‘In 2017 found myself at 64-and-a-half and no job,’ Maria Humphries says, with not a hint that she’s ready to slow down any time soon.
And why would she? You’re not far into a conversation with Maria before you suspect the Waikato Management School at the University of Waikato was somewhat shortsighted when they bundled her up in a restructure last year. She’s sharp as a tack, hungry to teach, eager for her years in education to keep her in the conversation, and keen to engage in the shaping of ideas that was so central to the job she loved.
Another thing you learn quickly about Maria is that she doesn’t take an unexpected turn of events as a knock-back.
‘I’m not too old, but I’m too far in my career to do something completely different. Too much has been invested in me to want to walk away from those skills. What I love is teaching. I love working with teachers to develop critical theory for the management classroom. I could do that eight hours a day. Ten hours a day—that would be better.’
In other words, Maria is poised for the next challenge. She’s writing teaching cases for Sage’s Business Case Series. She recently coedited a book: ResponsAbility: Law and Governance for Living well with the Earth, published by Routledge. And she is currently the chair of the Research Ethics Committee at UNITEC.
Maria has just bought an apartment in Kingsland after 12 years living in the neighbourhood in an intergenerational situation she has loved. Part of that involved being a regular fixture in the old Crave, gathered with her family around the big table in the back.
’It would not be unusual for us to arrive at Crave right on opening time on a Sunday morning to share breakfast with the children while the parents had a sleep in. Coffee and fresh scones or eggs on toast to share, the newspaper, and the children happy to draw or read. We loved it there. It was just the neighbourhood place to be, with me and a part of my little tribe settled in for a bit of treat where I did not feel the bustle of children was an imposition.’
Maria was born in Holland and came to NZ when she was 8. Her parents were war-time children so they were short of opportunities at a time NZ was recruiting for farm labour. Her father had a dream of being a farmer but it didn’t turn out that way. The family lived in Hamilton for the rest of his life. Her mum still does.
Growing up in Hamilton, Maria went to Sacred Heart Girls College where she was first exposed to philosophy, in dialogue with religious studies, and discovered that ‘attention to your mental and your spiritual well-being was important.’
After the birth of her children she did a philosophy degree and discovered something else—she had an edge over the younger students, despite the fact there was no one in her family with a degree or a university education.
‘Initially I did philosophy and literature,’ Maria says. ‘It was marvellous. I went to university because it was interesting for me, while the babies were little. I enrolled in courses that I could do at a time I could get a babysitter. There was no plan.’
Maria stresses she was never very ambitious in a typical career sense. But she became an associate professor quite quickly. An aspect of her academic work has been around experiential learning, teaching values, and exploring theories that bring new or surprising insights. She is keen to learn if in Morningside and its neighbourhood, there is scope for social enterprise initiatives in community education.
‘In my first 10 years in the neighbourhood I couldn’t make the time to be more involved. I was fully employed in a busy job. I was commuting across two cities, often travelling out of the country for my work and around that, spending as much time with my growing brood of grandchildren as I could. With the children now at school and involved in many out of school activities, I feel I can now begin to think about how to become part of the community more.
‘Making relationships takes time—I see this place as a place of relationships.’