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Country’s first Associate Dean, Pasifika

Media release
04 November 2008

University of Auckland appoints country’s first Associate Dean, Pasifika

The University of Auckland has appointed New Zealand’s first Associate Dean, Pasifika to the Faculty of Education. Dr Meaola Amituanai-Toloa has taken up the role.

Although other tertiary institutions, including The University of Auckland, have appointed Associate Deans to focus on Māori and equity issues, an equivalent position dedicated to the academic support and achievements of Pacific Island students has not previously existed. Dr Amituanai-Toloa will support Pacific students studying within the Faculty of Education.

The appointment is an integral part of the University’s dedication to improving educational outcomes and opportunities for Pacific peoples. It also reflects the leadership role played by the Faculty of Education (and the former Auckland College of Education), which boasts the first Pasifika Early Childhood Education programme at diploma and degree level; the first graduate studies programme and qualification in Pacific languages education and in Pacific bilingual education; and the first Pacific-focussed services for academic achievement. The Faculty also has the largest team of Pacific education academics in New Zealand.

Dr Amituanai-Toloa says she sees her role as a bridge that connects the myriad of Schools in the Faculty of Education, all of which aim to help future teachers raise student achievement.

Dr Amituanai-Toloa believes that given the growing diversity of the school population in New Zealand, it is increasingly important to research the best ways to teach students from different ethnic backgrounds – especially Pacific students.

“The Pacific Island population is increasing in New Zealand. Our greatest challenge is to think about teaching in innovative ways to enable these students of today to realise their full potential and participate fully in our country’s future. It is a huge undertaking, and in the establishment of this role The University of Auckland has shown it is committed to the challenge,” says Dr Amituanai-Toloa.

“This appointment is one more signal that Pacific education and Pacific peoples are welcome at the Faculty of Education, and that the advancement of Pacific education outcomes is a cornerstone of the research and teaching of this Faculty,” says Faculty of Education Dean, Dr Graeme Aitken. “We currently have more than 750 Pacific education students currently working towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. We look forward to seeing more Pacific peoples in our Faculty and taking up the challenge of being leaders in education, social work, human services and in all spheres of life,” he says.

Dr Amituanai-Toloa is Associate Director of the Woolf Fisher Research Centre and a Lecturer in the School of Arts, Languages and Literacies at the Faculty of Education. Her PhD and research interests are centred on literacy and achievement for Samoan primary school children in bilingual and mainstream education.

Born and educated in Samoa, Meaola Amituanai-Toloa had a career in business and financial analysis before becoming a primary teacher and education researcher. As a dedicated postgraduate student, she completed her masters degree in 18 months and her PhD in just two years while working part-time as an education researcher.

Find out more about the Faculty of Education’s Pacific programmes and degrees on our website at


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