Celebrating 40 years of NZTC: A Q&A with Selena Fox

Celebrating 40 years of NZTC: A Q&A with Selena Fox

Selena Fox

2022 marks New Zealand Tertiary College’s 40th anniversary. 40 years of empowering students to care, educate and serve meaningfully and effectively with comprehensive and professional programs.

As we celebrate this significant milestone throughout this year, we catch up with important people who have shaped the college into what it is today.

After 24 years at NZTC, Chief Executive Selena Fox has a wealth of college knowledge. She shares below how the college has evolved over the years, the initiatives she is proudest of, and her favourite NZTC value.

What are the biggest changes that you have seen at NZTC since you began working here in 1998?
My beginning days at the college started with teaching in our evening classes. As I reflect on the 24 years, I see that even back in 1998, NZTC was looking into the future to enable access to training in every possible way. In those days, the ground-breaking steps were access and reach through paper-based distance learning under the academic development of Dr June Kean, championed by Glennie Oborn. From these earliest NZTC days, vision surrounded me. I immersed myself in ‘pushing the boundaries’ thinking, where we were moving learning to students; rather than students being required to come to us. It was a privilege to be a part of considering the practicalities of how learning could be beyond a classroom, a whiteboard and an overhead projector.

Glennie Oborn and Selena Fox

Today our learning is accessed individually anywhere, at any time. My 24 years have seen us move from a paper-based, mailed out, distance learning study mode. The learning may have taken postman-time to arrive many years ago, but those early steps opened our thinking to what we have today – immediate online access for everyone via an internet connection.

Our students no longer have the added pressure of fitting into a class schedule at limited locations. Our students are across the country in all communities; location is now irrelevant, with access for all now.

The vision for flexible access to outstanding learning was always there – the years have simply given us the time needed to harness and fine-tune technology developments. This study evolution supports every student’s individual life and in turn it supports the local communities of the children that they care for and educate.

What makes NZTC unique in your eyes?
Our team, our students and what we offer…
NZTC specialises in flexible access to learning. Our learning environment is unique, as is our wraparound support system where students can reach out for help at any point in their study journey with us. We are passionate about enabling learning, we are passionate about our students and we are passionate about how we serve our sectors to result in graduate outcomes that support lifelong change.

What is it about NZTC that motivates you every day?
For me, it’s all about the dedication of every NZTC team member to our college’s Mission and Values. I honour every team member past and present. Each person has gifted their expertise, skills and commitment to NZTC and to a team that believes exceptional teachers make a difference to children, families and communities.


What have been some of your greatest challenges and triumphs?
Nearly 25 years gives many opportunities. We have achieved so much over nearly a quarter of a century in honour of New Zealand education. Some standout moments that I carry with me each day include…

Professor Colin Gibbs with Selena Fox and Glennie Oborn

  • Accepting the role to lead NZTC in 2003 was a pivotal time for me. I commenced my days as a lecturer in 1998 loving each moment of supporting our students. I reflect back on the belief in me that Glennie Oborn and Allan Wendelborn had. My goodness…I still stop and catch my breath today...

  • Establishing the NZTC Fellowship of Honour alongside Professor Colin Gibbs, an honorary award, to acknowledge key people of leadership who have gifted their wisdom to the college in significant ways. Fellowship of Honour recipients to date include esteemed contributors Professor Claire McLachlan, Hon. John Key, Dr Chip Donohue, Ms Swati Popat Vats (Mumbai), Dr Te Tuhi Robust, Glennie Oborn, Allan Wendelborn and the very special Professor Colin Gibbs himself.

    Colin’s giftings into NZTC are far too many to share here… but I am very certain that NZTC would not be the outstanding education and caring place it is today without his guidance, mentorship and passion evident in everything he puts his heart and hands to.

Dr Te Tuhi Robust and his wife Ros with Selena Fox

  • Journeying with the support of Dr Te Tuhi Robust since 2003 with his guidance and support to ensure NZTC honours our commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi and weaves te reo Māori and tikanga Māori into our everyday lives, our team and student learning.

    Our dreams resulted in the development and launch of He Kupu – The Word in 2006, and today it is an international peer-reviewed journal with over 11,000 subscribers.

  • Researching, designing and scoping NZTC Online alongside Dr Chip Donohue while supporting the greatest IT development team in the world… and piloting it to result in the best New Zealand bespoke online learning environment that is ever-evolving and that still supports our students and lecturers today.

  • Mumbai, India - Having to almost swim for our lives, grabbing our computers and bags, scrambling out of a car that was quickly filling up with water in Santa Cruz, Mumbai, when we experienced the full force of nature during a king tide in monsoon season rains. This early memory, a day we were searching for an office location, reminds me of the adventures laughed through when establishing NZTC India in Mumbai. Precious life adventures and memories for me, full of learning in India, alongside Pearl Mascarenhas DeSilva.

Luis Hernandez, Bonnie Neugebauer and
Roger Neugebauer with Selena Fox

  • Supporting the leadership of the World Forum on Early Care and Education to offer New Zealand as a host nation for the global ECE event, not just once in 2002 but again in 2017. Additionally, NZTC hosted the World Forum on Teacher Education in 2002 and 2008.

  • Many of ECE’s most passionate, wise and experienced global leaders came to share the events and learn more about ECE in New Zealand. Highlights for me were the opportunities for NZTC lecturers and students to share, learn and participate on a global stage. Thank you, Bonnie Neugebauer, Roger Neugebauer, Chip Donohue, Luis Hernandez, Kay Albrecht and the World Forum leadership of decades.

  • Values Month year after year – highlighting NZTC Vision, Heart, Competence and Spirit and this DNA of our team has always been dear to me. The establishment of our Month of Values in August each year has initiated a tradition looked forward to by us all. I love thinking creatively alongside our Design and Comms teams to celebrate our values and hearing from our team how they see our values shining through in all that we do. Chocolate Fish and team SPIRIT are non-negotiable!

  • The Christchurch earthquake of February 2011 destroyed our Christchurch campus. I am thankful every day that our staff were able to leap to safety. I remember clearly the morning I was able to get into the red-zoned campus building to retrieve team members’ personal items all left behind – family photos, jumpers, long service awards, handbags and desk items of personal value. Bringing these items back to our Christchurch team members was something I will never forget.

Selena Fox with Colombian graduates

  • The translation of early childhood courses into Spanish, in a Spanish version of NZTC Online to support Colombian early years teachers in Cali, Medellin and Bogotá, from 2011 to 2013, gifting them their first ever access to care and education learning. Over 1900 children from very low socioeconomic communities have been impacted by this NZTC supported teacher education initiative resulting in 36 teachers graduating to receive the Colombian Ministry of Education-endorsed Diploma of Early Childhood Development. Thank you Team La Corporación Niñez y Conocimiento (CNYC), Fundación Exito and dear Mariela Orozco Hormaza.

  • And more recently being able to guide our NZTC team and students alongside NZTC’s leadership to navigate the safety and continued progress of all through the Covid-19 pandemic. The most challenging of days journeyed with the most stunning leaders… thank you James Ward, Sean Dolan, Melissa Harrison, Steven Bennett and Brent Simpson.

Is there one particular NZTC moment or initiative that you are most proud of?
There have been so many special moments, here are just a few:

  • Our first early childhood degree approved in 2007 and our first awarded approvals for our postgraduate qualifications in 2011. We broke new ground in offering a Master’s specialising in early childhood here in New Zealand and beyond.

  • Our initiatives of sharing New Zealand early childhood education leadership globally with projects in nations including India, China, Columbia and Malaysia. This instigated serving global students eager to learn more about caring for, and educating young children, and supporting communities in significant need. New Zealand leads the way globally and we have Te Whāriki and decades of commitment to this stunning curriculum to thank for that.

  • Adding Health and Wellbeing to our programs of study in 2017 to support this incredible community care sector across New Zealand.

Dr Chip Donohue and Selena Fox

If I have to choose one initiative that still wows me today it is the development, piloting and launch of NZTC Online alongside Dr Chip Donohue and a brilliant IT Development Team then and now. We had a dream for a special learning environment – designed and developed initially for our early childhood students. Even after all these years, this remains an incredible achievement by a New Zealand college that goes back to bold dreams and the incredible, unwavering commitment of team members that believed we could do it too.

NZTC Online impacts every student, every team member and every decision we have made since our development and launch in 2007. It is hard to imagine NZTC without it now. The team that brought NZTC Online together paved new ways of learning that still exist strongly today. Our IT development team was second to none, often starting days at 5am and still going after dinner, all inspired to support our students and serve our sector in new ways. NZTC was early in our steps to support students to engage in flexible access to learning. We certainly broke new ground in realising this development – simply a game changer for NZTC and our sector.

Is there a college value that resonates the most with you?
I was lucky enough to be a part of putting words and actions to our values in early 2000 and then championing them to be visibly present through everyday life at the college. I have walked with them now each day for over 20 years and what a gift to me they have been to centre me and offer guidance in all decision making that honours our Mission.

We know bold VISION, wrapped in HEART, held strong by COMPETENCE, and led by SPIRIT has been the NZTC recipe. We know today that outstanding graduates and commitments to serve, continue to be unwavering ingredients over the years.

All our NZTC Values are dear to me as part of my everyday guidance and thinking, but if I was to choose my favourite, I quickly lean into VISION. It leads the way and excites me to look forward, plan ahead and think about how we can vision in new and better ways for our communities. Without it… HEART, COMPETENCE and SPIRIT can’t reach their full potential.

The last few years have been challenging for all. How has NZTC adapted during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Covid-19 has impacted on so many lives in challenging ways. The Early Childhood and Health and Wellbeing sectors that NZTC serves, being the most vulnerable in our communities, have experienced illness, uncertainty, fear and change. Yet through these very human feelings, resilience led the way as we have put people and relationships first, caring for each other with kindness, support, and new thinking. NZTC moved quickly and confidently to lean into our strong foundations of learning flexibility. With no down time, other than team members setting themselves up to work safely from their own homes – we connected and we continued. We will look back on these days with memories of safety through uncertainty. We managed to provide access, reach and connection in new ways.

Looking ahead, what do you envision for the next 40 years of NZTC?
Aha - this is where VISION kicks in again, surrounded by HEART, COMPETENCE and SPIRIT.

So, in 2062 I see…

  • Study, learning and supported learning flexibility in every possible way… anywhere, any time, in every way.

  • Technology breaking new boundaries of support for all. Holograms transporting NZTC team members to students in a blink of an eye across New Zealand and the world…

  • ECE teachers seen and acknowledged in the light they deserve, as they care for and educate our future generations. ECE teaching as a prized profession, paid and funded at the highest level, reflecting the highly knowledgeable, caring educators that they are, as all in our community see the criticality of these early years for the future of our nation.

  • Healthcare workers pay and conditions reflecting the highly knowledgeable, supportive and passionate carers that they are. Health and Wellbeing acknowledged with the honour deserved for the carers of our older generations who have gifted their lives to us all.

But some things should always stay the same… an NZTC team still being led by VISION, HEART, COMPETENCE and SPIRIT…