Thank you to our Board who voluntarily offer their utmost to ensure we provide quality programmes and services to ensure growth and support for our extraordinary kids. They are passionate about gifted children and about providing opportunities to empower extraordinary minds.
Melanie started her career as a lawyer, working at Chen Palmer & Partners. She then worked as a lawyer in various government departments in Wellington and London for around 15 years before a mid-life change of career to being a Manager. She has experience in a wide range of regulatory areas including tax, financial services regulation, and energy and resources. Melanie currently works for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as a Manager in the building regulatory sector.
Her previous Board experience is educationally focused. She was on the Victoria University of Wellington Council for one year (as well as the lower advisory Board, the Academic Board, for the year prior). Melanie was also a member of the governing Board of her children’s pre-school for two years. She was the Secretary and de factor Deputy Chair of that Board during a period of significant change initiated by the Board.
Melanie has a BCA and LLB(Hons) First class from Victoria University of Wellington and a Masters in Law from the University of Michigan where she studied under several scholarships, including a Fulbright scholarship.
She has two children, one of which is currently a student in the MindPlus programme.
Barry Akers is a self-employed consultant with a varied background in communications and corporate affairs management. He is a Director of financial and corporate public relations firm Senescall Akers, which works with clients across a broad front of sectors, organisations, projects and issues.
Barry migrated to New Zealand from Australia in 1986, becoming Public Affairs Manager of the New Zealand Stock Exchange and later Corporate Affairs Manager of Fletcher Challenge. He co-founded Senescall Akers in 2001. From 2010 to 2014 he was seconded as a member of the senior management team for the residential repair programme following the Canterbury earthquakes.
Barry was a member of the Board of Trustees for a state integrated area school in Auckland, serving as Chairman for four years.
His early career was in journalism, as a business writer and editor in Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
His involvement with the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education is founded on support for the right of children with special educational needs to be assisted to reach their potential. “Gifted children present both need and opportunity. Specialist services are vital to their development and fulfilment; and, in turn, they have the capacity to make a special contribution to the communities they live in.”
Dr Karen DobricDirectorAuckland
Karen has a record of leadership as a teacher, administrator and academic across the education sector. She has also made a significant contribution to policy and structural development in the school system, the profession and the community.
Karen is currently Deputy Principal at Papatoetoe High School, with responsibilities across the curriculum, assessment, reporting and professional learning. She has previously served in senior teaching and administration roles at One Tree Hill College and Rosehill College, and as a teacher with a focus on the social sciences at a number of schools in Auckland.
She has held senior roles in professional education and development, most recently at Unitec Institute of Technology, where she was a Senior Lecturer and Centre Entrepreneur in the School of Education. She was previously a Senior Lecturer at Manukau Institute of Technology and at Auckland Institute of Technology.
Karen completed a PhD in Education at Auckland University in 2005. She has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Education from Auckland University and a Diploma from the Auckland College of Education, and has recently commenced a Master’s Degree in Secondary School Education at Victoria University. She has written and presented widely on education policy issues.
Karen says there is a significant need for help for gifted students. “Many are unable to reach their potential because they do not understand themselves, and are unaware of the nature of their challenges or how to face them. They underperform and/or suffer social or emotional issues due to a disconnect from the world around them and from others who can provide guidance and support.
“When they gain insight into who they are and where their potential lies, they can grow into confident adults who make a great contribution and celebrate their place in the world.”
Tim has a wide background and skill set driven by the values of making a real difference, whilst inspiring and influencing those around him. He has strong financial and strategy design and execution experience as well as governance and leadership roles. Most recently as the CEO of the NZ School of Commercial Diver training, the only commercial diver training establishment in New Zealand and one of a handful globally, where he successfully led the divestment from the Intueri Education Group to a new private buyer.
He has industry experience from engineering, energy industry, as well as extensive exposure to capital markets. Tim has had extensive C-level public company and non-executive positions and has led and advised a number of strategic implementation programmes.
Tim completed a Master in Business Administration from the University of Bradford, a Bachelor in Offshore (Civil) Engineering (Hons) from Heriot University and various certificates and postgraduate certificates in strategic Leadership and Management.
Nicola is motivated by producing excellent outcomes for all stakeholders in corporate and community settings.
She has a Bachelor of Forestry Science (University of Canterbury), Post-Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Practice (Otago Polytechnic), and numerous Leadership certificates (NZ Leadership Institute). She is a Trustee of the Helensville Women & Family Centre and Kia Timata Ano Trust, a member of South Kaipara Rotary, Research & Grants Committee member of Auckland Foundation, and a member of Incubate.
Nicola has over a decade of experience in community investment management for a large corporate. This has meant that she brings with her a deep passion for charities, and the extraordinary outcomes achievable when business works alongside charities to address societal issues. She now manages her own consultancy, Keen on Impact. Designed to assist charities to be more effective with their fundraising strategies, Keen on Impact critically assesses their approach with a fresh set of experienced eyes. The ultimate goal is to support positive social impact in community and family arenas.
Her comprehensive knowledge of the value of community partnerships, combined with being the mother of three young children, has made her acutely aware of the importance of education. Motherhood has highlighted her empathy for gifted children and the challenges they face. “I enjoy being in a position which enables gifted children to access the support, encouragement and expertise they need in order to harness their giftedness in the best way possible.”
Thomas is an academic leader in design teaching and research. His international experiences with gifted education as a student and parent are closely connected to his current work on design education, creativity, and innovation. As the Head of School of Art and Design at the Auckland University of Technology, he works across tertiary education and the creative industries.
Thomas completed a PhD in Architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1998. He has his professional Master’s degree in Architecture from Harvard University, and he has practiced in Tokyo and Chicago. Though his academic and professional work has been in the theory and design of buildings and the lived spaces of global cities, his research spans across creative thinking, cultural studies, media, and globalization.
New-ish to New Zealand, his curiosity about people and spaces was engaged early in childhood, and that is an important source of creativity and imagination. Much of his work with design students looks to multiple modes of prototyping options, happy accidents, and quirky genius. His philosophy is one of multiplicity. Though the challenge of design education is to shorten the distance between a good idea and its absorption into the public realm, his early childhood education taught him never to short-change the fun of brainstorming with others in the process of discovery and decision-making.
Anne has a background in the cultural sector and is a sought-after not-for-profit leader in New Zealand. She is CEO of the James Wallace Arts Trust and Executive Director of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition, which she started in 2001.
Anne worked with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra for a decade in various artistic capacities and eventually as General Manager – a role she held for four years. She has also served as General Manager of the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, NZ Sculpture OnShore, and as Executive Officer of the Cognition Education Trust.
She is a member of the Institute of Directors in New Zealand and the Project Management Institute. She regularly assesses grant applications and lectures in arts management.
Anne migrated to New Zealand in 1997 from the United States after a career in performance, education and arts administration in the Boston area. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, studied cello and arts administration through university and was awarded a Master’s Degree in cello performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music.
She is motivated by her awareness that the demands on New Zealand teachers and the needs of every learner are both very high. “It’s not possible for every teacher to have expertise in every complex learning need. I support specialist education for gifted learners who cannot be catered to in the traditional classroom with everything else demanded of teachers.”