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Stronger Pacific links via alumni events

Wednesday, 12 July 2017 2:56pm

Nina-banner-july
Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai (left) and Dr Tootooleaava Fanaafi Aiono Letagaloa at the Samoan Alumni chapter launch in Apia last year.

The University of Otago will celebrate links with the Pacific, and engage with alumni about ways to enhance and strengthen its special relationship with the region, at two events in mid-July.

The University will hold a Pacific Aotearoa Otago alumni dinner in Auckland on 13 July, before heading to Suva to hold a gala event at the New Zealand High Commission Residence on 20 July.

The focus of both events will be on furthering regional goals, as outlined in the University’s Pacific Strategic Framework 2013-2020.

The Framework outlines Otago’s commitment to excellence in research initiatives relevant to the region, and its desire to recruit students who will later contribute to the Pacific’s social, cultural and economic development.

Otago Pacific Islands Centre manager Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai, who will be master of ceremonies at the Auckland event, says consultation with alumni and supporters is at the heart of Otago’s community-building plan in the region.

“While there will be plenty of opportunities for alumni and guests to catch up and reminisce about their time at Otago, we want to find out what matters to them and hear their thoughts on how Otago can make a meaningful, lasting contribution, beyond our existing research, recruitment and academic initiatives,” Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai says.

Otago sees alumni as a “one of its greatest resources” in the region, and central to implementation of its strategic aims, she says.

“So many of our alumni and supporters are business and cultural leaders, politicians, academics and professionals, who already make a tremendous contribution in the Pacific, and we are seeing strong enrolment growth – particularly in postgraduate programmes and areas like dentistry – from the Pacific. In 2012 about 3% cent of students at Otago identified as Pacific, now it’s about 4.5%.”

University of Otago Auckland Alumni chapter member Alistair Ward will announce the permanent appointment of a Pacific representative on the Chapter’s committee.

“The Auckland-based chapter values both its close relationship with the University and sees this as a great opportunity to recognise diversity, which is at the heart of the Otago experience. Through business networks, sporting links and their professional lives, Chapter members already have strong ties with the Pacific, and we look forward to helping Otago strengthen this already rewarding relationship by formalising the requirement for Pacific representation on the Chapter board,” Mr Ward says.

Guests will be entertained by talented Otago graduate and opera singer Joel Amosa, who will present several items, and Otago Master of Music student Lani Alo.

FIJI 20 JULY: Otago alumni Vakavinavinaka event

The Fiji event, held at the New Zealand High Commission in Suva, will be hosted by Otago Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Vernon Squire and New Zealand Deputy High Commissioner (and Otago alumna) Amanda Vercoe.

Vernon Squire
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Vernon Squire

The master of ceremonies will be Dr Patrick Vakaoti, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work and Associate Dean (Pacific) in the Division of Humanities.

A main theme at both events will be ways local alumni can work with the University to create sustainable projects that are of benefit across society; this may involve the formation of a Fiji-based alumni chapter, similar to the group which was formed in Samoa last year, or other forms of support and partnerships.

“The key is consultation and putting things in place that will last. Also, Fijians gravitate towards events and are natural networkers, so there are many opportunities to work together to address real issues in the region,” Dr Vakaoti says.

Vakaoti
Associate Dean (Pacific), Division of Humanities, Dr Patrick Vakaoti

Dr Vakaoti, who is from Levuka on the island of Ovalau, researches youth related issues in Fiji and the Pacific region such as street-frequenting and political participation. He has completed consultancy research on these issues with organisations like UNICEF Pacific, Pacific Leadership Programme (DFAT) and the Pacific Community.

Thursday, 13 July 2017 – Auckland: Pacific Aotearoa Otago alumni dinner
Manhattan, 941 Dominion Rd, Mount Roskill, Auckland. RSVP here
6pm / 6.30pm start.

Thursday, 20 July 2017 – Suva, Fiji: Otago alumni Vakavinavinaka event
New Zealand High Commission Residence, Ratu Sukuna Rd, Suva. Registrations essential by 18 July.
5.30pm / 6pm start.