Making Pacific voices heard

30 May 2018

Vice-Chancellor Neil Quigley during the 'Ava Ceremony.

The University of Waikato has launched a range of initiatives to further support and develop Pacific students, researchers and staff.

The day started with a formal ribbon cutting at Pacific student space ‘The Conch’, followed by a traditional ‘Ava Ceremony in which the Vice-Chancellor and other staff took part. The Academy’s Concert Chamber was filled with the sound of Tongan hymns, before students, staff and alumni from diverse parts of the Pacific spoke of the University’s role in their lives, and futures.

The University has a long history of providing education for and about Pacific peoples. With advice and backing from Pacific and other staff, students and communities, it is implementing an ambitious new Pacific Plan. It focuses on seven key ways to build and enhance Pacific achievement, and to develop the educational aspirations and success of Pacific students, researchers and staff. It is underpinned by the cultural and spiritual values of Pacific people, especially in relation to language and culture, collectivity and kinship, respect and reciprocity.

The Plan is designed as a platform for the future, but the work has already begun:

  • The first group of students have embarked on a unique new major in Pacific and Indigenous Studies.
  • The University has created a new senior leadership position, and is in the process of appointing an Assistant Vice-Chancellor Pacific. The appointee will play an influential role in helping realize the objectives in the Pacific Plan, and spearheading development in the area.
  • A new Pacific Excellence Scholarship will add to existing opportunities for Pacific learners.
  • A proposed pilot programme working with two other tertiary institutions and the Tertiary Education Commission will create partnerships that enhance learning and achievement for Māori and Pacific students.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Robyn Longhurst says as well as encompassing staff and students, a crucial part of the programme will be strengthening relationships with Pacific communities and families. “The Pacific Plan is a living plan. It is one we will all carry with us everyday, making it an intrinsic part of the University’s life and vision.”