Public servants celebrate colleague's return with Masters

A public servant has returned home from Australia after completing her Masters degree in Aquaculture. And she is looking forward to imparting her newly acquired skills which included research on the different species of seaweed found in Samoa.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Principal Fisheries Officer (Fisheries Division), Su'a Ulusapeti Ti'iti'i, recently completed a Masters of Science degree in aquaculture at the Sunshine Coast University and returned to Samoa to await her graduation scheduled for April next year.

Her office colleagues hosted a surprise welcome back party and pre-graduation reception for her at the Marina's Edge and Bar on Friday night.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, the Savaia Lefaga woman said she was touched by the gesture shown by her workmates, which was funded out of their own pockets.

"I didn't expect this tonight, especially since I just started working on Monday. This is a total surprise for me, I never expected them to do this for me," said Su'a.

"Most of my team have this close relationship and we always work as a team. With my Senior staff, we have respect for each other and we trust each other. 

“It really means a lot to me. It's not the things we do but the thoughts that count. It really hits me knowing that they did this tonight for me and then I ask myself who am I? What have I done to them to deserve this? You know this really means a lot.”

As part of her postgraduate studies, she wrote a thesis as well as did research that focused on the different seaweed species found in Samoa. 

"There are two species of seaweed [limu]. It's the seagrape [Limu Fuafua] and red seaweed [Limu Aau]. I was looking at the cultural values, consumer preference and nutritional benefits of edible seaweeds," she added.

But her academic journey would not have been possible without the backing of her family, Su'a emphasised, as they believed in her ability to succeed and take on a myriad of challenges.

"My parents pushed me to do this [masters degree] to undertake further studies. My dad told me to go and this while they're still alive. You know any dad has that pride, and any parent would want the best for their children. 

“So it wasn't only the challenge with my studies but the challenge that I took with me to Australia. There were many people who were pushing me to go beyond my limits but always with God's assistance, I wouldn't be successful.

"Sometimes I lose hope, I give up, but I believe that relying on God and keeping in mind my family's support, my parents, village, and my workmates, they gave all their trust and it reminds me of my boss's words to me before I left: Su'a I do not want a person who is defeated.”

The onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic also had its challenges, according to the Principal Fisheries Officer, but assistance by her other siblings and others enabled her to wrap up her studies.

"It was really hard regarding the COVID-19 and also away from my parents because I'm the one looking after them. So I went there, I have my other siblings helping out but in terms of studying, it was really hard. 

“It's a really hard topic, really hard research but I always rely on God. I pray to God to help me out, you know, I was writing a thesis, it was not an easy thing to do.”

Su'a is an alumni of Wesley College, Faleula before she was offered an Aotearoa Scholarship to undertake Form 7 at the Wesley College in  Auckland, New Zealand. She later graduated with a diploma in environmental resource management from the Northland Polytechnic in Whangarei.

And later did a bachelor of applied science with a double major in fisheries marine science and management and fisheries and aquaculture management at the Southern Cross University, before continuing with her masters degree study program at the University of the Sunshine Coast which she completed recently.

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