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EMPA class of 2022 graduates in Wellington

30 November 2023

News and media


Group photo of EMPA participants at the 2022 EMPA graduation ceremony in Wellington

A learning journey for the 2022 ANZSOG Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) that started online and finished in person has ended with a graduation ceremony in Wellington.

Students in ANZSOG’s flagship program spent three days in Wellington, building their understanding of governance in Aotearoa New Zealand, in particular the way that the Crown works with Māori iwi (tribes) including a session with Te Arawhiti CEO Lil Anderson. Students also had the chance to talk to former NZ Health Ministry head Sir Ashley Bloomfield about his role spearheading Aotearoa New Zealand’s COVID-19 response.

The students also presented their Work-Based Projects (WBP) to a team of assessors. The Work-based Project is the capstone of the EMPA and sees students working in teams to produce a piece of research that addresses a contemporary issue nominated by a public sector agency.

Work based project presentations at the EMPA Graduation in Wellington
Work based project presentations at the EMPA Graduation in Wellington

EMPA students presenting their Work-Based Projects in Wellington

The Work-Based Projects take place over ten months and are designed to incorporate the skills that students learn during their EMPA. The process of completing WBP gives them a practical understanding of new ways of to use deep research to find solutions to problems which they will face in their future careers.

The work will have applied relevance as students present their findings to the agency that commissioned them. Topics in the 2022 cohort ranged from Leadership Development, Recruitment and Diversity in the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Bingo Regulation in Victoria.

EMPA academic director Dr Christopher Walker said the EMPA gave its cohort of mid-level and senior leaders in the public service the capability to manage through an increasingly unpredictable environment, through innovative public-sector focused teaching and engagement with senior practitioners.

Dr Christopher Walker and Manaia King at the 2022 EMPA Graduation in Wellington

EMPA alum Manaia King and Dr Christopher Walker speaking at the EMPA Graduation Ceremony

He said the shift to a program that blended online and in-person instruction allowed the cohort to build camaraderie, but benefited from the greater diversity of presenters and resources that could be used online.

“We are teaching contemporary standard subjects, such as public sector leadership, but within that the content is very contemporary analysis of current issues and innovative ways of teaching and researching,” he said.

“ANZSOG has connections across the public sector which means we can bring in senior practitioners from Australia, New Zealand and beyond to talk about how they have engaged with issues and share the insights and experiences that have made them effective in the public sector.”

He said it was an exciting and enriching experience for students to work with their peers in other jurisdictions to understand their common challenges.

“It’s a chance to share ideas and information, as well as ways to approach critical problems. It takes them beyond the constraints of their own department and gives them a broader network which helps them think differently about problems.”

James Pitman, from the Commonwealth Department of Industry Science and Resources, was named as Valedictorian of the cohort.

Valedictorian James Pitman receiving congratulations at the 2022 EMPA Graduation ceremony in Wellington

James Pitman being recognised as Valedictorian at the 2022 EMPA graduation ceremony

Mr Pitman said that ANZSOG was a natural fit for his passion for public administration, and he had been struck by the diversity of experiences in the program and the positivity of the cohort.

He said that his cohort had been through a period of intense professional demands on them due to COVID and were now seeing a groundswell of ‘wicked problems’ in their work.

“Chat GPT is changing the world, AI is changing the foundations of public engagement, Robodebt has reinforced the importance of integrity. I believe the discussions we’ve had during this program has prepared us to think about these challenges and to think about public value in a way we hadn’t before.”

He thanked the First Nations students in the cohort for their generosity towards other students and for the ‘cultural load’ they carried during the program.


The Dean’s Prize for the best overall student(s) and prizes for the Work-based Project are yet to be awarded, however awards have been made for all other subjects in the EMPA.

Delivering Public Value: Peter Hullett

Governing in a Market Economy: Anne Neil

Decision-making Under Uncertainty: Bonnie Kent

Developing Public Policies and Programs: Peter Hullett

Managing Public Sector Organisations: Jonathan McNeill

Leading Public Sector Change: Christon Rose

Governing by the Rules: James Pitman

Public Financial Management: Rachel Burgess