A passion for science - Kellen Dudley-Rode

Date: 24 May 2024

Recently we sat down with Kellen Dudley-Rode from the Class of 2019 at Dilworth, on graduation day from Auckland University, for a Q&A about his time at Dilworth and his experience of being a Staples Education Foundation scholarship recipient.

Read on to see what he had to say.

What is it like to be graduating today?
Surreal. It has been a rollercoaster 4 years. Not the 3 years it was meant to be because I kept changing what I wanted to do. Firstly I started in Bio-Med and then quickly migrated to Marine Biology. I stuck with that for 2.5 years then decided to change again and move to Zoology. It took a bit of time and trial and error, but in the end, I understood animals in general were where my passion lay. I also realised that all my knowledge and skills which I had learnt were transferable, so it wasn’t a detriment to have changed multiple times over the 4 years. I have now come out of University with a Bachelor of Science, specialising in Ecology & Zoology. I am really proud of that.


Can you tell us how your Dilworth journey led to your career and study pathway?
I always loved Biology. As I was growing up my Mum worked as an embryologist, so we always had microscopes around which I found fascinating. At Dilworth, I had really cool science teachers, the most impactful being Mr Butler. His passion for biology was infectious and in every lesson, I was excited about what I was going to learn. This drive from him definitely solidified my desire to go on to study some kind of Biology.

What inspired you the most during your time at Dilworth?
A number of teachers including Mr Butler & Mrs Cooke-Allen were my biggest inspiration. Mr Butler had an incredible teaching manner and such enthusiasm for his subject. This, along with helping me through life stuff, really built my confidence. Confidence also stemmed from Mrs Cooke-Allen who guided me in my other interest of Drama. The opportunities at Dilworth were endless and I tried to make the most of them to get the most out of my time there.

Tell us about the Staples Education Foundation (SEF) scholarship that you received and what it meant for you?
Receiving the SEF scholarship was a very important catalyst for me on my university journey. I didn't feel very confident in being a successful applicant. I was going up against far more accomplished students and I had really only started to pick up my grades to Excellence level in my last year at school. However, I was lucky enough to be awarded the scholarship and it gave me a real sense of belief in myself that I was worth the investment and that I could actually go forward and gain a good education in the area of biology at university.

Thinking about the different elements of the SEF scholarship, tell us about the role and impact of your mentor, the networking opportunities you were given and of course the funding.
The Staples scholarship has many aspects to it and all of them had a really big impact on me while at Uni. During my first year, everything was very crazy, entering a new environment, starting from the bottom as a first year and then all of the stress that COVID lockdowns brought on. Firstly, my SEF buddy, Indivar Kumar was a huge help with getting to know my way around campus and the confusing websites that I needed to navigate for multiple different reasons. My SEF mentor, Michael Whitehead was very helpful throughout my degree as well, although not particularly versed in the area of biology, his knowledge and life experience were very useful when I was facing difficult life or university challenges. The monetary support was probably one of the biggest benefits of the scholarship for me. The expenses of University were something that I was not prepared for and that monetary support saved me many times. The funding covered a good portion of my rent, food and university supplies. Without it, I would have had to work nearly full-time on top of full-time study to be able to support myself throughout my degree.

What would you say to any student who is thinking about applying for the Staples Education Foundation scholarship in 2024 and beyond. How will it change their life?
The scholarship takes so much stress off your shoulders throughout your degree, especially the funding side. However, many opportunities can come out of it as well. SEF have a strong network of connections to people in so many areas of the workplace that can set you up for a very promising career during and after University. One thing that I would stress is not to waste any opportunity that you might come across.

What would you like to say to Haydn Staples (founder), the SEF Board, and mentors?
Just to say how extremely grateful I am to everyone involved and especially to Haydn. The generosity he shows is really inspiring and it’s incredible to see how many lives he is influencing for the better with this Foundation. Also, huge thanks to Karen Bennett -  she was a valuable part of the scholarship for me, especially with the meetings at Uni. It was very helpful to go over things that I had going on and to visualise how I was going to approach upcoming tasks.  I wouldn't be in the position I am today without the support from everyone in the Staples Education Foundation, including the mentors and buddies. For that, I am truly thankful.

Finally, can you tell us about your dreams and aspirations for the future?
At the moment my business that I started with another Dilworth mate during my uni studies, ERC Contracting, is going really well and I have gained a lot of skills and expertise through that. However, I still have a strong passion for biology and I’m keen to do something to help the planet and the organisms that inhabit it. So I hope to start gaining some experience in the New Zealand workforce with my degree and then ideally move overseas to start seeing the world and working in restoration and conservation efforts worldwide.