Junior Ulu

Junior Ulu graduated with a Master's degree in Development Studies with Distinction. He is now doing his PhD in Development Studies.

Junior Ulu
Junior Ulu

Junior Ulu graduated from Victoria University of Wellington in May 2013 with a Masters of Development Studies with Distinction. He has worked for Volunteer Services Abroad (VSA) for the past 10 years and has recently been promoted to the role of International Programme Manager. He is the first Pacific person in this role and manages a team of staff based both in Wellington and the wider Pacific.

Influences in education

My mother played a huge part in our education. I struggled through school and can be considered as a ‘late bloomer’. Mum knew that I found school challenging but persisted in making me work hard so I would make it to University. I appreciate tertiary studies isn’t for everyone but it certainly has provided me with opportunities that I wouldn’t have had without a university qualification. Mum was at every parent evening, read between the lines for every report card and disciplined accordingly based on the severity of the report (my reports were always severe). You don’t want to get in the way of a Samoan woman and her jandal!

Getting through the challenges

I knew I needed to gain a postgraduate qualification if I wanted to move to senior positions in the development sector. I chose to study at Victoria University of Wellington for two main reasons - I knew I was a better learner having face-to-face contact with lecturers rather than through distance education providers and I also had heard a lot of positive feedback about the Development Studies department at Victoria University of Wellington. It has been challenging working full-time with a young family, evening classes and writing a thesis. What drove me was my family and my faith - I was determined to get through even though at times I wanted to give up due to the immense pressures. I had support networks to help me at home, work and university.

Career - the path to today

Following my undergraduate degree and diploma I taught for six years in Auckland as a secondary school teacher. I entered the development sector in 2002, as a development officer with the New Zealand High Commission in Samoa. I returned to studies four years ago and completed my MA in Development Studies in May 2013, and an opportunity became available for the International Programme Manager at VSA. I decided to apply for the position and was successful.

Current job

The new role is a huge step up for me. It’s my first real position in a senior management role and although it is challenging I am finding my way and developing the programme into something that meets the needs of the local communities we work alongside every day.