Lawyer funds transformational leadership prize to inspire pupils

Otago Girls’ High School pupils listen to an announcement about a new prize from New Zealand...
Otago Girls’ High School pupils listen to an announcement about a new prize from New Zealand barrister Mai Chen who joined yesterday’s assembly via Zoom. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
One of New Zealand’s top constitutional lawyers is hoping to inspire future leaders at her old school in Dunedin with a new prize.

Former Otago Girls’ High School head girl, dux and all round top pupil Mai Chen announced the establishment of a prize named after her for "transformational leadership", at an assembly at the school yesterday.

The prize valued at $2000 per year for an initial period of five years would be awarded to a pupil who "demonstrated exceptional potential to effect positive change in society".

Mai Chen
Mai Chen
Ms Chen spoke to pupils through a Zoom call from the High Court at Auckland 15 minutes before presenting a closing case for a foreshore and seabed trial.

She encouraged them to pursue ideas they thought could change the world where they saw it needed to change.

"Things that are wrong will always be wrong because no-one does anything to change it," she said.

She said she would be contributing her time as well as her money to the prize by being involved in selecting who the prize was awarded to.

"I want to make sure it’s not the usual suspects [who win].

"I want you to know that anyone can provide transformational leadership," she told the pupils.

Ms Chen said she was not particularly brilliant, good looking or talented, but she worked really hard because she knew she had to.

The prize would provide pupils a platform so people would value what the winner had to say, she said.

Last year, Ms Chen was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Otago for her services to law, an achievement that added to a long list of accolades in her career.

The Mai Chen Prize for Transformational Leadership will be awarded at the school’s prizegiving at the end of each year.