Tuesday 14 September 2021 9:17am
Associate Professor Diane Ruwhiu says learning about her own cultural background has helped shape her approach to teaching.
That approach has now been recognised with a national Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award in the Kaupapa Māori category.
Associate Professor Ruwhiu, from the Department of Management, has been teaching at the University for 20 years and has been working to develop Māori content within programmes in the Otago Business School.
“It took me two years to find my feet as a lecturer and, at that time, I also became intrigued by my own cultural background,” Associate Professor Ruwhiu explains.
“I focus not only on delivering authentic and relevant research-led content that exposes students to different cultural views but, at the same time, I try to share, enable and enliven Māori values and principles of learning within the classroom.”
“While my dad taught us little bits of our Māoritanga, he and mum mainly focused on education and doing well in school generally and so, when I started on my PhD, I decided to focus on kaupapa Māori business and graduated with that in 2009.”
She ensures that the kaupapa Māori content of her teaching is central to current disciplinary norms of business and management while being aware that there needs to be a coherent collaboration of Māori and Western approaches to maintain the integrity of both.
“I focus not only on delivering authentic and relevant research-led content that exposes students to different cultural views but, at the same time, I try to share, enable and enliven Māori values and principles of learning within the classroom,” Associate Professor Ruwhiu says.
Her journey to the academic world began when she joined the Royal New Zealand Airforce in a scheme that not only provided trade training but also supported her to obtain a National Diploma in Business.
“It was through this experience that I realised I could in fact do quite well at study and so, after I completed my return of service to the airforce, I packed up and came to the University of Otago to do a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Management.”
She explains that she enjoyed the practicality of management and how it allowed her to draw on her own work experience and background in logistics, a topic which followed through to her master’s studies.
After completing her Masters in 2000, she began lecturing in Operations Management and started on her PhD two years later.
Associate Professor Ruwhiu reveals that it was during this time that she truly began her lifelong journey to discovering who she is as both Māori and an academic which is also why, from 2017 to 2020, she held the position of co-chair of Te Poutama Māori, a network of Māori academics committed to supporting research and teaching excellence attuned to Māori values.
She would also provide guest lectures which shared her research into Māori business in management courses and worked with a cohort of amazing Māori professional staff in developing an experiential kaupapa Māori business programme, which has transitioned into both an undergraduate and postgraduate course.
As she continues on her journey, she says that one of the lessons that remain close to her heart is the significance of manaakitanga; respect and care for those in the world around her.
Ultimately, she believes that teaching matters because a “reciprocal” and “collaborative” learning community creates an environment of responsibility and respect for one another.
This enables students to “focus and articulate what they want to learn”, making them feel “invigorated, challenged and empowered to question the world around them and to see value in the knowledge gained not only as a qualification, but as a lifelong mindset that fosters curiosity and citizenship.”