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Pacific student profiles


These profiles offer you the opportunity to hear the voices of some of our Pacific students, both past and present.

We believe the stories showcasing some of the Pacific students who have previously studied at the University of Otago will truly serve as inspiration to others.  Alongside these stories are the earnest accounts of some current Pacific students, students who are extremely driven, determined and deliver in showcasing academic success.   These current students offer words of wisdom to new students and they share with us some of the key things that have led to their positive academic experience thus far.

Our gallery

Please scroll below to see a selection of photographs of Pacific students taken during their time at the University of Otago.


Above Image: Geodes Laufanuaosamoa Mefiposeta Maualaivao from Samoa is following in his mother's footsteps and studying surveying at Otago.

A name can say a lot, especially one as long and beautiful as surveying student’s Geodes Laufanuaosamoa Mefiposeta Maualaivao. Read more...

Picture Pefect at the Lawn Picnic

Above image: Beaming at the start of the University of Otago's 150th anniversary celebrations yesterday are Samoan-born students (front, from left) Emily Fruean (17), Etta Tamapua (23), Sooleoso Pala'amo (19) and John Johnston (18), together with (back row, from left) Robert Tupu (18) and Maylanie Alai (23).Photo Peter McIntosh  Read the full Otago Daily Times article here.

University Fosters Tongan Connections 17122018

Above Image:  Mary Jane Kivalu (sitting on the floor at left) with the University of Otago delegation at Takuilau College in Lapaha, Tonga.

Raised in a Tongan speaking family in Auckland, the first time Mary Jane Kivalu visited Tonga was as a teenager with her mother. Recently she made her second trip to the Kingdom to help launch the Otago Tongan Alumni Network. Read the full story.

Brogan and Kiki Maoate Dec 2018 Grad

Above Image:  Brogan Maoate and Kiki Maoate, her father, at her graduation from the University of Otago School of Medicine. She is the third generation of her family to graduate as a doctor.

From the back roads of the Cook Islands to the hallways of Christchurch Hospital, the Maoate family cares for people. Read the full Maoate family story on Stuff.

Michael Ligaliga 2018 Aug

Above Image: University of Otago PhD graduand Michael Ligaliga (39) on campus. Photo: Peter McIntosh

Michael Ligaliga is "relieved" to have completed his University of Otago PhD, and has become the first Pacific Island student to complete an Otago doctorate in peace and conflict studies. Read more about how this PhD marks two firsts for Michael Ligaliga.

Fuakava Tanginoa 2018

Above Image: Third year medical student at Otago University Fuakava Tanginoa,25, with her father Uili Uluakiaho Tanginoa and mother Losiane Tanginoa. Photo / Supplied.

A rise in Pasifika and Māori students in medical school to bring more diverse doctors. Read the full New Zealand Herald article here

Toloa Scholarship 2018 UO Recipients

Above Image:  The three recipients of the Ministry of Pacific Peoples Toloa Tertiary Scholarships for 2018 - Ms Finau Taungapeau, Ms Anna Clark, Dr Tasileta Teevale (Director Pacific Development, University of Otago) and Ms Jade Christiansen. Photo provided by the Ministry of Pacific Peoples.

Established in 2015, the Toloa Tertiary Scholarships are funded by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples to support Pacific students to pursue studies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects. Read more here and meet the University of Otago Recipients here.

Vaa o tautai HS Welcome

Above Image: Members of the Pacific community presented Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences, Peter Crampton, with a traditional va’a (waka) at a welcoming function for Pacific Island students into the Division of Health Sciences on Friday (Feb 2018). Photo: Sharron Bennett.

The University of Otago continues to lead the way in education for Pacific peoples with the development of Va’a o Tautai, the Pacific entity within the Division of Health Sciences. Read the full story...

Lani Alo Convocation 2018

Above Image:Metitilani (Lani) Alo performing at the 2018 Convocation Ceremony held on 19 February. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

The Convocation ceremony marks the start of the University of Otago Orientation.  This year a highlight of the ceremony was the energetic and mesmerising performance of Otago music graduate Metitilani (Lani) Alo who sang two songs, and left the stage with at least 4000 new fans and a standing ovation. Read the full 2018 Convocation article...

success for Pacific Otago Interns

Above Image: (From left) Pacific Island Centre Community Liaison Officer Christine Anesone, Hon Kris Faafoi and (second from right, back) Hon Jenny Salesa with Otago Pacific students who gained Tupu Tai Programme summer internships.

Otago students are riding a wave of success after filling half of the places offered by several government departments backing a 2017 summer internships programme. Read more...

hard work and sacrafice celebrated at ceremony

Pacific Scholarship students with their completion certificates (front row, from left) Rhonda Wohemani, Malan Wamoa, Arti Naidu and Fenika Oloapa (back row, from left) Ovini Masi and Vilimone Raqona with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade dignitaries Jonathan Kings and Rebecca Steffens-Smith. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

The hard work and sacrifices of international Pacific scholarship students were rewarded last Friday when the University of Otago New Zealand Development Scholarship Completion Ceremony was held to celebrate and acknowledge the journeys and achievements of undergraduate and postgraduate international students during their time at Otago Read the full story.


Above image: Student Anneka Gandhi shows off the app she helped create for the Pacific Islands Centre. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

An app created by Information Science students will make it easier for the University’s Pacific Islands Centre to communicate with the students it supports. Read the full story.

Heilala award photo 15082017

Above Image: Claire Matthewson and PVC Tony Ballantyne present Faith Eccles with the Heilala Book Prize.

A new book prize has been established to celebrate the highest achieving Pacific female student in a 200-level paper in the Humanities. This year the 2017 prize went to the inaugural winner, Faith Eccles, at an event held in August. Faith received the prize for her outstanding result in Anthropology 210 Translating Cultures. Read more...


Above Image: The Principal of South Auckland's Aorere College Gregory Pierce and University of Otago Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson (centre) sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the two institutions earlier this month.

Otago is actively working to support Pacific youth into tertiary education – with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with one South Auckland secondary school this month underscoring these efforts.  Read the full story.

Sisilia Teu with Toloa Award 2017_MPP Auckland

Above image from left to right: Ms Pauline Winter, QSO, Chief Executive of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Hon. Alfred Ngaro, Minister for Pacific Peoples, Ms Sisilia Teu, 2017 Ministry of Pacific Peoples Toloa Scholarship awardee with her parents Tevita Napa’a Teu and Talalelei Teu and Dr Marie Inder, Division of Sciences, Project Manager Pacific Student Support (University of Otago).

Ms Silsilia Teu is studying towards a Bachelor of Commerce, with a major in Information Science at the University of Otago and was one of eight recipients to be offered a Ministry of Pacific Peoples Toloa Scholarship. These scholarships are dedicated to Pacific students pursuing studies in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. In April 2017 Ms Teu travelled to Auckland to attend the Ministry of Pacific People's Toloa Scholarships award evening. Read more about applying for a Ministry of Pacific Peoples Toloa Scholarship.

Pacific Scholarship Event at Uni of Otago_22032017_v2

Above image from left to right: From left to right Dr Mele Taumoepeau, Division of Sciences, Associate Dean Pacific; Tofilau Nina Kirifi- Alai, Manager of Pacific Islands Centre; Ms Jae Stowers, Programme Manager with Ministry of Pacific Peoples; Professor Vernon Squire, Deputy-Vice-Chancellor Academic; Ms Sisilia Teu, University of Otago student and recipient of Ministry of Pacific Peoples Toloa Scholarship; Professor Richard Barker, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Division of Sciences; Professor Harlene Hayne, Vice-Chancellor; Professor Richard Blaikie, Deputy-Vice-Chancellor Research & Enterprise; Ms Diane Fenika, Senior Regional Advisor with Ministry of Pacific Peoples; Dr Tasileta Teevale, Director Pacific Development.

In honour of University of Otago Pacific Peoples Entrance Scholarship Awardees a celebratory event was held in March 2017, with the official address delivered by Professor Harlene Hayne, Vice-Chancellor. This year as seen in the above image success was also celebrated with regards to Ms Teu receiving a Ministry of Pacific Persons Toloa Scholarship. Read Sisilia's full story.

More details on University of Otago Māori and Pacific Peoples Entrance Scholarships and the Ministry of Pacific Peoples Toloa Scholarships can be found here.


Members of the Christchurch branch of the Pacific Island Health Professional Students Association (PIHIPSA) group, which recently volunteered at Christchurch's Polyfest event.

Pacific Island Medical students from the University’s Christchurch campus recently volunteered their time - giving free medical checks to people attending the Polyfest event. Read the full story.

Metitilani Alo Singing at Convocation_2016
Above: Contemporary Music Performance student Metitilani (Lani) Alo performed Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror and Six60’s Don't Forget your Roots at the University's second annual Convocation ceremony, held at Forsyth Barr Stadium in February 2016  

The Convocation ceremony marks the start of the University of Otago Orientation Week and this year saw 3000-first year students in attendance.  For the full article...

Staff and Students at Pacific Scholarships Event
Above Image:  Staff and some of the Pacific recipients who were awarded University of Otago Māori and Pacific Peoples Entrance Scholarships (2016)

In honour of Pacific Peoples Entrance Scholarship Awardees a celebratory event was held in the Council Chamber, Clocktower in April 2016, with the official address delivered by Professor Harlene Hayne, Vice-Chancellor.  More details on University of Otago Māori and Pacific Peoples Entrance Scholarships can be found here.

Pacific Student Performance at PASC Launch July 2016 (1)
Above Image: Latafale Auva'a, C.J. Sopoaga, Callum Lynch-Hines and Eden Iati perform in song at the formal launch of the Pacific Academic Staff Caucus on 11 July 2016

Read more about the Pacific Academic Staff Caucus (PASC) launch