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Shannon Tumataroa

As a first year keen to get through University and into the corporate world earning big money as soon as possible, Shannon began her University journey studying toward a double degree in Finance and Law. She didn’t make the required grade to get through first year law so decided to fill in her Finance degree with a few Psychology papers.


“From there, something just clicked. The way psychology challenges norms, questions facts and theorises new ways of doing things really excited me. Fast forward four years and I’ve finished a double degree in Finance and Psychology and am half way through a PhD combining the two subjects.”


Shannon was always really keen on applying psychology to finance and economics. In 200- and 300-level she would always put an economic spin on reports and essays, applying psychological theories to increase business efficiency and productivity.


“When I discovered PSYC326 (Cognitive Engineering) with Associate Professor David O’Hare I couldn’t believe there was a whole field dedicated to efficiency and coming up with applied ways to do doing things, well -better.”


So, Shannon undertook a 300-level honours research project with David into financial decision-making that flowed on to a 400-level honours project then a one year Masters.


“It only took a few months for the Masters project to develop into the makings of a PhD. A PhD is a big commitment, especially when your friends are finishing University, getting jobs, travelling and moving overseas. I don’t think work, study, travel and other life pursuits have to be mutually exclusive though. I enrolled in a PhD under the supervision of Associate Professor David O’Hare, and with his support I am now living, working, volunteering and studying in Auckland.”


Auckland is a melting pot for diversity and the extremes of wealth and poverty in New Zealand and having access to this kind of diversity has really benefited Shannon’s research. Her research looks at how income level affects the way we make decisions, particularly consumer choice decisions. She works with regular, everyday New Zealanders which takes her right into the community and allows her to meet some really interesting people.


“I was lucky enough to receive a University of Otago Maori PhD scholarship which helped to finance my study. Even with this though I’ve always been a firm believer that part-time employment is a crucial way to develop as a person and bring new ideas to your research. I found that working as a research assistant was an excellent way to develop my research skills, network and see what kind of research is happening in other laboratories and organisations. I’ve worked on an array of projects from child development, aging, decision-making and mental illness to helping evaluate teaching materials.”


Shannon’s overall ambition is to combine her passion for economic efficiency and applied psychology by working for the United Nations in social and economic development. This is a competitive route as they look for individuals who have achieved not only a high level of academic success, but who have demonstrated an outstanding level of community leadership and have developed a broad range of skills and experiences.


“By looking beyond a purely academic environment and placing an equal importance on working, volunteering and traveling, I’m hoping to extend myself to become the kind of well-rounded person that could really make a difference in such a large, diverse organisation.”