Michael Bain

Michael Bain

Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Master of Communication Studies with Honours (First Class)

One of the great things about postgraduate study is the interaction with both staff and fellow students, says Michael Bain who is currently completing his Doctor of Philosophy.

“I’d absolutely recommend a postgraduate programme to everyone, and particularly to anyone who wants to make a positive difference in the world. Postgraduate research is where, I believe, new discoveries, breakthroughs and insights are made. The impacts those discoveries, breakthroughs and insights have on our society are immense and long lasting.

“As a PhD student, not only am I learning from my supervisors, but I’m also connecting with other researchers who have been incredible supporters of my research, and who have challenged me while broadening my knowledge and thinking.”

Returning to AUT
After completing a Master of Communication Studies in 2020, Michael says he decided to return to AUT for his PhD to research a topic he is passionate about.

“I had completed my Master of Communication Studies a few years ago and was still in communication with some of the staff here. I’d had a really great time at AUT during my master’s degree, with supportive staff and support from fellow postgraduate students. I wanted to return to AUT and that encouraging space to explore a subject that I was passionate about.”

For his PhD research Michael is exploring Pākehā identity, with a particular emphasis on those who self-identify as tangata Tiriti. His research is being supervised by Associate Professor Vijay Devadas from AUT’s School of Communication Studies.

“Self-identification as tangata Tiriti appears to be the result of regular interaction and engagement with Māori and with New Zealand history. This interaction often leads those who identify as tangata Tiriti to critically look at society and their own family histories.

“I started exploring this in my own life during the COVID period as I sought to better understand my own family history and how it links in with the greater Aotearoa story. I’m keen to hear the voices of this cohort, to learn their journeys and experiences, and to explore what we as a society could learn from them.”

Supported to thrive
Michael, whose studies are supported by a fees-exemption scholarship, is grateful for the support he has received on his journey as a mature student.

“It has definitely been a juggle between my research and being a solo father of two teenagers, particularly as I supported my children after their mum passed away during my master’s degree. AUT were fantastic with helping me take leave from my research to focus on my kids and to work to help pay household bills. Having the opportunity to teach alongside others as I do my PhD has definitely made home life financially easier as well.”

He has some great advice for other students who are only at the start of their university journey.

“Pursue that dream wherever it may take you. Study the things that you’re interested and passionate about. Make learning a life-long practice. If you want to return to study as a mature student, go for it. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made and I don’t regret it for a minute.”