Thursday 8 April 2021 3:45pm
Tagiilima Feleti welcomed as new Manager of the Pacific Islands Centre.
As a man whose family is the centre of his universe, it is fitting Tagiilima Feleti wants students to see the Pacific Island Centre as a home away from home.
“I hope students see it as an extension of home, as an extension of the vā (sacred space). When they come here I want them to know they will be cared for and looked after, they will find kai and they can come and speak their language and just be Pacific,” the new Centre Manager says.
Mr Feleti was officially welcomed to Otago at a heart-warming and emotional event last week.
“I feel very excited, honoured and humbled to be here. My success here is the success of the community – everyone has the responsibility of raising achievements and success of Pacific students,” he says.
Mr Feleti’s career in education has included work as a teacher, a lecturer, and, most recently, a Review Officer at the Education Review Office.
While he enjoyed working for ERO, the time away from his wife and four children became too much to bear.
“Family has always been what’s really important for me – it’s important to be home for them. This role provides the perfect opportunity to be there for my family, but also remain within the education, particularly Pacific education, space,” he says.
“We feel very blessed that he has chosen to continue the wonderful work that has gone on before and currently, for our University of Otago, to be the best University in the support of Pacific students and developments more generally.”
Director Pacific Development Dr Tasileta Teevale is delighted to have secured Tagiilima into such a significant leadership role.
“His vast professional experience in Pacific education, in teaching practice, educational policy development and more recently, in the area of education review and evaluation, were skill sets that stood out as the correct fit for the role of Manager Pacific Island Centre.
“Alongside these attributes, we saw evidence of his Pacific leadership that is about being accessible to students, their parents, our staff and our communities. We have received nothing but an overwhelming sense of support from our Pacific communities from across Aotearoa on his appointment.
“We feel very blessed that he has chosen to continue the wonderful work that has gone on before and currently, for our University of Otago, to be the best University in the support of Pacific students and developments more generally,” she says.
Director Student and Academic Services Karyn Thomson says he is joining a dedicated, committed and hardworking team at the Centre.
“Tagiilima’s obvious passion and commitment to Pacific Islands students and understanding of the issues and challenges they face is clear. He is committed to doing all he can to contribute to their experiences and their success here at Otago.”
As Pacific student numbers continue to grow at Otago (there are currently more than 1200 Pacific students enrolled, a 12.7 per cent increase on last year), Mr Feleti wants the Pacific Island Centre to get back to its roots – providing academic, pastoral, social and spiritual guidance for all Pacific students.
He is looking forward to building relationships with his colleagues, including complementing the work Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai is now doing in Auckland, as well as with the various Pacific Islands student associations on campus, and working more closely with the Māori Centre Te Huka Mātauraka.
Mr Feleti believes in the strength of face-to-face interactions and encourages all students and staff to reach out to him and have a chat.
“I like to talk!”