N.U.S. V-C pays tribute to staff

The National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alec Ekeroma, has commended his team for successfully organising the Vice-Chancellor's Excellence Awards to such a tight deadline. 

"For anything to be successful, there is usually an army of talented people and volunteers who've actually put in the hard yards; have not had sleep in actually trying to put together the event. It was a very successful event," he said. 

"I had indicated that I wanted to have [the] V-C Awards, mainly to acknowledge the fact that we had a difficult year last year with the pandemic. 

"Despite all those difficulties, the staff worked very very hard and diligently, and professionally in actually making sure that the courses are delivered online and that the students were engaged."

He highlighted the challenges his staff had to go through during the pandemic, trying to ensure that students were still engaging and learning.

"[It's] one thing putting the courses online and [another] to try to get the students to buy and to engage the whole learning purposes, because some students didn't have phones, some students didn't have laptops, so it was very difficult to teach during those weeks when we closed down, and soon after when students weren't allowed back for a little while," said Professor Ekeroma.

"So, teachers used different modalities, some used Zoom, for example, some used WhatsApp, some used messenger to deliver the programs. Some used the emails to email them [students] and sent the materials, so the staff worked really really hard. Not only the academic staff but also the [Information Technology] staff." 

He added that the challenges of remote learning required trouble-shooting and quick-thinking from N.U.S. staff, especially in terms of the University's learning platform, Moodle.

"We're working very hard to make sure that [Moodle is] working well," the Professor said. 

"Because of the increasing traffic, you know, [os] people dialling into the Moodle, they had to make sure that there was enough bandwidth for everyone to come in. So we had to buy extra servers from Vodafone and Digicel to try to cope with the demand, so its all that hard work by the teachers and professional staff that have to be acknowledged, and I felt that it was important."

Further challenges came in the form of restricted travel, putting the brakes on attendances at overseas conferences and the inability to attract top academic and professional staff from other countries. According to Professor Ekeroma, this meant some local teachers had to double their efforts. 

The V-C Excellence Awards were originally slated for the end of December, but were quickly cancelled when Government announced the two positive test results for COVID-19, in quarantine. 

"The two cases [happened], and then we were fearing that there was some kind of community transmission because there was little information from [the National Emergency Operation Centre] to say there was or there wasn't," he said. 

"So we decided on balance, it was better to cancel, and that was in the third week of December and then the organisation that was going to organise it [awards] decided not to. There was a National University of Samoa social committee, they were going to host it.

"I wanted to have one last year, and it's a tradition for the overseas universities to have a Vice Chancellor's Excellence Awards. It's not anything new, I didn't dream it up. It was something that was established from overseas but they do it differently. V-C Excellence Awards are normally something that is advertised, and people nominate and the V-C decides. But we decided to do it with the Samoan flavor and celebrate it in the Samoan way.

The awards are separated in to categories including research, teaching and awards for non-academic staff.

"So there were four research awards, there was overall research excellence, which was won by Muagututi'a Ioana Chan Mow, and then there was the non-professional [award] for Ramona Boodoosingh. The other award was an emerging award that went to Aruna Tuala from the [Faculty of Business and Economics] because she's doing some research there," he said. 

"The service award is important because you know there's non-professional staff, non-academic staff also in N.U.S., like Finance, [Human Resources], so these professionals needed to be acknowledged for the excellent service they provide for example, from the Chancellery we nominated Tupai Ierome because he is the Disaster Management Committee (D.A.C.) coordinator for the university.  

"He was responsible for getting the pandemic plan going before the actual pandemic hits.

"So when the N.E.O.C. called that families needed to be evacuated to N.U.S. [for last year's flooding evacuations], we had to respond so he was the person really that led the response.

"It took us three weeks to put together the whole thing [awards] because the thing is when you believe in something you need to galvanise action, you don't need pontification, and that's usually the people who do the reflection. 

"We don't need those people especially when we want action, we need the people who are the doers. We have a lot of doers here and so we got them in and put together the whole thing. It was very successful."

Awards & Awardees:

  • Inspirational Leadership Award (Academic): Tuifuisa'a Dr. Patila Amosa
  • Inspirational Leadership Award (Non-Academic): Sarai Faleupolu Tevita
  • Excellence in Research Award (Professional): Muagututi'a Professor Ioana Chan Mow
  • Excellence in Research Award (Non-Professional): Dr. Ramona Boodoosingh
  • Excellence in Research Award (Emerging): Aruna Tuala
  • Teaching Excellence Award: FOA - Seiuli Temukisa Suisala, FOE - Leua Latai, FOBE - Muliagatele Sesilia Lauano, FOS - Tusipepa Mary M Tauave, FOHS - Jyothi Abraham, FOTE - Meki Tu'u'u Taula, CSS - Dr. Masami Levi, SOMT - Tanuvasa Toetu Leasi, and OCPDCE - Tauvaga Vaai.
  • Excellence in Service Award: FOA - Rosa Filoi, FOE - Fa'aloua Leatuao, FOS - Amuolemoana Meredith, CSS - Eileen Hazelman, FS - Marcia Lees, Library - Siavata Gale, ICT - Steven Narayan, PM - Faapoi Aperila Vaalotu, SS - Siolana Vui, HR - Tamara Laban, GPP - Flyriver Niupulusu, Chancellery/IA/AQU - Tupai Ierome.
  • Innovator Of the Year Award (Individual): Sagapolutele Junior Jensen
  • Innovation Award (Team): ICT Moodle Team - Sarai Faleupolu Tevita, Eileen Hazelman, Steven Narayan, Taise Taise, Siaaifiti Tolai, Erynn Vaelua, and Kovati Simalu.
  • Excellence in Research Award (Team): Faculty of Science - Prof Muagututi'a Ioana Chan Mow, Prof Silafau Sina Vaai, Assoc. Prof Taema Imo-Seuoti, Assoc. Prof Susana Taua'a, Dr Patila Amosa, Dr Louisa Mataia, and Vernetta Heems.
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