Distance Volunteer network (DVA)

The Distance Volunteers are a network of current, experienced distance students who are willing to be part of a contact network for Massey University distance students, and work towards building a sense of community within regions.

Our mission: To deliver local support to distance students and develop a sense of community within regions through volunteers who have extensive study experience.

"To provide a 'watering hole' (Thornberg, 1996) – an informal environment where students gather at a central source to discuss information and create meaning with their peers."
(Quoted from “In their own words”, a Massey University research report, by Shillington et.al. p.95)

What can distance students expect from a DVA?

  • Provide tips on studying by distance
  • Offer information regarding both Massey University services and local services that support student success
  • Help co-ordinate and plan occasional regional events for distance students
  • Refer students to the Distance Advocate when concerns or challenges are experienced

What Distance Volunteer Advocates do:

  • They are a contact point for distance students in their own localities (see contact details below)
  • As experienced distance learners, DVAs share their experiences to help distance students, particularly first timers, at a local level
  • They arrange social networking mini-events, like coffee groups and post-exam celebrations
  • They support and/or initiate local study groups

If you are interested in joining our team please email distance.advocacy@musa.org.nz for a complete role description and application form.

Aatir Zaidi   -   Auckland




022 045 0602

I moved to New Zealand three years ago and a distance student I know the hardships one can face. I am currently in my last year working towards a postgraduate degree (Hons.) in Psychology at Massey University, part time. I work with Autistic children as a support worker and I plan to continue my study and become a registered psychologist.

Recently I completed my research about gender minorities of New Zealand which received accolades because of its wide scope. I plan to be at Massey for my future study because I enjoy being able to study online and visit a campus from time-to-time. I reside in South Auckland and it has been pretty amazing so far.



Jindina Locke   -   South Auckland/Franklin District



Facebook Group


Hi everyone, my name is Jindina, and I'm a distance student studying for a Bachelor of Health Science in Environmental Health.  

I completed my first 5 papers while working full-time, but moved to full-time study this year to get it completed quicker.  When I’m not studying, I’m usually popping out for some fresh air at the beach or in the bush, as it helps me de-stress and recharge.  The balancing act of study, work, finances, and family can be tough, especially when you feel isolated from other students.  That’s where I come in.  I’m looking forward to meeting some of you at meetups throughout the year, and building a support network for Franklin students that will help make the tough times a bit easier.  Feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions, are struggling, or have ideas for meetups.  Just pop Massey DA in the subject line.  We also have our own Facebook group, you can find us at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/138254416724471.  I look forward to meeting you soon.

Fiona Charlton - Waikato



Facebook Group


I am happy to be the Distance Volunteer Advocate (DVA) for Waikato as i know how isolating distance study can be. As we juggle work, family, and study, it is invaluable to have other distance students to talk to, share our experiences, difficulties, and successes, and just be there for each other when needed. I also have 4 auto-immune conditions so i know the difficulty of concentration, and keeping good grades, whilst living with constant health issues. I am also familiar with Massey's Disability Service and can offer you my support in this area also. I am currently studying a conjoint degree: BSc in Psychology and BA in Education. I am a published author, a qualified nutritionist and Natural Therapist, and have other support coordinator roles. My career background is in corporate marketing and management. I have created a Facebook group for the Waikato, so please feel free to join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WaikatoDistanceStudentsMassey Our in-person events will be held in Hamilton, Te Awamutu, or Cambridge depending on everyone's locations and interests.

See you soon!
Fiona Charlton

Mandy Ward   -   Tauranga




07 322 2227

Rohana Sergent   -   Hawkes Bay




027 938 4441

Hi there - I am a mature student and have been studying extramurally since 2015. Completing a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Social Policy. I am a mum to three children, my son (18) who is also about to embark on his studies at Massey University's School of Aviation, and twin girls (11) who just embarked intermediate. We moved to Hawkes Bay last year to be closer to family, and the warmer weather! After initially studying full-time, I dropped back to part time when I started working again, so I completely understand juggling work, study, family, and a home (yes renovating too). I have just resumed full time studies again to get my degree done and graduate next year. Completing a double major is challenging, but rewarding and I love it. I enjoy encouraging fellow students and helping them to achieve their goals, and I pride myself on good study ethics and communication. You're welcome to send me an email, I am here to chat. I look forward to meeting you soon at one of our catch ups.
I am super excited to be a Distance Volunteer and look forward to creating a welcoming community here in the Bay.

Join the Hawkes Bay Massey University Extramural Students Facebook group

Hannah McEwen-Shepherd   -  Taranaki




021 183 5786

Hi my names Hannah and I'm the volunteer distance advocate (DVA) for the Taranaki Region. I'm currently studying toward a Bachelor of Business at Massey, and have previously studied in Auckland and Otago. I understand the struggles of balancing study, full and part-time, with many other commitments around you, especially when it comes to crunch-time in the semester! If you are in need of a few tips/tricks, aren't quite sure of where to go for help, or just want to chat, please contact me! I aim to create a real community for distance students in the Taranaki - and am looking forward to meeting and interacting with many of you at meet-ups throughout the year!

Ra-Kell Bayly   -   Whanganui




021 263 2637

Hi my name is Ra-Kell. I have been studying part time extramurally through Massey University since 2012. Having left school a few years back and spending the last few years working, traveling and socialising thought it was time I went out and got some real qualifications that count! And what better place than Massey University. I have two children aged 9 and 3, work 2 jobs and also study which makes for a very busy lifestyle. Time management is the key. I know of all the pressures and road blocks that will occur, and will support you through this in your study. Please contact me through the Wanganui Massey University Extramural Students Facebook group or on my cell phone 021 263 2637.

Distance Advocate - Manawatu




06 356 9099 extn 86180

Contact your Distance Advocate for support, advice and information on local upcoming events.

Melanie Ferguson - Wairarapa




022 128 4180



Hi, my name is Melanie and I live on a farm in southern Wairarapa with my partner and teenaged son. I completed my BA, majoring in English, in semester one of 2017. I am currently working towards my MA Eng. I have completed one semester as an internal student so can see the pros and cons to both modes of learning; I really enjoy the freedom that distance study allows, however, I also understand that it can be rather isolating at times, and we sometimes require extra motivation to keep on track, which is why I believe networking is an important part of distance student life. If you would like to find out about up and coming coffee groups etc, or would just like to chat, feel free to contact me via email, text, Facebook private message, or phone. Also, I have just set up a Facebook group to Wairarapa distance students, so please jump online and say hi.

Nikki Hurst   -   Wellington




027 458 7730

My name is Nikki Hurst and I completed three qualifications through Massey University. In 2011 I completed my BA in History, 2012 my PG Dip in Education (Guidance and Counselling) and 2013 my Masters in Counselling. I'm passionate about the opportunities extramural learning offers but am also conscious of the challenges.
I'm currently a counselling tutor at WelTec in Wellington and Mum to a very gorgeous 4 year old boy. Life is busy but if I can support you via email or the phone then I'm happy to help.
Kind Regards,
Nikki Hurst

Sarah Miller - Wellington




021 208 6869

Facebook Group


Kia ora
My name is Sarah Miller and I work as student advocate for Wellington internal students. I also study social work extramurally part time. I think being a student really helps my advocacy work, as it makes me aware first hand of some of the challenges students face. I also believe that connecting socially is a huge help to studying, and encourage students to join our Wellington facebook page so that we have a forum for making events for Wellington extramural students happen.
I live in a small off the grid hut in Wellington, and enjoy tramping and the outdoors.
Email or facebook are good contacts for me.
Cheers, Sara

Sarah Smucar - Wellington




022 021 2033

Hi there,

I have completed the Graduate Diploma in Health & Safety and currently completing a Certificate of Proficiency (Health) doing papers that relate to where I am working and what is coming to the fore in the workplace. I have been doing Health & Safety for the last 9 years, working mainly in the health care sector with other Health & Safety work (on the side) around construction, transport and logistics sectors. I've learnt work safe can supply a wealth of knowledge if you ask the right questions. I'm always looking for new challenges as that's how you grow as a person. My best study tip is to get ahead with assignments, as life can throw curve balls and this way you can end up submitting on time and not needing extensions thereby lowing stress levels.

With thanks


Jamily Anderson - West Coast





Hi there,

Hi I'm Jamily Anderson and am currently studying towards a bachelor in Accounting, while working part-time and looking after my three kids (7,11,16). All this makes for a very busy life, but also an understanding of what pressures there are for distance students while they study towards their goals. As DVA, I am here to help bring together distance students in the Westcoast area so that we all have someone to listen and make things seem less isolated. Extramural study can feel lonely, but it doesn't have to. Please contact me on the de4tails above to find out about events happening near you.

Trina Gale   -   Dunedin





My name is Trina Mclachlan and I am the Dunedin Distance Volunteer Advocate (DVA) which is an extension of the Distance learning network at Massey University. I have been an extramural student with Massey since 2011. When I first began my studies I did not know anyone and had no idea about studying away from university. With the DVA network in place you don't have to feel on your own and are welcome to engage with others in the community. I encourage you to make contact with me so I can help you on your Massey journey.

Lauren Byrne - Sydney - Australia




Facebook Group



Hi there! My name is Lauren and I study via distance learning at Massey Uni. I am studying a bachelor of Communication and am nearly at the end of my first year! I have been in Musical Theatre my entire life and I came to the realisation about a year ago I couldn't dance (no seriously, 8 years of lessons and nothing) so I enrolled for Uni which turned out to be the best decision ever, it is so rewarding and I can't imagine myself doing anything else now. I volunteered for this position to give more of a community feel to students studying distantly. Whenever I thought of myself attending university I would picture myself attending lectures wearing sweatpants with a notepad and a cup of very strong coffee; I still do all of this just from the comfort of my couch. The one issue is, I don't have any other students around me - no one to bounce ideas off, go for study groups and whatever else normal Uni students do. So, I am volunteering to be that person that brings students together and creates a friendly, open learning experience. In this day and age many students, including myself, have to study via distance due to their commitments such as work or children but I don't want that to get in the way of having a unique university experience. Flick me an email if you have any questions or an idea for the next Sydney meet up. I am very excited to meet my fellow students, chat about Uni life and organise a few catch ups :)

Massey Contact Centre Mon - Fri 8:30am to 5:00pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 contact@massey.ac.nz Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey