Meet some of our Pacific academic and professional staff
Associate Professor Mele Taumoepeau
Associate Professor Mele Taumoepeau is a Senior Lecturer with the Department of Psychology. For the past three years her research has focused on understanding the role of parent-child conversations in the development of children’s social cognition in Pacific Island families. Mele is a former Chair of the Pacific Health Research Council of New Zealand Committee.
Faumuina Professor Faafetai Sopoaga
Faumuina Professor Faafetai (Tai) Sopoaga is the Division of Health Sciences’ Associate Dean (Pacific). Her interests include Pacific health, Pacific workforce development, Pacific students, and Pacific communities.
Dr Kiki Maoate
Christchurch paediatric surgeon Dr Kiki Maoate is the University of Otago, Christchurch’s first Associate Dean, Pacific. Kiki was born in the Cook Islands and educated at the University of Otago and is a Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Surgery at the University of Otago, Christchurch, and an Advisor on Paediatric Surgery, Fiji School of Medicine.
Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu
Commencing work in December 2017 Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu is the new Associate Dean Pacific at the University of Otago Wellington campus. Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu comes to us from Victoria University of Wellington and will also work as an academic scientist based in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine.
Associate Professor Daryl Schwenke
Associate Professor Daryl Schwenke is with the Department of Physiology, Otago School of Medical Sciences. Dr Schwenke's research interests include sympathetic excitation following acture myocardial infarction and regulation of the pulmonary vasculature.
Professor Rex Tauati Ahdar
Professor Rex Tauati Ahdar joined the Faculty of Law in September 1985 as a Lecturer, he is now one of the few Pacific professors in New Zealand. Professor Ahdar's research interests include: Competition Law and Policy, Church-State Relations, Religious Freedom, Contract Law, Sports Law.
Dr Michelle Schaaf
Dr Michelle Schaaf is the Associate Dean Pacific in the Division of Humanities and a Lecturer with Te Tumu, School of Māori, Pacific & Indigenous Studies. In 2011 Michelle became the first staff member at the University of Otago School of Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies to graduate with an Otago doctorate in Pacific studies. Michelle's research interests include Pacific Islands women and education, and the representation of Polynesian female body image with particular reference to sport in New Zealand.
Associate Professor Patrick Vakaoti
Patrick Vakaoti is an Associate Professor of Sociology in the Sociology, Gender Studies and Criminology Programme. Patrick is interested in sociological and community development work with young people. He researches in Fiji and the Pacific region exploring youth issues like street-frequenting and political participation. His other interests include child protection and indigenous community development.
Tofilau Nina Kirifi Alai BA LLB
Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai is the Pacific Community Engagement Manager. The Pacific Community Engagement Manager is based in Auckland and is responsible for building relationships with Pacific communities in the largest Polynesian city in the world. Previously, Tofilau was the Manager of the Pacific Islands Centre. In 2002 Tofilau was appointed as the centre's manager on an 18 month fixed term contract and shifted to Dunedin from Auckland with her family. She planned to move to Samoa when the term was up, but loved the job so much she only left in 2020.
Mr Ziggy Lesa, BPhEd(Otago), Dip Tchg
Mr Ziggy Lesa is the Warden at Cumberland Residential College. Ziggy is from the Auckland region and lives on site with his family. As Warden of Cumberland College, Ziggy has the overall responsibility for all aspects of the College operation.
Ms Christine Anesone BA
Ms Christine Anesone works at the Pacific Islands Centre and is the Pacific Islands Community Liaison Officer. Ms Anesone joined the Pacific Islands Centre in 2008 and has spent much time travelling the country; many Pacific students enrolled at the University of Otago come from Auckland or Wellington.
Mr Kitiona Pasene BPhED
Kitiona completed his Bachelor of Physical Education at the University of Otago, he is a School Liaison Officer and visits schools in Auckland, Northland (Whangarei),Central North Island (Coromandel, Waikato, Bay of Plenty). The University of Otago’s Schools’ Liaison team has an office located in the Auckland Centre which is where Kitiona is based.