Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

The “accidental academic” recognised with prestigious teaching award

Wednesday 26 October 2022 9:53am

Associate Professor Patrick Vakaoti has been awarded a national Te Whatu Kairangi – Aotearoa Tertiary Educator Award 2022, with an endorsement in Enhancing Pacific Learners’ Success.

Patrick Vakaoti image
Associate Professor Patrick Vakaoti.

The Fijian sociologist is with the Department of Sociology, Gender Studies and Criminology. He is also the incoming Manutaki (Dean) of Otago’s Te Tumu – School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies.

Associate Professor Vakaoti views teaching as a privileged position, where one has the ability to influence hearts and minds, and to continue to learn.

“Teaching is a dynamic process and acknowledging my position as a learner helps me improve my teaching,” Associate Professor Vakaoti says.

The Associate Professor in Sociology is interested in sociological and community development work with young people, and his work explores youth issues like street-frequenting and political participation. Despite a distinguished career he admits, “I feel like an accidental academic!”

He does, however, recall an early clue that academia was his best fit in Year 8, when a teacher in his island school in Fiji said he was wrong in counting that he had 16 grandparents.

“I was confused, frustrated and determined that there had to be other ways of seeing the world. A few years later, university made these different ways of seeing the world come to life.

“This is still something I challenge myself and my students with, what alternative ways, solutions, messages are available? It is only in pushing the boundaries of our thinking and exploration of reality that we can truly understand ourselves, others, and the world around us.”

Associate Professor Vakaoti’s late mother was a primary school teacher in Fiji, and an inspiration to him.

“As an indigenous Fijian woman, her teaching both at home and in school was influenced by the Fijian values of veiwekani (relationships), vei talanoa (conversing respectfully with people) and vei rogorogoci (listening with respect and intently to others). Her values became my values and now as a teacher, I draw on them to bring hope and enlightenment to my diverse students.”

He sees this award as a demonstration to the Pacific community and the community of indigenous scholars, that their work and their contributions are valuable and worthy of recognition.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Helen Nicholson says she is proud to have a teacher from Otago recognised with this prestigious award.

“I know the dedication and passion Associate Professor Vakaoti and his colleagues put into their teaching and I am so pleased to celebrate his success,” Professor Nicholson says.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Humanities, Professor Jessica Palmer also congratulates Associate Professor Vakaoti on this recognition.

“Associate Professor Vakaoti has made a substantial contribution to building a community of active and capable learners, particularly amongst our Pacific students – a really important and long-lasting legacy,” Professor Palmer says.

Associate Professor Vakaoti will be presented with this award at a ceremony on Wednesday 23 November.

For more information, please contact:

Associate Professor Patrick Vakaoti
Department of Sociology, Gender Studies and Criminology
Division of Humanities
University of Otago

Antonia Wallace
Communications Adviser
External Engagement
University of Otago
Mob +64 21 279 4144

More information about these awards: