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Siautu Alefaio
Dr Siautu Alefaio

The University of Otago has appointed Dr Siautu Alefaio as the first Pacific Professor of Psychology.

Professor Alefaio, who will commence her role in February, says she’s humbled and heartened by this new appointment as it reflects the University’s authentic engagement toward meeting the needs of Pacific peoples and communities at large.

“We are in a new era marked by compounding and cascading disasters that require all hands-on-deck,” Professor Alefaio says. “In these times of unprecedented crises, psychology is a profession that needs to step up and respond equitably for underserved communities.

“I look forward to making a valuable contribution to growing the next generation of psychologists from Otago University that are prepared for these climates of change.”

Born in Dunedin and of Samoan descent, Professor Alefaio’s research sits at the intersections of Pacific-indigenous and humanitarian psychology in climate and disaster resilience, pioneering a platform for more equitable and just societies.

Professor Alefaio’s Pacific contribution to psychology has included authoring Pacific-Indigenous Psychology (2022), which has become foundational to the research she undertakes as a Rutherford Discovery Fellow, Health Research Council grant recipient, and Fulbright New Zealand Scholar.

Head of the Department of Psychology, Professor Jamin Halberstadt, says he’s thrilled that Professor Alefaio will be joining the Department in February next year.

“Otago Psychology has a long and proud history of internationally renowned research, as well as excellence in teaching and clinical training, but our aspirations in the Pacific space have sometimes exceeded our grasp,” Professor Halberstadt says.

“Professor Alefaio will no doubt be a role model and mentor to our growing Pacific and staff cohorts, but she will also contribute to the Department and University in a more fundamental way, bringing new ideas, new impacts, and new intellectual diversity to our community.”

Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Division of Sciences, Professor Richard Barker, says Professor Alefaio will make an important contribution to realising the objectives of the University’s Pacific Strategic Framework.

“The Framework outlines our explicit and active commitment to fostering the success of Pacific students, staff, and culture across the University. We are excited by the appointment of Professor Alefaio and the valuable contribution she will make to grow and enrich our Pacific research, teaching and support for the next generations of psychology leaders,” Professor Barker says.

For more information, contact:

Guy Frederick
Communications Adviser Sciences
University of Otago
Mob +64 21 279 7688

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