Inaugural Pasika Pathways graduation

In November, the Wellington Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences celebrated the first graduation of the Diploma in University Studies (Pasifika Pathways). The ceremony was held in the Hunter Council Chamber with family and friends of the graduates, and staff from Va’aomanū Pasifika and the School of Languages and Cultures in attendance.

Graduates Siegfied Jahnke, Brandon Vaa, Hana Ah-Hi, Lotomau Koro, Savesi Apolo, and Samu Telefoni with family, friends, and staff.
Graduates Siegfied Jahnke, Brandon Vaa, Hana Ah-Hi, Lotomau Koro, Savesi Apolo, and Samu Telefoni with family, friends, and staff.
Twelve students have now completed the programme and programme coordinator Dr Helena Cook is immensely proud of her class’ achievements even with the COVID-19 disruptions.

“It was extremely challenging, but the students achieved amazing results under the circumstances,” says Dr Cook, reflecting on the unpredictable year and the increased amount of online delivery.

“Despite this, we created a family of scholars; the students became active members of the university community and achieved wonderful grades.”

Pathways graduate Samu is thankful for the lecturers and tutors who supported the student through a “cyclone of a year”. “In a year of uncertainty and unexpected circumstances, Dr Cook was our constant and consistent source of support. I couldn't think of anyone more fitting and suitable that could hold this space for our people,” he says.

“Like many in my cohort, I am the first in my family to pursue a higher education at University but I hope I'm not the last.”

Pasifika students in academic dress (robe and sash) stand in front of a red brick wall with stained glass windows

The ceremony highlighted the closeness of the class and the pride of the staff and families of the graduates. Many of the graduates were presented with ula lole (lolly leis), balloons, and flowers, and posed for numerous group photos, including one of the graduates, staff, and their family and friends. Graduate speaker Samu Telefoni gave his speech in Tongan.

The Diploma is designed to build students’ foundation skills so they can continue into bachelor degree study. It is taught in a community-based space with a Pasifika perspective.

“Whatever your skills and abilities, you're guided and supported to make decisions that best suit you and what you want to get out of University while you're here,” says Samu.

“Furthermore, the programme provides a space that caters specifically to us as Pasifika people, from the design of the courses to the lecturers that facilitate them, right down to the texts and syllabus that we are introduced to, the programme helps to centre our identities and our experience so that we can achieve and strive for better.”