As the Director of the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU), Faumuina Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga's role is to recruit, retain, and ensure a high completion rate for Pacific students in the Division. The support services provided for Pacific students is guided through evidence from the close monitoring and evaluation of all support services. She is responsible for monitoring the Divisional response to the Pacific Strategic Framework goals, provides guidance for engagement with Pacific communities and led developments which resulted in the establishment of the Otago Pacific Academic Caucus.
Faumuina is the high chief title from Fagaloa, Samoa. She trained as a medical doctor with expertise in public health and general practice. She is leading development in the Pacific Health curriculum in Health Sciences, through the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, and has wide connections and networks with the Pacific community in New Zealand and the Pacific region. Her research interests are in health workforce capacity building, transitioning students to higher education and Pacific health curriculum. She is currently undertaking doctoral studies on The health and wellbeing of Pacific students in Higher Education.
Fran commenced in her role in January 2017. Her role is to support the Director, Va'a o Tautai - Centre for Pacific Health in the provision of operational oversight of the business management of the Va'a o Tautai - Centre for Pacific Health and the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU).
Prior to her current position, Fran was the Department Manager in the Department of Women's and Children's Health, Dunedin School of Medicine, where she worked for 15 years.
Michael works in the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU), and the Va'a o Tautai - Centre for Pacific Health, as an Instructional Designer providing leadership and support for eLearning and other visual resource developments in the teaching programmes. Michael completed a Bachelor of Design (Communication) at Otago Polytechnic and worked as a Teaching and Research Assistant at the Otago Polytechnic School of Design prior to joining Va'a o Tautai in 2017.
Iacinta commenced her role within the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit in January 2019. She supports all programmes and monitors the progress of Pacific students within the Division of Health Sciences. Iacinta completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Otago. Prior to her current position she worked as an Assistant Language Teacher in Okinawa, Japan, as part of the JET Programme.
As Programme Co-ordinator for the POPO Foundation Programme (PFP), Kala looks after the PFP Scholarship recipients and is based in the University of Otago Language Centre and Foundation Year. The PFP programme began in 2012. As well as providing financial support, this programme provides PFP students with academic and mentoring support which Kala co-ordinates. As a part of this role, Kala is available to provide support to all Pacific students studying at Foundation Year, as well as Pacific students studying Health Sciences First Year.
Kala completed a Master of Business Administration in 2017 at the University of Otago. Kala joined the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit in November 2017.
Garrett began his voyage at Va`a o Tautai in the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU) in March 2021. His role of Programme Co-ordinator (Academic) co-ordinates the academic programmes and monitors the progress of Pacific students within the Division of Health Sciences. He has completed a Bachelor of Science in Psychology at the University of Manoa in Oahu, Hawaii. Garrett had previously been teaching English to Kindergarteners in Tokyo, Japan.
Grettel began her journey at Va’a o Tautai in February 2018 as the Academic Administrator in the Centre for Pacific Health. In September 2020, she transferred to the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU), as Programme Co-ordinator (Mentoring). Her role is to co-ordinate the POPO mentoring and outreach programmes, and provide support for our Pacific students within the Division of Health Sciences.
Grettel completed her Bachelor of Science and PGDip in Public Health at the University of Otago, and is currently completing her Masters of Public Health.
Keenan is the newly-appointed Internship Programme Co-ordinator with the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit. His role is to coordinate the internship programme and provide support for our Pacific students within the Division of Health Sciences.
A graduate of the University of Auckland, Keenan holds a Bachelor of Commerce (majoring in Accounting), and is currently working towards gaining his Chartered Accountancy qualification. Prior to joining PIRSSU, Keenan worked in a chartered accounting firm for over two years.
Barbara provides administrative and financial support to Faumuina and the rest of the team at the PIRSSU.
Prior to her current position, Barbara was an administrator at Education Support Services at the College of Education for 12 years before becoming a Campus Temp, where she enjoyed several temporary administrative roles around the University.
We also work with a wide network of support staff throughout the Division of Health Sciences.
Our activities are guided by Pacific advisory groups and networks.