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UOPISA awards recognise Humanities Moana Pacific role "uplifting community"

Thursday 28 October 2021 7:07pm

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(Clockwise, from left) Joshua Fitzpatrick, Livingstone Efu, Shani McMullan, Associate Professor Patrick Vakaoti and Pacific Islands Students' Support Officer Sia Lei-Mata'afa.

The outstanding abilities of Humanities Moana Pacific staff and students in caring for others, uplifting their community and providing leadership has been recognised at this year’s University of Otago Pacific Island Student Association (UOPISA) Pacific Awards.

Humanities Moana Pacific students took out three of the five student awards, and Division members took out both staff awards.

UOPISA Vice-President Cam Young says the stakes were raised this year because of the high number, and outstanding quality, of nominees. Students nominated their peers and student groups in ten award categories before UOPISA’s Executive met with an advisory panel (made up of Pacific staff members) to make final decisions.

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UOPISA Vice-President and Anatomy and Pacific Studies student Cam Young.

“These awards acknowledge Pacific forms of leadership that uplifts our community and is inclusive of diversity. With only ten awards, we couldn't acknowledge all the successes of our incredible community but were so proud of our recipients who demonstrate these strong Pacific values in all that they do.

“It has been a pleasure working alongside these leaders and we are satisfied that the future of our Pacific community is in good hands.”

Humanities Staff awards:

The UOPISA Pacific Support Staff Award went to Humanities Pacific Islands Students’ Support Officer Sia Lei-Mata’afa for her efforts supporting students; the Pacific Academic Staff Award for furthering academic achievement for Pacific students went to former Associate Dean Pacific Associate Professor Patrick Vakaoti.

“Sia and Patrick have supported a plethora of events for staff professional development, and engagement with students and the local community. They have provided excellent pastoral support for Pacific students and advocate fiercely for them at a governance level. UOPISA is proud to acknowledge the determination and commitment to service of these two individuals, especially Sia who only started her role earlier this year,” Cam says.

Humanities Student awards:

Shani McMullan was winner of the prestigious UOPISA Pacific Leadership Award. A third-year law student, Shani was on the Pacific Islands Law Students' Association (PILSA) this year. Shani has a passion for civic education, doing work with the Electoral Commission and Generation Vote at a local and national level. Shani also mentors and tutors Pacific law students, cultivating a sense of community within the law faculty for our Pacific students.

Livingstone Efu was winner of the UOPISA Cultural Excellence Award. Livingstone is studying law and arts and has been an active member of the Moana Pacific community for many years. Livi has helped coordinate many Pacific events, like the Pacific Welcome, that celebrates cultural traditions and language.

Joshua Fitzpatrick was winner of the UOPISA Community Service Award. Josh studies sociology and is the current President of the Otago Cook Islands Students' Association (OCISA). Josh mentors students at local schools and is a familiar face at many Pacific events, always putting his hand up to help out his peers.

About the awards: Run for the third time this year, the awards highlight excellence in the University’s Pacific community.

Cam says the Executive doesn’t look at ethnicity or nominees’ area of study, but rather their “sphere of influence and their standard of excellence”.

“It just so happened that the Division of Humanities Te Kete Aronui achieved very well in the awards this year. Perhaps this is because Humanities emphasizes human connection, diversity of thought and inclusivity. As a Pacific community, these values are so important for creating a sense of belonging and compassion. We believe that a compassionate leader is an effective leader – it is excellent to see Humanities emphasising these values within our students. The awards also celebrated how resilient members of Otago’s Pacific community were this year in the face of the many challenges presented by COVID-19." 

About UOPISA: the Association is the overarching strategic student group that advocates for and promotes the Pacific student community at Otago. It represents thirteen cohort-specific associations, including the Humanities Otago Pacific Students' Association (HOPSA) and the Pacific Islands Law Students' Association (PILSA).

Other recipients were:

Pacific Sportsperson Award - Fay Fualau-Searle; Pacific Rising Star Award - Sione Langi; Pacific Academic Association Award - Pacific Islands Health Professional Students' Association (PIHPSA); Pacific Cultural Association Award - Otago Niuean Students' Association (ONSA); Pacific 'New' Association Award - Otago Pacific Islands Commerce Students' Association (OPICSA)