Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi deputy chief executive Yvonne (Evie) O’Brien has been named the inaugural Programme Director at the Atlantic Institute, Rhodes Trust, based at the University of Oxford in England.
Ms O’Brien will leave Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi in September to take up the international leadership development role at Oxford.
Last year, Ms O’Brien was made a Fellow of the inaugural cohort of the Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity, which aims to improve the well-being of communities in Australia and the Pacific by drawing on the knowledge and expertise of Indigenous people.
Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi chief executive, Professor Wiremu Doherty, said the Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity visited the Whare Wānanga in Whakatāne in February. The cohort looked into indigenous issues such as self-determination, the relationship between race, identity and power, and treaty-making and negotiation in the context of nation building.
Professor Doherty said Ms O’Brien was invited some months later to apply for the new post.
Awanuiārangi management, governance council and staff were immensely proud that after a global search, a colleague had been selected for an international change-making role, Professor Doherty said.
“It is with profound sadness that we begin the process of saying goodbye to Evie. She has made a significant contribution to Awanuiārangi and we are overwhelmingly proud that a member of our organisation has been selected for this global role. This appointment is an acknowledgement of Evie and her whānau, and just reward for her selfless dedication to our people and our organisation.”
Ms O’Brien has an MBA from the University of Waikato and has held a number of executive leadership roles at education institutions, with a particular focus on organisational and strategic change and improving outcomes for Māori students. Having joined the senior management team at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi in 2014, she has relished the opportunity to be part of New Zealand’s “quiet education revolution”.
“I love being part of something that is bigger than all of us and feel privileged to be working for an organisation where Māori can succeed as Māori and one that has such a positive effect on people’s lives and their whānau.”
Funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, one of the largest private foundations in the world, the Atlantic Fellows programme was launched in 2015 with $660m to support work for 20 years. Its inaugural cohort of global Fellows numbers 267 emerging leaders from 48 countries. They are working in seven interconnected social equity programmes around the world, with further expansion of the programme planned annually. Each of the programmes is focused on solving systemic issues such as health, social, economic and racial inequity.
At Oxford, Ms O’Brien will have lead responsibility in supporting collaboration among staff of the Atlantic Fellows Programme, and in the development of a strongly connected Atlantic Fellows Programme community. She will lead the design and implementation of programmes to support the work of Senior Fellows, and the development of a lifelong “community of action” among Senior Fellows.
“Our aim is to support the collaboration of leaders from around the world to address complex social problems and to find solutions that have the potential to change the world,” Ms O’Brien says. “The goal is fairer, healthier and more inclusive societies.”