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12 Sep, 2022 - 6 min read

The Why to our What at The Mind Lab and Tech Futures Lab


It felt like a long time coming but on Friday 9 September we were finally able to hold our first in person graduation since March 2021.

And what a day it was. Spring was in the air which was entirely fitting, as graduation signals new beginnings and sowing the seeds of future possibilities.

Held at the Due Drop Events Centre in Manukau, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, this was the biggest graduation The Mind Lab/ Tech Futures Lab has delivered.

Experiences in real life are always best

We knew that after many students had chosen to delay graduating so they could graduate in person, we needed to make this a moment they could share with as many whanau and friends as possible.

In what is now just the norm in the 2020s, graduation was yet another extraordinary moment where many students, who, after experiencing learning and growing together over the past couple of years, were meeting one another in real life for the first time. 

So much at The Mind Lab/ Tech Futures Lab is about personal growth. The learning encourages open and bold conversations that pushes people into unchartered territories. So it made for an extra special day where old friends were meeting for the first time.

Extra special for the mature lifelong learner

Graduating is the pinnacle of self-commitment and dedication. It’s the chance to be recognised for all the mahi and long hours each person has put in over and above the usual.

For our learners, there’s something extra special about graduating because as adults, learning and studying has been an additional juggle with all the things that come with more mature, established lives. Family, careers, community involvement, the balance of learning and the growth that comes with new knowledge, it all has to be done in addition to, not in place of.

“These students are the restless ones. The ones who step forward when others watch on. They are curious, dedicated, committed and willing to load one more priority into their already busy lives to be the best they can be.” - Frances Valintine.

That makes graduation with us a family affair. 

Where many of our learners will have first graduated as young bright-eyed 20 somethings and cheered on proudly by parents, this time around they were also supported by their kids, grandkids, partners and adult siblings. 

The joyful sound of tamariki and mokopuna skipping around and playing added to the uplifting feeling in the room and reminded us all, the futures we are designing now are for them.

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Keeping it joyful and light hearted

The special day was opened with a whakatau from Pāora Puru (Ngāti Te Ata, Waiohua, Waikato-Tainui) to bring everyone into the space and give thanks for all those who have come before to lay down the paths that has led to the moment we were sharing. 

Our MC, Te Mihinga Komene, Pou Ārahi for The Mind Lab and Tech Futures Lab, gave a lightness to the usually formal proceedings. She eased the nerves in the room as she led waiata, cracked jokes and gave everyone ‘permission’ to celebrate as authentically as they wished. Because although it’s a seriously important event, it need not be stuffy.

After a rousing speech given by CEO and Founder Frances Valintine, we got to cheer on and be a part of the personal history that each graduate in the room was making.

And celebrate authentically whanau and friends they did; with mihi, waiata and the occasional ‘that’s my mum!’ or ‘that’s my sister!’ called from the appreciating crowd.

Recognising those who go above and beyond 

Although everyone who graduated on the day has accomplished an incredible step forward in their life journeys, there are some who shine extra bright.

This year we gifted the Lynley Schofield Award. Lynley was a much loved member of the Master of Contemporary Education programme team who passed away suddenly in January 2021. To honour the manaaki Lynley showed to all who knew her, and the resilience she fostered in all her learners, this award was given to a graduate who has shown resilience and perseverance throughout their study.

Lynley’s son, Ryan, presented the award to the recipient, Stephanie Ngarepa, Master of Contemporary Education, who received $2000 towards further study, research or expanding her work on a current project.

We also launched the inaugural Te Ara Kōtihi awards - four separate awards given to graduates who embody one of the four Te Ara Kōtihi values that ground The Mind Lab/ Tech Futures Lab: Manaaki, Ako, Pono and Rangatiratanga.

Recipients of these four awards were:

Manaaki: Karen Paku, Master of Contemporary Education.

Ako: Lilly Bartlett, Postgraduate Certificate in Leading Change for Good.

Pono: Maryann (Taki) Roberts, Postgraduate Certificate in Digital & Collaborative Learning.

Rangatiratanga: Bradley Walker, Janey Clark, Melanie Berryman & Tovia Va’aelua, Master of Technological Futures.

An exception was made for the Rangatiratanga award as these four individuals approached their learning through collective decision and effort to elevate their Master of Technological Futures experience and all those who came into contact with them through mihi, karakia and generosity of spirit in sharing and supporting one another.

We get to be proud too

For us, graduation is not just an event in The Mind Lab calendar. It’s a celebration that we are truly humbled to partake in. It’s the chance for the teaching teams to share in the joy with the people who they’ve watched grow, expand their horizons and in many cases, overcome adversity to reach this peak.

And so it goes that the relationships our teaching teams develop with our learners are often very close. There’s not many graduation events you'll attend where the programme facilitator is hugging every graduate as they’re capped (and knocking their caps off!), shedding tears of joy and taking selfies on stage. 

Working at The Mind Lab / Tech Futures Lab is about lifelong learning and there’s no better way than to experience it ourselves. We’re very proud that four of our own team also graduated alongside many students they’ve had a hand in placing and teaching too. Congratulations to:

Milla Inkila, Postgraduate Certificate in Leading Change for Good (Postgraduate Director at The Mind Lab).

Amanda O’Neill, Postgraduate Certificate in Human Potential for the Digital Economy (Digital Specialist, Small Business Support at Digital Boost).

Fiona Pond, Postgraduate Certificate in Human Potential for the Digital Economy (Programme Lead at Tech Futures Lab).

Lisa Whittington-Slater, Postgraduate Certificate in Leading Change for Good (Outreach Manager at The Mind Lab).

We relish the aroha and relationships between our learners and facilitators and encourage all our learners to remain a part of The Mind Lab/ Tech Futures Lab extended whanau as they spread their wings and go forth to drive change and create impactful futures.

“The only way that we can live is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we put ourselves beyond what is comfortable. And the only way that we can become uncomfortable is if we find the edges of our capability. It is through this process we discover just what we are really capable of.” - Frances Valintine.