Realising a dream for higher education

Press Release – Victoria University of Wellington

Sione Paea from Tonga will be graduating with a PhD in Mathematics from Victoria University on Tuesday, with his wife and four children proudly looking on.12 December 2011

Realising a dream for higher education

Sione Paea from Tonga will be graduating with a PhD in Mathematics from Victoria University on Tuesday, with his wife and four children proudly looking on.

The thirst for higher education runs in the family—his wife Mele Katea is currently studying towards a PhD in Management and hopes to finish in two years’ time. Mr Paea also says he will encourage his children, currently aged between 6 and 13, to go on to higher education after they finish high school.

“Education is essential if you want to have a good life, unless you’re really good at sport,” he says.

“I really hope that Pacific people will look at what my wife and I have achieved and realise that if we can do it, they can too.”

Mr Paea is hoping to receive funding to pursue postdoctoral study next year, with the goal of eventually becoming a lecturer in mathematics. “I really love mathematics,” he says. “From an early age I hated reading, but when I discovered numbers everything suddenly made sense.

“English is my second language and I was really grateful to my lecturers at Victoria when I first started studying at the University—sometimes I would have to ask them to repeat their lesson more slowly after the class and they were always patient and willing to help.

“I’m also extremely grateful to Liz Richardson, the Deputy Dean (Equity) of the Faculties of Science, Engineering, and Architecture and Design; and Āwhina, the University’s support network for Māori and Pacific science students, which has mentors in higher study, and which helped me out when I needed assistance.”

Now an Āwhina mentor himself, Mr Paea takes great pleasure from helping out new students.

“It feels really good to give something back,” he says.

Background information
While the numbers of Pasifika people in New Zealand studying at Bachelor level or above have increased in the last five years, they are still under-represented in higher level study. Completion rates for Pasifika students are also lower than for any other ethnic group.

Under the guidance of Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Luamanuvao Hon Winnie Laban, Victoria University has a strategy in place to increase recruitment, retention and completion rates of Pasifika students, as well as to encourage them to continue studying beyond Bachelor level.

ENDS

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