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So living by the mantra: take every opportunity with open arms, she threw in her cleaning job and enrolled in an English course at university.
She not only successfully completed that course, but went on to achieve a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters in social anthropology, and finally a PhD in sociology – making her the first in her family to receive a doctorate.
When she migrated to New Zealand in 1986 the expectation was to find a job and support her family. So she did, but she knew she could do something more, which is why she started studying.
During and after completing her studies, she didn’t focus on high pay, but instead found something where she could focus on her commitment to helping others. She found it working as the general manager of a Pasifika family violence service in Auckland.
After four years with the service she left to take up a position as a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology at Massey. Her colleagues often asked her why she stayed in a low paid job for so long when she had academic qualifications – her reply: “my loyalty to my community goes hand in hand with my passion and commitment – that service has been the best thing in my life”.
“Leaving the family violence service was difficult for me, but I walked out with the utmost satisfaction that I have used my knowledge to improve the services that my Pasifika families desperately need.”
Now, she’s a senior lecturer teaching a paper on “Pacific Peoples in Aotearoa” –one of very few Pasifika academics in the country.
She says her success means nothing if she doesn’t share it with others.
“I am strongly grounded within my Samoan culture and this all means nothing without my family. I succeeded because of my family.
I was put here for a reason. I gained academic knowledge and got qualified for a reason – to share that knowledge with others. My academic knowledge is not for me to keep but it is for me to share with others.”
Page authorised by Office of the Assistant Vice-Chancellor Māori and Pasifika
Last updated on Tuesday 16 August 2016