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Vic Uni offers NZ's first Pacific Studies major

Victoria University of Wellington has become the first New Zealand university to introduce a full academic major in Pacific Studies in an undergraduate degree.

The programme which has already attracted full course numbers, centres around three papers: PASI 101: The Pacific Heritage; PASI 201: Changing Environments and PASI 301: Framing the Pacific – Theorising Culture and Society. In addition students must take at least one Pacific Language paper and papers in a choice of other topics including; Anthropology; Education; Maori Studies; Pacific Art; Pacific History; Law; Music; Samoan Studies and Women’s Studies.

Teresia Teaiwa, newly appointed Lecturer in Pacific Studies at Victoria University will teach the core papers for the major. She has an educational background in teaching and research from Trinity College in Washington D.C and the University of Hawaii and is currently completing her PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

She comes to Victoria after teaching at the University of the South Pacific. She will also be supported by a number of guest lecturers, both from within and outside the university in the teaching of the Pacific Studies programme.

Ms Teaiwa believes the new major will help build respect for the diversity, fluidity and complexity of the Pacific Islands environment and peoples and allow students to develop and enhance an individual sense of their place within the region.

Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, who has been closely involved in the development of the Pacific Studies major, says the initiative is the outcome of many years of effort and commitment from staff throughout the university, many of whom who have been working in the area for over twenty years.

The idea of a Pacific Studies programme was mooted in the 1920s but a shortage of Pacific Nations academics meant that it was not until relatively recently that Pacific Nations staff themselves have taken control. "The Pacific Studies major is the result of the vision and efforts of these staff backed by the university and by strong community support - this is an event to celebrate past achievements and to welcome new developments", Professor Te Awekotuku says.

Future initiatives include developing exchange programmes with the University of the South Pacific and the University of Hawaii and a graduate programme in Pacific Studies.

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