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Leading law professor blazes the trail

Leading law professor blazes the trail for New Zealand’s future Māori lawyers

Professor Jacinta Ruru (Raukawa, Ngāti Ranginui, Pākehā) from the University of Otago’s Faculty of Law, received New Zealand’s highest accolade for tertiary teaching at parliament tonight.

Presented by Rt Hon John Key, the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award acknowledges Jacinta’s sustained excellence in tertiary teaching to create a place for Māori to stand and be heard within New Zealand’s legal system.

As the first Professor of Law of Māori descent in New Zealand and the only Māori Law Faculty staff member at Otago University since 1999, Jacinta is designing a new experience for students learning law. Her strategy brings greater focus to Māori experiences of the law, Māori relationships with land and Māori challenges for change in the classroom.

She recognises that education is key to achieving positive transformational change and works tirelessly to establish a safe place for Māori students to learn and succeed. Her ultimate aim is to increase Māori involvement in law at a higher level.

In addition to being founder and director of an annual year-long programme for Otago’s Māori law students: Te haka; Building Māori Leaders in Law, supervising PhD students and undertaking the role of Kaiāwhina Māori in the Law Faculty (primary support person for Māori law students), Jacinta’s accomplishments include:
• Two Fulbright Scholarships
• 90 publications promoting research-informed teaching used as teaching material in law schools around New Zealand
• Established the Māori Law Moot Competition at Otago
• Co-designed a new multidisciplinary Māori programme focused on providing solutions to transform Māori learning
• Founded and co-chairs Te Poutama Māori (Otago’s Māori Academic Staff Caucus) to encourage Māori research, teaching and service excellence
• Co-director of Nga Pae o te Māramatanga, New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence

She is described by colleagues as “incredibly generous in sharing her teaching experiences and expertise”. A former student comments, “In succeeding at the highest level and carving out a unique niche in her field, she gives others the confidence to do the same.”

The Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards celebrates New Zealand’s finest tertiary teachers - as recognised by their organisations, colleagues, learners and broader communities. The parliamentary dinner was jointly hosted by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Hon Steven Joyce, and Dr Jian Yang, Chairperson of the Education and Science Committee. Ako Aotearoa – The National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, administers the awards. The Centre aims to recognise and celebrate excellence in tertiary teaching and share good practice that has proven benefit for learners.

Ako Aotearoa’s Director, Dr Peter Coolbear says, “It’s a great pleasure and privilege to host these awards. Each year this gives us an opportunity to celebrate tertiary teachers and teaching that is truly student-focused and absolutely world class.”

A total of twelve awards were presented tonight for sustained excellence in tertiary teaching. Two were presented under the Kaupapa Māori category (including Jacinta) and a further nine in the General category. All Sustained Excellence winners receive $20,000 and the Supreme Award winner receives an additional $10,000.

The other awards were presented to:

Dr Judith Bateup
Senior Teaching Fellow, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago

Dr Margaret Brunton
Associate Professor, School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, Massey University

Associate Professor Martin East
Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Auckland

Dr Megan Gibbons
Head of School, Institute of Sport and Adventure, Otago Polytechnic

Associate Professor Tracey McIntosh Kaupapa Māori category
Faculty of Arts, The University of Auckland

Dr Azra Moeed
Senior Lecturer, School of Education, Victoria University of Wellington

Richard Nyhof
Principal Lecturer, School of Engineering, Otago Polytechnic

James Oldfield
Senior Lecturer, Learning Capability Developer, Unitec Institute of Technology

Professor Jacinta Ruru Kaupapa Māori category
Faculty of Law, The University of Otago

Matthew Thompson
Senior Lecturer, Architecture, Building and Engineering, Otago Polytechnic

Professor Darryl Tong
Department of Oral Diagnostics and Surgical Sciences, The University of Otago

Dr Rachel Zajac
Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, The University of Otago


Read more about the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards and 2016 winners.

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