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Making the world a better place

A trip to Borneo with Orangutan Foundation International ignited Ella Klinac’s passion for the environment. Now, the ACG Strathallan alumna is making a career out of it, with an environmental planning degree, an internship with the Department of Conservation, and the establishment of her own charity.

Student Ella Klinac

“I was brought up to always consider the impacts our actions have on the environment, largely influenced by my grandparents and their sustainable and forward thinking ways,” says Ella, who has just completed the third year of her four-year environmental planning degree at the University of Waikato.

“My commitment was further fuelled after a fundraising trip to Borneo where I fell in love with orangutans and their plight. I was inspired to use my experiences there as a motive to protect this endangered species and prevent similar environmental wrongdoings in my own beautiful country.”

Shortly, Ella and her family hope to launch the Orangutan Foundation New Zealand, to help ensure the continued protection of the great Asian apes. At the same time, she’s working hard to conserve other aspects of the environment – her degree specialises in coastal sciences, including oceanology and coastal morphology, and her summer internship with DOC will see her working alongside the Resource Management Act (RMA) planning division.

“This internship will provide me with the opportunity to learn a great deal about a field I’m really interested in. I’ll be able to watch, learn and contribute to the work DOC does under the RMA, including the Exclusive Economic Zones and Continental Shelf Act and providing planning advice on a range of issues such as freshwater and terrestrial biodiversity.”

Securing the sought-after internship is just one in a string of triumphs Ella has enjoyed during her time at Waikato University.

“In my first year I managed to get the College Hall Pursuit of Excellence Certificate for Academic Achievement and I was inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society for Leadership and Academic Excellence. In my second year I qualified to receive the Te Paewai o te Rangi Scholarship and was invited to attend the Aspiring Leaders’ Forum in Wellington, which was an amazing experience. Then for my third year I qualified again for the Te Paewai o te Rangi Scholarship and was invited to study abroad at Cardiff University in the UK, but unfortunately due to COVID-19, the trip was cancelled.”

She took the disappointment in her stride and continued making the most of every opportunity to develop her skills and knowledge.

“I absolutely love my degree! I love having conversations about the world and in this degree, I get to have these discussions nearly every day. Even though the answers are often unresolved, it has made me a far more interesting person to talk to on issues like climate change, economics, sustainability, development and population growth. Not only that but my degree has enabled me to complete papers in a wide range of subjects including science, economics, communications, geography, design, law and policy. With content like this it’s impossible to get bored – instead, I actually enjoy completing my assignments and studying for exams!”

Ella’s outstanding success at university can be attributed in part to the excellent foundations laid at ACG Strathallan.

“ACG Strathallan and the Cambridge curriculum is something that just made those first few years of university that little bit easier! In contrast to my peers, I found my first year incredibly easy. I’d already learnt many of the key concepts and theories in most papers, which gave me extra confidence and a big advantage when it came to achieving top grades.

“Furthermore, having a Cambridge education without a doubt prepared me in the best way possible for my examinations. I still use the study tactics I established at ACG Strathallan when completing my university exams today.”

While acing her exams has been a definite high point, Ella says its the professional and personal growth that has delivered the greatest value – not just for her, but also for the planet.

“My ideas have been crafted and my skillset developed to the point that I know I can stand on my own and make a positive difference in this world.”