An interdisciplinary Pacific postgraduate research and knowledge hub

This project’s resources were originally developed for students of Pacific Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Pacific Health students in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland. The project was implemented by Jemaima Tiatia-Seath from the School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies  at the University of Auckland.

These resources might be useful to Pacific postgraduate students, teachers of Pacific ways of knowing and those wishing to facilitate academic collegiality.

The project was supported by the SEED Fund grants for 2017.

For similar projects, see: Writing for Psychology.

Project background

As stated in the poster above, Jemaima Tiatia-Seath explains: “Vaka is an interdisciplinary Pacific postgraduate research and knowledge hub and includes Pacific postgraduates at each stage: Honours, PG Diploma, Masters, Doctoral, and Postdoctoral. Vaka membership grew from 25 to 37 students in 2017. Its primary objective is to develop and nurture a critical mass of Pacific postgraduate students and staff, and actively seek ways of enhancing student learning by exploring new horizons and shaping student excellence. Part of Vaka’s success is that it observes and promotes Pacific diversity, epistemologies and pedagogies. It cultivates Pacific student-academic-community connectivity, reciprocity, and collaboration, much akin to a collective impact model. The involvement of Pacific staff, and networking with community leaders and funders enables students to aspire to, and bear witness to the ‘fruits of academic success’ from people who have in fact, walked in their shoes.”

Project objectives:

• To have a minimum of four student grant applications submitted to the 2017 rounds of the Health Research Council’s Career Development Awards, Faculty Summer Research Scholarships and internal PBRF proposals for research expenses for Masters and PhD projects
• To support students to write applications for competitive external grants, to write blogs and to prepare journal articles.
• To facilitate cross-faculty student-staff co-authorship for papers and the creation of new research collaborations.
• To expand students’ Pacific academic and community networks.

Vaka 2017 Activities:

• Meet and greet with students and academic staff
• Writing workshop that detailed the journal article submission process and thesis writing structures, facilitated by CLeaR
• HRC Career Development Award application writing workshop facilitated by HRC’s Pacific Research Manager
• Regular email and FB page updates for members around scholarships, research, postgraduate tips, and employment opportunities.
• Supervisors’ input: Sourcing funding streams for students to present at national and international conferences and ongoing mentoring and development of young emerging Pacific researchers.
• A three-day writing retreat at Vaughan Park, Long Bay, which allowed students to complete journal articles, grant applications, book chapters and theses chapters
• The role of the Vaka coordinator has been effective. Further leadership opportunities have derived for the coordinator as a result of Vaka duties. For instance, academic course-coordination at Pacific Studies.

You can read Jemaima’s reflections on this initiative below.

Project reflection

What worked:

The expansion of students’ Pacific academic and community networks has been a success. Connecting our students with supervisors, like-minded peers, writing experts, and potential funders contributed hugely to the impact on Vaka students’ success in securing funding, submitting their theses on time and developing academic and research career pathways.

Did students learn?

Most students found the Health Research Council of NZ grant writing workshop, writing retreat, networking opportunities and regular email notifications extremely helpful for their learning. The following outcomes demonstrate these findings:

What were the outputs of this project?

  • Four Vaka members published journal articles and/or book chapters this year.
  • One member presented at the Royal Australian and College of NZ Psychiatrists Conference and claimed first prize for their poster presentation.
  • Two members secured UOA internal funds of just over $50k
  • Six members were awarded 2017 HRC Pacific Career Development Scholarships (2x PhD, 2x Masters, 2x summer scholarships).
  • Ten members successfully submitted their dissertation or thesis this year

Student feedback:

“A great resource [Vaka programme] looking forward to utilising it more next year.”
“Looking forward to another Vaka writing retreat.”
“The Vaka staff are very helpful and kind. They provided a flexible structure and clear guidance. Thank you very much Vaka!!”

How did this project contribute to staff learning?

This project highlighted the importance of facilitating academic and professional relationships among new postgraduate Pacific students, and the positive effects that these relationships and networks can have on students’ immediate studies and also students’ access to future academic opportunities. Networking with other projects around the university and sharing writing strategies and ideas was also a valuable learning experience.

What’s next?

We plan to continue this initiative in 2018. Our focus will be on continuing to build Pacific postgraduate students’ academic writing and grant-writing capabilities and to increase focus on Pacific research and methodologies. Continuing to expand students’ academic, professional, and community networks will also be a priority for Vaka in 2018.

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