Melissa Kupa's Story

Melissa was always a person who was curious about the world and how things work. She’s amazed by the world we live in, and the technology we use to make our lives better. Once she finished college she decided to follow her curiosity and found out about the Engineering at WelTec by searching online, of course. Engineering in a field that is so vast and diverse, at first she wasn’t sure whether or not she wanted to study mechanical and electrical engineering, but she eventually chose the former because it seemed more exciting to her. Now that she’s in it, she is so excited about her career path that she’s even looking at doing postgraduate engineering study once she graduates from her programme.

“WelTec seemed like the best option!”

Melissa received a scholarship to study Engineering at WelTec through the Ministry of Pacific Peoples Toloa Scholarship. The scholarship pays for three years of fees ($20k), which is pretty important for Pasifika students who are just starting out. Melissa was thrilled to receive the scholarship as she wants to use her education and new career to make a change to an issue that is very close to her heart. “I was born in NZ, but my ethnicity is Tokelauan. I wanted to study Engineering because climate change is affecting my island. It’s drowning.” Tokelau is one of the first nations to go 100% renewable energy (solar panels, generators etc), something Melissa is very proud of. She wants to be able to do more for her homeland with her new degree.

Melissa loved studying at WelTec because of the small classes it offered, compared to the packed university engineering programmes. “Some classes only had three people in there so we really felt supported by the tutors.” She was grateful to have the support of her tutors and classmates, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. At one point, she almost gave up finishing her degree. Luckily, Windy Sione wasn’t about to let that happen. Windy works as a mentor to Pasifika students, and she’s a passionate advocate on behalf of them. “Windy noticed my absence, so she came over to my place and hit me up asking why I wasn’t going to my classes. She really cares about the students.”

Once she resumed her learning, Melissa advanced on to her final year project with Callaghan Innovation, connecting with the world-class company through a fellow student whose partner works there and helped her land a contract. It’s already been extended once, and she hopes it will again. What she loves most about working for Callaghan is the fact that she’s working for a company that really tries to help out small businesses and helps NZ build an innovative future with technology. “I’m working on quite a few different projects – modelling, concrete and metal 3D printing, and researching a lot of different materials. We try and explore new technologies and new ways of doing things.” It’s precisely this innovation that Melissa plans on harnessing to help Tokelau beat the effects of climate change, eventually.

Her advice to potential engineering students is “don’t look down on yourself.” One of the things she struggled with personally was believing in herself. “Even now, I still get imposter syndrome.” She credits her tutors and Pasifika support people like Windy for getting her across the finish line.

“The tutors are really good at supporting you if you’re struggling. If your grades aren’t looking good, they’ll talk to you to make sure things are all good with you.”