Tuesday 10 March 2020 5:13pm
Pacific Liaison Officer Jack Scanlan on the Dunedin campus during orientation. Photo: Sharron Bennett.
Otago’s commitment to supporting Pacific youth into tertiary education now has a new face: Jack Scanlan – the University’s first dedicated Pacific Liaison Officer.
Mr Scanlan began in January. He’s based in the University’s Auckland office and covers schools in Auckland, predominantly South Auckland, as well as Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa.
He holds a Master’s degree in Social Work, and has spent most of his working life supporting Pacific youth offenders and their families in various roles with the New Zealand Police including as a youth development manager.
In some ways this Otago role is a full turn of the tables, in others it’s a continuation of that dedicated work.
"I have spent most of my working life with Pacific youth offenders and now I get to work with Pacific high achievers."
“What I love about this role is that I have the opportunity to support Pacific young people and their families. I have spent most of my working life with Pacific youth offenders and now I get to work with Pacific high achievers. Both have chosen two distinct paths that have led down different paths. But I also believe that people can change and having a good education is a big part of change. I see the University of Otago as being part of this proactive change.”
Indeed, his own background will likely sound familiar to many of the students he is supporting.
Mr Scanlan, a New Zealand-born Samoan from Mangere, South Auckland, was the first in his family to attend university. His late parents were from the villages of Faleula and Vaiusu/Vaigaga.
“My parents did not complete intermediate and being the youngest of 6, I was the first to complete high school. I was educated at schools in Mangere.
“Education is important to me as it honours my parents’ journey from Samoa and the sacrifices they made for me to get a better education.”
Mr Scanlan’s wife Nicky is of Ngāti Tūwharetoa descent, and the pair have three children.
Alongside his Otago role, he is also a Social Work doctoral candidate, and was recently a contributing author to the first Pacific Social Work textbook.
“Tertiary education is important to me and most recently I have been a social work lecturer teaching at a number of tertiary institutions throughout Tāmaki Makaurau.
“Choosing a university is often a young person’s first major life decision so it’s important they make an informed choice and are provided with support and all the information they need. Coming to Otago for me is about supporting Pacific youth aspirations. To reach their life goals and to be pioneers in whatever field they choose.”
"... having a dedicated Pacific Liaison Officer position means having someone on our team who can provide valuable insight and guidance in regards to specific aspects of Pacific culture and student and family needs."
The University’s Head of Schools’ Liaison, Rhonda Brodie, says her team is thrilled to welcome Mr Scanlan into this newly created position.
“Jack comes with a wealth of skills from a long career working with young people and their families.
“He has lived in South Auckland his whole life, so really understands where our Pacific students come from and what it means to them and their families to leave home for the first time. Jack has a genuine love for education and recognises the importance of Pacific students being encouraged to graduate from Otago and give back to NZ communities in their chosen profession or field.”
Mrs Brodie says the creation of this position underscores Otago’s commitment to engaging Pacific youth throughout New Zealand and encouraging them into tertiary education.
“A Pacific student can often be the first in their family to attend university and the majority live in Auckland – so the idea of leaving home and coming to university in the South Island can be quite daunting.
“All Liaison Officers assume the role of walking alongside these students and their families as they make the transition to Otago, but having a dedicated Pacific Liaison Officer position means having someone on our team who can provide valuable insight and guidance in regards to specific aspects of Pacific culture and student and family needs.”
Once Pacific students reach Otago, there is a great deal of support for them, including academic and professional staff working within the divisions, and the Pacific Island Centre.