Otago University Students' Association 2022 President Melissa Lama is set to receive her Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at this weekend's University of Otago graduation ceremony.
The master's degree was completed early this year, and the mum-of-two already has begun studying for a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA).
The focus for the Doctorate will be on how foreign aid from Aotearoa New Zealand is distributed in the Pacific region.
Having already completed an undergraduate degree in political science, together with her MBA and a background in the Government and NGO sectors, she aims to become a specialist in foreign policy and foreign aid in the Pacific.
“I especially want to work in community well-being. I'm quite a strong community advocate, and I know it's supported in the Government sector, but there's an expectation on how you practice that.”
Lama hails originally from Tonga, so feels it is important to give back to her home country and community.
“I realised what my purpose and skills are, and you know, to try to upskill myself so that it's of the most value to the community, because it brings me the most joy.”
Working in foreign policy or aid would provide a perfect opportunity to put all qualifications to use.
Lama takes a strategic approach and will continue to evaluate how resource distribution occurs for foreign aid from Aotearoa New Zealand to see if accessibility around it is consistent, and how relevant the process is given the current changing environment and disruptions within the Pacific region.
“If I'm able to understand how the process works, and the end-user experience through that process, I am then able to review if the current framework provides positive outcomes for my community. I will then write about it and see how better the Pacific region can access foreign aid and how best the NZ government can distribute it.”
Lama's OUSA presidency will conclude on the 31 December 2022, and she remains grateful for having had a chance to represent Otago's students.
The role has taught her a lot about her practice, and meaningful engagement, she says, and thanks Pacific Islands Centre, Pacific staff and support services and other student associations for their support.
“I feel coming into this space, I came with a lot of life baggage and a lot of things that have happened for me that would normal push the body to stop and give up.”
Lama says the University, support services and student body had of lot of faith in her, which was a privilege.
“They've given me a chance, and trusted that I could do this role, and at the same time be a mum, and accept what brings me into the space.”
Kōrero by Koren Allpress, Internal Communications Adviser