Rohan Willis

Rohan Willis

Doctor of Philosophy candidate

AUT’s culture makes it stand out from other universities, says Rohan Willis who came to AUT as an international student from the USA to complete a PhD in applied language studies.

“As an educator, it goes without saying that the ‘culture’ of a university was the biggest factor in my overall decision.

“I appreciate what AUT has to offer students. For instance, it offers a range of support services and facilities for students on all campuses. I also felt that AUT reflects the changing world due to the fact that it’s a young university. It has great potential as a university.”

Teachers’ language learning experiences
For his doctoral research Rohan is exploring how learning another language influences New Zealand-based ESOL teachers’ professional knowledge and classroom practice.

“My research aims to explore the lived experiences of teachers of English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) and how they interpret these experiences.

“Many would agree that teachers don’t only teach the subject based on their subject knowledge; often their teaching is based on their personal experiences. Even with similar training backgrounds, teachers differ in ways they interpret these experiences. Therefore, I wanted to see how they interpret the ways their prior language learning experiences influenced them as ESOL teachers today.”

Rohan’s PhD research is supervised by Associate Professor Sharon Harvey and Dr Irmengard Wohlfart.

A supportive postgraduate environment
He would highly recommend postgraduate study at AUT, says Rohan who hopes to teach at university level once he finishes his PhD.

“AUT supports PhD students in various ways. Other than administrative assistance, AUT provides us with a number of items that are necessary for our research, for example our own workstations and access to analytical software.  AUT also offers all sorts of research-related workshops for postgraduate students. I’ve attended a few, and they’ve helped me with my research and data analysis.”

The support he receives from his supervisors plays an essential role in making his studies at AUT very enjoyable.

“As cliché as it may sound, I couldn’t have asked for better supervisors. Doing a PhD is a long and difficult journey, and often it’s also a lonely journey. However, my supervisors have always been there for me, encouraging, guiding and supporting me whenever I need them.”