Photo: CHEMMAT’s new Professional Teaching Fellow, Nadeen Papali’i


Welcome to CHEMMAT, Nadeen! Thanks for writing such a wonderful, inspiring introduction:

“Tālofa my name is Nadeen Lanuola Papali’i and I have joined the CHEMMAT department as a Professional Teaching Fellow. I am Samoan and my grandparents ventured from the villages of Sapapali’i, Saleimoa and Mota’a to New Zealand, a land of opportunity. I was raised and currently still reside in my home town, Ōtara. My return to the University to join the teaching force was a chapter I could not have scripted in my book of life. I was an undergraduate student in Chemical and Materials from 2007-2010. Upon returning in my final year, from my student exchange at the University of Manchester, I was unsure of the next chapter.

Conversations with the late Dr Darryl Patterson and other lecturers prompted me to consider doing a Master of Engineering. I had always been passionate about helping Pacific people, and after joining Engineers Without Borders for a project in Vanuatu, I felt water quality would be a field to venture into. In 2012 I teamed up with Dr Takis Elefsiniotis as my supervisor from environmental engineering, and enlisted Dr Rob Kirkpatrick as a critical friend, to investigate the feasibility of Early Warning Systems to improve water quality in developing countries. Awarded the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award for Leadership in 2012 was a momentous occasion for two reasons. One, I received a scholarship to cover my study fees and two, I was able to acknowledge my grandparents in Parliament for their venture to NZ to afford me the opportunity. To my family and I, education equals opportunity.

When I finished my Masters, I did not feel ready to enter industry. In hindsight I was lacking in confidence and felt I still needed to grow. I would not have scripted my chapter of aspiring growth, would begin with a morning cup of coffee with a recruitment officer from a new organisation at the time, Ako Mātātupu: TeachFirst NZ. Their mission to address educational inequality through enlisting graduates as secondary school teachers, resonated with my passion to help Pacific people. This was an opportunity to undergo two years of leadership development and serve in my community. In January 2013, I became a Mathematics Teacher at Tangaroa College in my hometown, Ōtara.

My eight years in the teaching profession grew me. I was challenged, inspired, disappointed, empowered, exhausted, re-energised, apprehensive and courageous in my experience as an educator. A concoction of emotions and experiences that built my confidence. I relished my connection to community and endeavoured to expose my students to different opportunities. It was on a Space Camp inspection tour in 2019 for teachers in Huntsville Alabama, USA, when Professor Ashvin Thambyah reached out, sowed the seed to join as a Teaching Fellow and to pursue PhD studies. Little did he know at the time, there was already a stirring within to learn again and begin a new chapter.

I now return to a community where I am sure I will again experience challenge, inspiration, disappointment, empowerment, exhaustion, energy, apprehension and courage in my continuum journey of growth. I join this section of the teaching frontline to build up the next generation of engineers; game changers to the developing space they choose to contribute to. I could not have scripted, that when Dr Rob Kirkpatrick affirmed my move into teaching in 2012 with “Well done, you are doing an honourable thing for your community”, I would return in 2021 to honour my engineering community alongside him and other teachers who have invested in me. I am grateful to be in here and excited to begin this new chapter with you all.”

– Written by Nadeen Papali’i, CHEMMAT Professional Teaching Fellow

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