme founder Anne Philbin and then current head of department Rozel Pharazyn. Reflecting on the nature of visual arts at Whitireia, Rozel Pharazyn spoke of how the programme had always been about providing options to students. "What we are trying to do is open doors on that vast body of knowledge that is right for each individual. Then students can choose which one to walk through." Director of Porirua Museum of Arts and Cultures, David Hyams, described the work in the exhibition as "quite stunning."
People fluent in Pacific Island languages and wanting to work in early childcare have a new opportunity at Whitireia Community Polytechnic in Porirua in 1997. On offer for the first time was the Diploma in Pacific Islands Early Childhood Education, a two-year course for people wanting to work in a Pacific Island language context.
In the past, such centres had been hampered by lack of funding, says Whitireia Centre of Learning manager, Kaye Jujnovich. To get funding they needed to be licensed and to be licensed they needed to employ qualified staff. Traditionally there had been a shortage of qualified staff with Pacific Island language skills. The Whitireia course is the first of its kind offered in Wellington.
Porirua and Kapiti Coast residents training as secondary school teachers can do so closer to home. Whitireia Community Polytechnic is now accredited to train people to teach at secondary level. The one-year programme is expected to start in November.
Whitireia chief executive Deirdre Dale says the polytechnic received strong support from Porirua and Kapiti schools for its training application. "There is a growing trend to offer training close to where people live. This helps to reduce the cost of study. Our programme will train teachers to work in multicultural schools. Most schools have numbers of students for whom English is a second language. Whitireia is well placed to provide teachers with the skills they need to work with students from different cultures."
On May 23, Whitireia Polytechnic held their first 1997 Bachelor of Nursing Graduation Ceremony at Te Akapuanga Hall. There were four Pacific Island students that graduated from the Nursing programme, Ngaretta Strong, Liku Hingano, Eunice Leota and Tolly Snelgar. "Whitireia is very proud of its first degree programme and of the success of these students," says Val Collins, acting chief executive.
The event had a good core of people, including visitors from Japan and Tonga, with an overall outcome of 380 people. To mark the day, three Pacific Island art students from the polytech had designed graduation gowns for the occasion and graduations to follow. The new outlook of the course has enabled students to reach their goals more efficiently and to help develop general knowledge in nursing.
Whitireia Art and Craft programme students will exhibit their Graduation and Origins work in Wellington this year instead of at Page 90. The Porirua Gallery, which Whitireia students and staff helped to establish in 1990, closes for rebuilding this month.
Students graduating from all levels of the four year Art and Craft programme have named their show, A History of the Future. This is to reflect a unique marriage of traditional skills and historical reflection with contemporary issues and design challenges. Works exhibited range from finely crafted jewellery to stone carving, and photography to woven rugs. First and second year students have interpreted issues from their Origins studies in products as diverse as perspex rings containing images of steak, and woodcuts prints about Rarotongan and Kwakful legends. At senior level, Nestor Opetaia, Lloyd Toia and Levi Salamasina Mapiva's widely different painted works speak with energy and control of personal issues with universal caste to them - youth and identity, love and grief.
The Atrium of Wellington City Council's Municipal Office is the venue fot the show, which will be displayed on furniture lent by the Wellington City Gallery and opened by its director Paula Savage.