Samoa-based alumni meet AUT leader

17 Nov, 2023
Samoa-based alumni meet AUT leader
Professor Damon Salesa and AUT alumni in Apia, Samoa

The first Samoan (and Pacific person) to be Vice-Chancellor of a New Zealand university is in Apia to celebrate the achievements of Samoan graduates of the university he now leads.

Le Afioga Toeolesulusulu Professor Damon Salesa (Satapuala, Falealupo, Neiafu, Falelima, Vaisala, Salelavalu and Vaivase), who was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in 2021, hosted an alumni event this week bringing together Samoan graduates and friends of AUT.

The event took place at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel and was attended by over 40 people, including a large number of AUT graduates. Associate Professor Jacoba Matapo (Siumu), the first Pro Vice-Chancellor Pacific at AUT, co-hosted the event alongside the Vice-Chancellor.

Notable AUT alumni included former All Black and rugby player Jerome Kaino, tech entrepreneur and advocate for Pasifika in tech Nu’uali’i Eteroa Lafaele, recently named in the Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 for social impact, and the up-and-coming film-maker Matilda Poasa, who starred in AUT’s marketing campaign Find Your Greatness. Two pathbreaking Samoan academics at AUT, Leali’ifano Dr Albert Refiti (Architecture and Design) and Dr El Shadan Tautolo (Public Health) were promoted to Professor this month. Both are graduates of AUT.

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) is New Zealand’s only University of Technology, one of the top-ranked universities in the world, with over 150,000 alumni globally, and is renowned for the employment success of its graduates. In the past 12 months, AUT alumni events have taken place in Fiji, Germany, the UK, China, Vietnam, and India.

Toeolesulusulu Professor Damon Salesa says, "For AUT graduates, success is not just an individual achievement but a testament to the collective strength of their ‘aiga and our community. At AUT, we continue to build a legacy of excellence and equity in education and empowerment for people across the Pacific and change the world one student, one aiga at a time."

AUT has the highest proportion of Samoan students among New Zealand universities.

Toeolesulusulu Professor Damon Salesa is a cross-disciplinary scholar and researcher, Rhodes Scholar, and award-winning author. He delivered a keynote address at this week’s Oceania Comparative and International Education Society (OCIES) Conference in Apia, hosted by the National University of Samoa.

Toeolesulusulu Professor Damon Salesa has just released his new book, An Indigenous Ocean, a collection of essays that form a pivotal contribution to understanding the history and culture of Oceania.