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

Tongan student realises dream to enter Clinical Psychology programme

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Jordan Quensell image
Tongan postgraduate student Jordan Quensell.

Tongan postgraduate student Jordan Quensell is celebrating reaching his ambitious goal of entry into the competitive postgraduate Clinical Psychology programme which starts shortly for the year.

Achieving entry into programme was what Jordan had “dreamed about for the last five years” but remarks it’s also a relief following his first unsuccessful attempt the previous year.

The highly competitive programme is limited to ten students annually so following his first application, he decided to extend his undergraduate degree in psychology with an honours year.

“Studying and undertaking research in that fourth year was a great choice as it was a really enjoyable experience learning alongside a smaller cohort of students,” Jordan says.

Born and raised in Auckland, last year Jordan was awarded a Brain Research New Zealand Pacific Summer Research Scholarship to extend Associate Professor Liana Machado’s stair climbing research to older adults.

The research explored the role of exercise for supporting and enabling healthy cognitive function, considered to be particularly beneficial for elderly as cognitive function declines.

“Prolonging cognitive abilities is really important for this cohort of the population, and by working with them I discovered how neglected they are.”

“It has always been a goal of mine to serve my Pasifika community so I’m incredibly grateful to be in a position where I can use my training to help the many Pacific Islanders achieve their goals and overcome mental illness.”

Jordan is grateful to Associate Professor Machado for introducing him to this research area and for helping him to obtain the summer scholarship.

“One of the greatest things about Otago is that everyone is very connected and supports each other. Studying here is way more than just turning up to class and is one of the main reasons I want to stay to do my PhD here.”

Jordan has made the most of opportunities such as tutoring psychology students at the Pacific Island Centre, as well as volunteering at Otago’s sexual violence and support centre Te Whare Tāwharau. Last year he also started work at local provider Community Care Trust.

Director of the Clinical Psychology programme, Associate Professor Dione Healey, says the success of students like Jordan reflects the programme’s strong focus on diversity and developing cultural competency.

“We have a huge number of applications annually, so it was fantastic to involve the Division of Sciences Associate Deans for Māori and Pacific in the assessment process this year.”

“This ensures the admission process is culturally robust, which means students like Jordan really deserve to be here, and we are so fortunate to have them.”

Associate Professor Healey also says the programme is grateful to the Department of Psychology for funding all clinical programme staff and students to participate in Professor Suzanne Pitama’s cultural Meihana Model training. A specific Pacific Strategy for the clinical programme is currently in the process of development as well.

As part of his PhD thesis, and expanding on the research already completed, Mr Quensell plans to work with the elderly in Tonga.

“Tonga is resource poor, and stair climbing is free and accessible which means you don’t need to buy expensive equipment such as exercycles.”

In the long-term, Jordan’s aim is to support the reform of Tonga’s mental health system with a scientific evidence-based approach.

“It has always been a goal of mine to serve my Pasifika community so I’m incredibly grateful to be in a position where I can use my training to help the many Pacific Islanders achieve their goals and overcome mental illness.”

Kōrero by Guy Frederick, Sciences Communications Adviser