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July 24, 2006 | by  | in Features |
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TE KAWA A MĀUI / SCHOOL OF MĀORI STUDIES: Postgraduate Students

Our programme

Te Kawa a Māui (Māori Studies) is one of the smallest schools in the University. We have a permanent staff of seven fulltime academics, five contract teachers and two administrative staff.

By far, the largest number of students are enrolled at the undergraduate level. But in recent years quite a lot of energy has been expended into developing our postgraduate programme, and increasing the numbers of postgraduate students. This year has seen our postgraduate numbers rapidly expand as students realise that a postgraduate education is not only personally rewarding but also constitutes a great advantage out there in the job market.

It has always been a challenge to attract Māori students into postgraduate study. Generally speaking, the numbers of students who progress past their first Bachelors degree is not high. The challenge for schools like Māori Studies is to convince students that postgraduate study is well worth the extra effort. As a consequence, we have been spending time this year developing a programme that meets the needs of our postgrad students (most of whom, but not all, are Māori).

Noho Marae

Earlier this year, in April, we held a very successful noho Marae for all of our postgrads. It was a great chance for students to meet up and compare notes, especially those who live as far away as Hamilton and New Plymouth. For distance postgrads, research and writing at this level can be a lonely experience. They felt like they were a part of a larger community of like minded students, and enjoyed the chance to share experiences. Topics like ‘what is research?’ and ‘what is my research focus’ were examined in detail, along with ‘who should fund research?’ and complex questions of ethics which invariably attract close attention from Māori. Two Aboriginal speakers from Australia also joined us, as did Dr Huia Jahnke from Massey University, who talked about her recent research in the USA.

Our next noho Marae is planned for 11-12 August. The first day will comprise a full-day symposium of postgrad presenters, covering a range of topics that will illustrate how diverse postgraduate study and research is, amongst Maori. Two external speakers, Charles Royal and Chad Allen from the USA, will join us during the evening. We plan to end the day after supper with what is rapidly becoming our days-end activity (thanks to Ocean Mercier) – an examination of a ‘Maori’ movie. For our last hui, Ocean led a discussion on two well known short films, ‘Tama Tu’ and ‘Two Cars One Night’. The movie for this hui may be ‘River Queen’ though it is a bit long, and most people are a bit tired by 11pm..

Combined hui with Otago

We are also having a combined hui with our Māori Studies colleagues at Otago, from 7-10 September. The programme will be based around workshops, seminars, key note addresses and field tours of interest. Otago are hosting us this year, so we are busy fundraising. We have also selected ten of our ‘best and brightest’ to present seminar papers on our behalf, including Maryjane Waru, Ruakere Hond, Dennis Ngawhare, Anthony Tipene, Philip Best and Ewan Pohe – it’s on these shoulders that our scholarly contribution to the hui at Otago will rest!

Running the programme

Noho Marae like these bring together all of our planning and programmes – if we can put together a well-oiled postgrad programme, then ventures forth into the real world of postgraduate exchanges becomes possible. Such exchanges really are a (friendly) acid test for us; for our programme, our standards of teaching ands supervision, and for our students who really do the hard work.

Our programme is managed by Dr Danny Keenan, Teurikore Biddle and Dr Ocean Mercier. We are currently working to ensure that the programme is secured; that the way we do things is as well organised as we can possibly manage. As a consequence, we have been convening a special postgrad class, once every three weeks, to which all students are invited and over coffee discuss their projects and receive updates on issues like funding and scholarships. We have also, for example, devised clear guidelines for preliminary proposals and full proposals, and tried to ‘capture’ and ‘define’ the postgrad journey in such a way that, at all times, we can answer queries and meet the needs of our students; and, at this advanced level, they are many.

We also have opened this year a special postgraduate computer room, and this is fitted out with computers and ample desk space for all of our students to sit, away from the bustle of the general campus, and to work and write. As well as serving as a useful time-out space and place for students, it also has a kitchen and lockers. It’s also the place where we convene our special postgraduate meetings.

Postgraduate Research

Our students are currently focussing on a wide range of research areas, including Te Reo and language revitalisation; Tribal histories; Māori health and well-being; Māori public policy; Māori economics and business; Computer assisted language learning; tino rangatiratanga and the political left; and Māori custom Law. This research complements our postgrad teaching papers which focus upon Māori research, resource management, politics and the Waitangi Tribunal, tribal histories and ethnographies and traditional Māori society. Often, when we are thinking about the Maori research being completed on campus, we tend to overlook the amazing contribution being made to research by students, as this list demonstrates.

Becoming a postgrad

We have a comprehensive prospectus available, for more information come over to 50 Kelburn Parade and pick up a copy from our office. Or ask any staff member; they are all very keen to assist you in your planning.

Postgrad experience is one that is well worth considering. It develops skills in writing, research, time management and presentation. Māori postgraduate students contribute hugely to the educational upskilling of our people, an upskilling that many Maori leaders like Sir Apirana Ngata hoped would one day occur. We at Te Kawa a Māui are pleased to be a part of the challenge of raising the education of Māori students through our postgraduate programme

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