Dr Jordan Waiti cares about people, their health and wellbeing, and in particular he cares about Māori youth. Jordan (Ngāti Pikiao, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Haupoto, Ngaati Maahanga) is fluently bilingual. He’s worked as a community health consultant and is now teaching community health papers at the University of Waikato. He also teaches surfing and snorkelling, but not at the University.
What brought you to the University of Waikato?
I’d done a little bit of guest lecturing at Otago University in the mid-2000s. That was after I did my bachelor, Honours and masters qualifications in Physical Education there. I really enjoyed the engagement with students and the enthusiasm they showed when learning. I later moved back to the Waikato and worked as a Māori Health Consultant based out of Whaingaroa/Raglan. I finished my PhD through Massey University in 2015 and waited for a position to come up at Waikato.
What did you study for your PhD?
My doctorate focussed on Māori notions of ‘Resilience’ and how they are utilised by whānau who have experienced adversity. Most of my research expertise has been broadly based in the area of Māori health.
For the past 11 years I have also worked as a volunteer for the Te Taitimu Youth Trust in Hawke’s Bay, with tamariki and mokopuna. I believe it’s important to work positively with children at grass-roots level to ensure they have the strength and capacity to lead fulfilling lives. Recently I’ve begun working alongside Water Safety NZ in communities to help promote their message - ‘kia maanu kia ora – stay afloat, stay alive’.
And I think having worked in the community, doing the practical stuff helps my teaching. I’ve got real-word examples, first-hand experience to call on. As an undergrad at Otago I remember fondly all the practical aspects of the degree. These experiences have remained with me, so I try to replicate some of that in my teaching wherever I can.
You’ve only been with us a short time, what’s been your overall impression of Waikato Uni?
I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far. The support I’ve received from colleagues in my Faculty, as well as from other Māori throughout the University has been really helpful.
I like the forward thinking and progressive initiatives that are occurring here in Te Huataki Waiora. A key role I want to progress is the development of Māori achievement within our faculty and to increase Māori research capacity and capability. I’m also keen to see more aspects of Māori included in our papers within the faculty.
And of course, the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies is world leading in terms of Māori and Indigenous Studies. What I like about teaching is that I can pass on skills and knowledge to students who can then go out and work with their whānau, hapu and iwi.
Do you have any special teaching techniques that you find help students to learn or engage better?
I’ve tried to incorporate as much Māori content in my papers as possible. For some Māori students, the use of cultural concepts within the papers they study helps them relate better to the content. Consequently, they are better placed to pass their courses.
What do you want to change or influence?
Māori health and wellbeing is a broad topic, so I’ve tried to concentrate on areas that I have experience in (including lived experience). I concentrate on mental health and overall wellbeing with a focus on Māori youth and communities. I also have an interest in Mātauranga Māori (traditional knowledge), and its applicability to the struggles of modern day life. That’s something I’m keen to investigate further.
What do you do to relax?
Anything in the water; snorkelling, diving, stand-up paddle boarding and surfing, and I teach it as well. These ocean-based activities reaffirm my connections to our ātua such as Tangaroa and Hinemoana, my ancestors, and to the various kaitiaki throughout the regions.