Laura Upson

Laura Upson

Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in International Tourism Management
Bachelor of International Tourism Management in Travel Management

When Laura Upson came to AUT, she already had a background in travel and tourism but wanted to take her understanding further. Enrolling in the Bachelor of International Tourism Management was her first step towards achieving this.

“After finishing up at a travel college in Auckland and having a gap year working, I wanted to study tourism at a higher level, and to gain a more comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, well-rounded understanding of tourism. What drew me to AUT was that it has degrees that are solely focused on tourism. I couldn’t find any other university that offered this. I also appreciated that the staff at AUT are amazing; they’re all so caring and supportive, and genuinely want you to succeed.”

She still strongly remembers a particular class during her undergraduate degree; an experience that sparked a new passion for her.

“I had a ‘lightbulb’ moment during a lecture in one of my undergraduate courses, Tourism in the Environment, where Professor Alison McIntosh talked about the challenges of people with disabilities when it comes to accessing tourism services and products. This sparked a real interest in me and I knew this was something I was passionate about.”

A voice for underrepresented people
Taking on a PhD was an easy decision for Laura who completed her Bachelor of International Tourism Management in 2019, followed by a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in 2021.

“Continuing on with my PhD studies felt like the next natural step for me after completing my Bachelor of Arts (Honours) dissertation, which examined the online information for people with disabilities across five museums in New Zealand. I’ve always had an interest in research, digging deeper into topics and issues that matter, and giving underrepresented people in society a voice.

“The topic for my PhD research has come out of a place of lived experience. My PhD will be investigating the lived experiences of people with chronic pain, and how it has affected their ability to engage in tourism. From my research, I hope to give a voice to those that live in chronic pain because their voices are heavily underheard and marginalised within the tourism literature.”

Laura’s PhD research is supervised by Professor Alison McIntosh and Dr Brielle Gillovic from AUT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism.

The support to thrive
Laura says she wouldn’t hesitate to recommend postgraduate study in tourism to other students.

“Although doing postgraduate studies can be challenging, overwhelming and sometimes even isolating, there are lots of opportunities for you to meet other students within the school, and connect with them socially and personally. I really enjoy the inclusive, multi-cultural and multi-dynamic atmosphere here at AUT.”

It’s easy to get support if you need it, she adds.

“The staff are really helpful, supportive, knowledgeable and understanding. There are also lots of different support services at AUT to help and support you.”

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