Victoria University’s increase in Pasifika PhD in last two years

Two historical milestones were achieved by Pasifika academics at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) in 2016.

Last week, five Pasifika students graduated with a PhD degree, the highest number ever for one of the University’s biannual graduation celebrations.

And secondly, when tallied with last year’s total of four doctorates, it represented a more than 300 per cent increase in Pasifika PhD graduates from the total of two in 2014.

For the 2016 year, the five students represent nearly 5 per cent of the 104 Victoria students who received PhDs during the Wellington university’s four ceremonies last week. Pasifika students currently make up 5.8 percent of the University’s total student population.

Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Associate Professor Luamanuvao Winnie Laban was on hand to celebrate with three of them at Victoria’s Pasifika Graduation Celebration last Friday.  “Along with the Victoria staff and students and our Pasifika families and communities, I have enormous pride in our five Pasifika PhD graduates. It is a significant milestone for each of them because through hard work and determination to succeed, they have achieved the highest qualification at university.

 “They are role models for all of our Pasifika students and demonstrate that they too can achieve academic heights. Their success illustrates Victoria’s important role in helping grow our community of Pasifika academics who can use their skills and knowledge to make a real difference for Pasifika people.”

The five Pasifika PhD graduates are spread across four faculties—business, education, law and science. And three Pacific nations, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Tonga.

One of the graduates, Seeseei Molimau-Samasoni who graduated with a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology, says she feels “very proud” to have completed her PhD.  “I am enthused to make a change in my beautiful island country of Samoa, and I hope this achievement inspires young Samoan women scientists to push for the same.”

Raising academic success of Pasifika students is a priority area for Victoria. The last several years has seen increased numbers of Pasifika students enrolling, as well as a rise in Pasifika students’ success rates for completing courses and qualifications.


The five Pasifika PhD graduates

• Potoae Aiafi (Samoan), PhD in Public Policy, examines the strengths and weaknesses of public policy processes in the Pacific and conceptualises her findings into a model that prescribes critical factors for effective policy implementation. 

• Seeseei Molimau-Samasoni (Samoan), PhD in Cell and Molecular Bioscience, uses biological and chemical tools to discover a condensed tannin in extracts from a Samoan medicinal plant has anti-inflammatory activity. 

• Vergil Narokobi (Papua New Guinea), PhD in Law following his research on the experience of the common law to offer ways for Papua New Guinea’s Parliament, courts, executive and the Ombudsmen Commission to implement constitutional ideals within the existing framework.

• Fuapepe Rimoni (Samoan), PhD in Education, investigates how Samoan boys enact their identities and advocates for their voices to be placed alongside official accounts of Pacific disadvantage for more balanced critical discourses.

• Mele Katea Paea (Tongan), PhD in Management,  explores leadership as cultural practice by affirming Tauhi Vā Māfana (Tongan leadership), and developing Talanoa Māfana methodology to engage with Tongan identity and leadership practices in the New Zealand public service.

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