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Victoria graduand a top talent

12 December 2012

Victoria graduand a top talent

A quick glance at the academic achievements of one of Victoria University’s latest graduands and you might suppose you’re dealing with a natural intellectual.

Arama Rata, graduating today with a PhD in Psychology, has picked up numerous awards throughout her university career and has an outstanding academic transcript.

However, her primary and secondary school results wouldn’t give any clues into the success Arama would achieve at university.

“I was home-schooled when I was young, so when I eventually started primary school I used to get teased for being stupid because I couldn’t read,” says Arama.

Although Arama caught up with her primary school peers relatively quickly, secondary school was still a challenge.

“I was always getting into trouble for not having the right uniform and for not sitting up straight, and I never really engaged with the subjects I was supposed to be learning about.”

However when she enrolled at Victoria, Arama found that she enjoyed the freedom and independence of a university education. She quickly developed a passion for her courses in psychology and found herself achieving good results, which prompted her to adopt a new approach to education.

“A big shift occurred for me half-way through one of my first-year psychology courses, when my Kaupapa Māori tutor, Dave Gittings, told me I was coming top of the class. From that point on, I wanted to do well to make my tutor and my classmates proud.”

Arama went on to receive the Hunter Memorial Prize for the top first-year psychology student, and the Sir Thomas Hunter Prize for the top Honours student in psychology, giving her the confidence to take on postgraduate studies.

Arama’s PhD research, supervised by Professor James Liu, looks at the links between Māori culture, identity, and mental wellbeing in secondary schools. Her findings show that the more schools promote Māori culture, the more secure the Māori identity of students will be, which then enhances their mental wellbeing.

Arama credits her achievements at Victoria University to the passionate and encouraging staff at the School of Psychology, and the support she gained through the Āwhina whānau, Toihuarewa, Te Kawa a Māui and Te Tumu Herenga Waka.


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