Faculty for Academic Studentship: Humanities (Education)
Role: Pastoral Support
Ethnic Origin: Tongan
Having taught for 18 years as a secondary teacher in Tonga, Makelesi Latu brings a wealth of experience to her Pasifika Academic Studentship role within the Faculty of Education at AUT.
Describing her role as assisting and supporting students in their studies and encouraging them to finish their qualification, Latu says that she is kept busy providing support and mentoring to undergraduate Education students of Maori or Pasifika ethnic origin.
“In the School of Education, the staff and lecturers know what I’m doing, and if there is a student who has difficulty with their studies, they will refer them to me. I have heaps of work to do because they do use me – that’s what I want and what I am there for!”
Latu says that her role is important to the success of some Pasifika students who may feel ill at ease approaching their lecturer outside of class.
“I’ve found that students find it easier to come to me than to approach their lecturers, and at times I do the contact between them, liaising between the student and lecturer”
While not all Maori and Pasifika students require her help, Latu says that the ones that do benefit from her cultural background – especially her ability to speak the Tongan language. Describing the Tongan students she mentors, Latu says that language is key for providing the best possible level of support.
“Language is very important, because for some it is very difficult. English is their second language, and my being there, as a Tongan, really helps most of the Tongan students... They really share their feelings and what they need”
With an undergraduate degree (a Bachelor of Arts in English, completed in 1997) from the University of the South Pacific, Latu graduated from AUT in 2010 with a Masters in Education. Her research focused on the teaching and learning of Tongan primary school children in New Zealand.
While she intends to complete a PhD in the future, she plans to spend time supporting her family and working in education for the time being – hopefully at AUT.
“There is a place for AUT in my heart because AUT has given me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge and graduate with a Masters degree”