Category Archives: Staff stories

UC student Malaga (journey) to Samoa

WP_20160921_16_38_07_ProA group of students from the College of Education, Health & Human Development is about to embark on an educational malaga (trip) to Samoa, led by Leali’ie’e Tofilau Tufulasi Taleni, who is Kaiārahi Pasifika at the college.

In this blog, Tufulasi talks about the goals of the trip, and the need for education providers to understand Pasifika culture to better cater for New Zealand’s diverse learners.

Knowing and understanding the students we teach is crucial for building effective relationships with our students. This is one of the key principles behind our malaga to Samoa this month. The educational trip will provide an opportunity for our future teachers to learn about Samoan culture by living in a village with Samoan families.

This group of students will be enriched with knowledge and understanding about the importance of Pasifika identity, language and culture and how this understanding contributes to raising achievement, success and wellbeing of Pasifika learners. Research shows that utilizing students’ prior learning and experiences in teaching and learning makes a positive influence on students’ engagement. Implementing a culturally-based pedagogy developed from Pasifika cultural values is therefore critical in supporting students through the process of understanding subject content.

Although Pacific culture itself is diverse, values such as respect, service, reciprocity, leadership, spirituality, belonging and family are all part of what we might understand as a Pasifika worldview. The more our teachers understand this worldview, the more they will understand their Pasifika students, and the better they will be in developing strategies and programmes to raise their engagement and achievement.

One of the great things about these malaga, is that they provide an opportunity for non-Pasifika educators to be immersed in Samoan culture – living with families in the village, participating in village and family life, attending churches, experiencing customs and traditions, immersing in the Samoan language and also visiting schools on the island.

On previous trips, the educators were humbled by the hospitality and generosity of the Samoan people and came to truly understand the values of love, service and reciprocity enacted by the community. The villagers may have limited material resources but they are rich in the value of connectedness within the family and community. If a culture like that of Samoa can harness its cultural values, such as generosity, hospitality, love and service, in a genuine and meaningful way to change people’s lives, then it may be possible that teachers and educators can use the same tools to lift engagement and achievement.

In Samoa, we have a saying “E felelei manu, ae ma’au i o latou ofaga”, meaning birds fly everywhere, but always return to their nests. The message is simple – always remember your identity and culture.

Leali’ie’e Tufulasi Taleni has led the similar educational malaga (trips) in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2013 for teachers and school leaders through his role at UC Education Plus as Senior Adviser Pasifika Education. These malaga were hosted by his family in his village of Vaiafai Iva on the island of Savai’i. You can see more from the 2013 trip in this great video.

Photo: Leali’ie’e Tofilau Tufulasi Taleni with five of the group from the College of Education, Health & Human Development who will shortly leave for a Malaga (trip) to Samoa.

Q&A with Visiting Fellow Cheryl Messick

Cheryl Messick is visiting from the University of Pittsburgh, USA, as part of the Erskine Programme.

Where you have come from and what do you teach?

I work at the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in the Communication Science and Disorders Department.  At my home institution I teach a graduate course in Articulation & Phonological Disorders in children, which is similar to the course I am teaching here at UC.  I also teach a course in Clinical Teaching to our clinical doctoral students, which is a topic I have strong professional interests in.  Finally I teach a course to undergraduate students on Language Acquisition in children.

What interested you in the Erskine Programme/Why did you want to come to UC?

I have heard of the Erskine Programme for many years from colleagues who had the opportunity to come to UC.  The opportunity to work and live in another country for a few months, and especially in New Zealand, is incredible.  It is great to learn different approaches and ideas regarding how/what to teach; the Erskine program is a wonderful cultural exchange for two-way learning.

I also have personal interests in New Zealand as my grandparents were from New Zealand; they emigrated to the United States in the 1930’s.  While here I have had a chance to connect with cousins (on the north island) and learn more about my kiwi heritage.

What have you been doing at UC?

I am teaching a course called Articulation & Phonological Disorders in the Communication Disorders Department.  I have also had a chance to participate in simulation activities in the Communication Disorders department that aim at helping students acquire skills in clinical interviewing techniques; I played the role of a mock parent and marked students on their performance in the tasks.

One particularly exciting activity that has emerged from my time here at UC is that I worked with some of the speech/language pathology clinical instructors to create a partnership for a clinical education project.  We submitted a proposal to serve as a team of “content matter experts” for a set of clinical teaching resources that are being developed by the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Science and Disorders (CAPCSD), which is a professional organization whose mission it is to serve as a resource in leadership, education and advocacy to academic programs in who educate speech/language pathology and audiology students.  We will be working with a web team who specializes in developing training materials to develop resources for training clinical instructors to provide feedback to their students based on evidence based practice. It was exciting to put together an international team to work together on the project, and we were just informed that our proposal was accepted.  I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues here from UC on this project.

What have you most enjoyed about your time here at UC/Christchurch?

That’s a difficult question, as the entire experience has been so positive; I have enjoyed becoming acquainted with speech-language pathology students and faculty here at UC.  Everyone has been very welcoming.  I have also really enjoyed seeing the beauty of this country.  In Christchurch in particular watching spring unfold through weekly walks at the Botanic Garden have been wonderful.

Finally, it has been wonderful to learn more about my NZ family geneaology.   The photo attached was taken on the walking trails at Diamond Bay with the entrance to the Lyttleton harbour in the background – my great great grandparents landed at Lyttleton in September 1877 (from Ireland) – so it has been fun to look at those hills and imagine what it was like for them when they arrived to New Zealand.


Positive change – UC Sustainability Office

ENGS4379_Mailchimp_BNR (2)Did you know that UC has a Sustainability Office?

We are an on-campus hub for individuals and groups that are interested in creating positive change and promoting sustainable practices within UC and the wider community.

We organise events (e.g. Ecoweek with lots of sustainability focused events); we communicate pathways for change (like, promoting fair trade, sustainable transport, informing staff and students about recycling), and support a network of individuals and working groups across the campus and in the wider community (for instance, we provide input into the campus master plans, and we work closely with the student Eco Clubs). We also organise exciting projects, like the compositing coffee cups trial for instance, or Dr Bike.


Our whole team is passionate about sustainability. Jane looks after the Community Gardens at UC (with a group of students), Katie is  focused on waterways, tiny houses and fair trade, Matt is finding more and better ways to look after cyclists and handle waste (think worms and composting), and Puck works on different sustainability projects and does the communications side of things.

Want to know more, get involved, or curious about our events? Follow us on Facebook or Instagram, or check out our website. Any questions or ideas you want help with? Email us on:



Erskine Profile – Robert Wilton (Canada)

Robert Wilton from McMaster University, Canada – Semester 2 2016

Robert - Erskine

Where you have come from and what do you teach?

I am a professor of geography based in the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Much of my research over the past two decades has been concerned with the challenges that people with disabilities face in their efforts to participate in social life.  While these challenges stem in part from people’s impairments, they are also linked to enduring social, economic and attitudinal barriers that many people confront.  At McMaster, I regularly teach undergraduate and post-graduate courses on the social dimensions of disability, social inequality and North American urban geography.  I also teach research and field methods.

What interested you in the Erskine Programme/Why did you want to come to UC?

I had heard about the Erskine Programme from a health geographer in Ireland who visited the Department of Geography and spoke very highly of his experience. I was delighted when my colleague Sarah Lovell, a health geographer based in the School of Health Sciences here, asked if I would be interested in coming to UC this term.

What have you been doing at UC?

My main role this term has been to help with the development and delivery of a qualitative research methods course for postgraduate students in the School of Health Sciences. I have been working with Sarah Lovell and Lois Tonkin to develop content and readings for the course, which is being offered for the first time this term.

I’ve also given a guest lecture to undergraduate health sciences students on different models or ways of understanding disability. Later this term, I will give a research seminar on my current research, which looks at the role of social enterprises in creating work opportunities for people living with psychiatric disabilities.

What have you most enjoyed about your time here at UC/Christchurch?

The programme has provided a great opportunity to step outside my own disciplinary and institutional home, and to interact with faculty and students who come from different academic backgrounds. Also, the warm welcome that we’ve received at UC and at Ilam School where my sons are enrolled has been tremendous. People have gone out of their way to make us feel at home.  My oldest son has already indicated that he doesn’t want to leave at the end of the term!