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Ms van Turnhout, the university’s chief financial officer, told graduates at the Dunedin Town Hall that Otago University enjoyed a "superb record" in its national tertiary educational performance indicators.
Addressing 350 graduates in commerce, law, arts and science at a 4pm graduation ceremony on Saturday, she said Otago University usually topped the country in at least three of the four key indicators.
"We lead the way nationally in successful university outcomes for Maori and Pacific students too."
"No other New Zealand university has such a high proportion of their students living in such close proximity to the university campus."
The benefits of this proximity, in flats and residential colleges, were not simply in being able to fall out of bed at 8.45am and making it to a 9am lecture.
"Employers tell us that Otago graduates are great collaborators, great team players, independent thinkers, quick adapters and confident too."
These attributes were deliberately considered by the university in developing academic course content, and also developed "just in daily life in residential colleges", and in the transition from college to flats.
Otago students learned the value of the people around them, those who "laughed with you and cried with you", and provided support "when you felt uncertain and wondered whether you were heading in the right direction".
The most important thing that graduates had learned was that "people are what matters in the end", Ms van Turnhout said.
Addressing an earlier graduation ceremony, at 1pm, Otago surveying graduate graduate and Survey and Spatial NZ president Rebecca Strang reflected on recent huge technological change in surveying and other fields.
As the world’s big challenges such as poverty and climate change had become more complex and inter-related, the ability to collaborate with others, pool knowledge and solve them collectively had become essential.
Ms Strang told about 320 graduates in several disciplines, including applied science, physical education, surveying and health sciences, that it was hard to strike the right balance between "taking ownership" of a problem and seeking help from colleagues.
"Yes, your contribution matters, but you are just one cog in the machine."
"These days, no-one individual, profession or organisation can hope to have all the information needed to fit all the jigsaw puzzle pieces together," she said.