Hitaua Arahanga-Doyle (Ngāi Tahu, Te Āti Haunui a Pāpārangi): Combining Māori cultural concepts with Western social psychology
20Twenties Young Alumni Award winner in recognition of leadership, mentorship of undergraduate and postgraduate students, and of his higher studies. BCom 2013 BA(Hons) 2016.
What was your reaction to receiving the award?
It was a shock to receive the award to be honest but it was a real honour and I am truly humbled. To receive any award from the University of Otago is always an honour, as I know there are so many amazing alumni and current students deserving of recognition.
What have you done since graduation and what are you doing now?
The main thing that I have done since my graduation is conduct research as part of a PhD programme in Psychology. My research, in a sentence, aims to help adolescents and young Māori students by investigating the efficacy of combining recent developments in the social psychology literature regarding what is termed brief or “wise” social interventions with fundamental Te Ao Māori cultural values, particularly whanaungatanga.
Also, in 2019 as part of my PhD research, I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Fulbright Graduate Scholarship that provided me with the opportunity to conduct research in the United States at Stanford University and Northwestern University.
I spent seven months in the US but unfortunately my time was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I was still able to work and interact with some of the most prominent academics in the field of social psychology, as well as participate in their laboratories. The knowledge and experience that I gained from my time in US was invaluable and I hope to bring some of those skills back to enhance my own research.
What inspires and motivates you to work in the areas you are involved with?
As cliched as it probably sounds, the biggest motivation for my work is wanting to help people and I felt that the best way that I could do that using my skills was through academic research. In particular I wanted to attempt research that was applicable to people directly, rather than basing myself heavily within the theoretical aspects of psychology, although that work is valuable.
In that sense I wanted to conduct research that wasn't overly complicated, as I am a strong believer in the idea that research needs to be broadly accessible, not simply understood and held within the walls of academia.
My hopes are that combining valuable Māori cultural concepts with developments in contemporary and Western social psychology can help continue affirming both as effective strategies for positive psychological development. To be sure, both approaches are equally capable in their own right, but an innovative combination and braiding of the two may provide additional benefits not clearly identifiable when each is implemented on its own.
What were the highlights of your time at Otago, and has it helped or influenced you in your career and following your interests?
My time as an undergrad student at Otago was so influential for me and my career. The University essentially provided me with the crucial building blocks for success and I have no doubt that I wouldn't be where I am today without my experiences at Otago.
Academically speaking the knowledge that is passed on from amazing lectures and all the staff at Otago is first class. It not only set up strong foundations for my own academic pursuits but I have no doubt the experiences at Otago do the same for all the other students that choose to study there.
Culturally, Otago is where I came to learn how to become an adult. That transition period from high school to university is massive, but the environment that is fostered and facilitated at Otago means that I didn't go through that by myself. I met lifelong friends that were, and still are, a huge part of any successes that I am fortunate enough to receive.