Staff Spotlight: Amber Russell

Community Support Co-ordinator


Amber works as part of the Pastoral Care team for the University of Otago Flats. She is one of the Community Support Co-ordinators and is responsible for events and provides pastoral care to the University's International exchange and study abroad students, as well as domestic "Kiwi Hosts".

She is a proud Otago University graduate with a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Anthropology, and a New Zealand Powerlifting Athlete.

What is your favorite travel memory?

In March of 2019, I had the amazing honour of representing New Zealand in the Asia-Pacific Powerlifting Championships held in Runaway Bay, Australia. It was an incredible experience being selected to represent my country and I was able to return home with an Oceania Record Bench Press and a Gold Medal.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Since starting my role at the University of Otago Flats (UniFlats), I have become so much more confident in talking to, and engaging in conversation with people from all backgrounds and also helping those I'm engaging with come out of their shell.

This job is definitely varied and being able to adapt to whatever situation comes my way is definitely a skill that I feel I have developed during my experience and it's incredibly rewarding when you see the student thriving.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

For me, my favourite moment is when the very shy ones, who seem incredibly anxious when they arrive, rather timid and soft-spoken - when you see those students again a month later and they've blossomed into such a confident and vibrant person. They've found their niche and you know they've made life long friends during their time at Otago.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

My māori culture is incredibly important to me, so I would love the opportunity to go on the Tūrangawaewae, Pōkai Whenua as it provides tauira Māori (māori students) the opportunity to travel abroad and explore the connections between indigenous communities and their tertiary institutions. Being able to learn and connect with other indigenous cultures in their homeland would be a humbling experience.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Our company is unique as it is one of the only University residential communities of its kind in Aotearoa.

We interview and select each of our Kiwi Host flatmates and then carefully select compatible international students that will make up the home based on their applications. We strive to make sure that every international student resident of our community feels connected in some way to their Kiwi Host - and I am proud of the care and effort that goes into this process each and every time.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I believe you have to be passionate about the students in order to be successful - passionate about their goals, and passionate about their experience. This job will require you to go above and beyond the average "9-5" and to be successful as a company, you need people that are more than happy to go the extra mile - and I am proud to say the staff at the University of Otago Flats has those people.