AUT hosted high-profile guests and alumni at a recent gala event in New York.
The event, held at the Water Club in Manhattan was held in conjunction with Kea New Zealand and AUT. Kea is an international network that aims to connect Kiwis and New Zealand businesses globally.
The highlight of the night was Director Taika Waititi receiving a World Class Zealander award from Kea. The World Class New Zealand awards celebrate globally influential Kiwis who are making an impact on the world stage and contribute strongly to New Zealand’s prosperity and social, cultural and economic development.
Taika received the Award in honour of his achievements in film and his commitment to New Zealand culture. His latest film Thor: Ragnarok has quickly become one of Marvel Studio’s biggest commercial and critical successes.
Taika said he was very privileged to be in the industry, and he’s passionate about giving back to his communities.
“When I was young, becoming involved in the film industry was not a thing. What I am most proud of is being a role model for kids in my area and the Northland of New Zealand where there are not a lot of job opportunities.”
The celebration in New York specifically acknowledged these factors for Kiwis and friends of New Zealand in the United States, while raising funds for AUT’s Internz programme which provides cultural exchange scholarships for outstanding AUT students to complete internships in the US.
AUT alumnus Toiroa Williams also received an award following his internship with the Sundance Institute in Los Angeles, where he introduced a Māori holistic health and wellness philosophy to the strategic plan for Sundance’s Native American and Indigenous Program.
“The Internz scholarship changed my life,” Toiroa said. “It literally opened up a whole new world and has opened my eyes to what is possible. Having people like Taika who come from a small town like me but can achieve incredible global success, has helped pave the way for us to dream big, and go places we never imagined.”
Over 170 attendees enjoyed the gala evening which included a menu designed by Kiwi celebrity chef Anthony Hoy Fong and a performance by Met Opera Soprano Marie Te Hapuku.
Guests included some of New Zealand’s most successful expats in the United States including Sean Marks, GM of Brooklyn Nets; Craig Nevill-Manning, Founder of Sidewalk Labs; Kirsty Graham, VP of Pfizer; and Dr Maia Nuku, Curator at the Met Museum.