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

Pacific Staff Profiles

Meet some of our Pacific academic and professional staff here at the University of Otago

Division of Sciences

Dr Mele Taumoepeau_v2Dr Mele Taumoepeau

Dr Mele Taumoepeau is Asscociate Dean (Pacific) for the Division of Sciences and 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.

Read more about Dr Mele Taumoepeau's research

^ Top of Page

Division of Health Sciences

Faumuina Associate Professor Faafetai SopoagaFaumuina Associate Professor Faafetai Sopoaga

Faumuina Associate 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.

Read more about Faumuina Associate Professor Faafetai Sopoaga and the HRC Career Development Awards


Kiki Maoate Bio 1Dr 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.

Read why Dr Kiki Maoate's role as Associate Dean, Pacific was established

Dr Rose Richards HessellDr Rose Richards Hessell

Not only is Dr Rose Richards Hessell the Associate Dean Pacific for the Dunedin School of Medicine she is also a Co-Director with Cancer Society Social and Behavioural Research Unit (Department of Preventive & Social Medicine) and a Senior Research Fellow with the Dunedin School of Medicine.

Read more about Rose and her major goals in both her roles

Dianee Paotonu Welcome Evening Event BioDr 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.

Dianne welcomes you to Pacific at University of Otago, Wellington

Daryl_SchwenkeAssociate 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.

Read more about the Schwenke Lab

Dr Ramona Tiatia porirua bioDr Ramona Tiatia

Dr Ramona Tiatia is a Research Fellow with the Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington. Ramona completed her PhD entitled ‘Family-centred healing at home: A Samoan epistemology of Samoan families’ experiences of home dialysis and home detention in Aotearoa/New Zealand’ in April 2014. In 2015 Dr Ramona Tiatia was awarded an HRC Pacific Health Postdoctoral Fellowship and her research focus is APPS for houses and households A4HH.  On 1st December 2017, Dr Ramona Tiatia from the UOW was elected as the incoming chair for the Pacific Academic Staff Caucus (PASC), previously held by Professor Rex Tauati Ahdar.  PASC's purpose is to support Pacific academic staff at the University of Otago.

Read why Public Health felt like a natural fit for Dr Ramona Tiatia

^ Top of Page

Division of Humanities 

Rex Ahdar 2_bio 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.  (Currently on sabbatical until December 2018).

See a selection of Professor Rex Tauati Ahdar's online publications

Michelle Schaaf bioDr Michelle Schaaf

Dr Michelle Schaaf is 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.

Read more on Dr Michelle Schaaf's profile page

Patrick Vakaoti BioDr Patrick Vakaoti

Dr Patrick Vakaoti is the Associate Dean Pacific in the Division of Humanities and a Senior Lecturer in Social Work with the Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work.  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.

Visit Dr Patrick Vakaoti's profile page

^ Top of Page

Professional Staff

Nina Kirifi-Alai_thumbnailTofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai Ba, LLB

Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai is the Manager of the Pacific Islands Centre. In 2002 Nina Kirifi-Alai was appointed as the centre’s manager on an 18-month fixed 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 and remains in it 13 years later!

A warm Pacific welcome from the Pacific Islands Centre

ziggy Lesa bio 2Mr 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.

Have you met Ziggy Lesa?

Christine Anesone_thumbnailMs 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.

A warm Pacific welcome from the Pacific Islands Centre

kitiona Pasene bioMr 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.

For more information about University of Otago Schools’ Liaison team.

^ Top of Page


Victor Rodgers 2016 Burns FellowMr Victor Rodger

“I was on the outskirts of Paris when I woke up in the middle of the night and discovered I'd been awarded the 2016 Burns Fellowship….. I am proud to be the first writer of Samoan descent to be part of the illustrious list of awardees. And I’m excited at the thought of working on two new works which are both real departures for me as a writer.”

Visit Victor Rodger's Website and Read more about the 2016 Robert Burns Fellowship