Otago Polytechnic
SUC profile AnnaSeiuli 003

Spacifichology

I found that the key to working with Pasifika students is to build relationships, but that's easier said than done.

Anna Seuili

In 2010, Anna Seiuli was a student advisor working with Pasifika students to improve outcomes. At the time there was no clear model on how to approach the challenges facing her in her role.

“Finding a solution was complex. More than 15 island nations are represented under the umbrella of ‘Pasifika’ and they’re all quite different,” says Anna.

“Some consider themselves French or American not Pasifika. And most of the models that exist are of Samoan origin. So to help find the way forward that will help me with my job, I conducted my own research to find a commonality that is equally shared by all Pasifika in New Zealand.”

Anna’s discoveries led to the development of a tool called Spacifichology. As the name implies, the tool is specifically for Pasifika and is underpinned by psychology, which is fitting since Anna’s other role is as a counsellor.

Since developing Spacifichology, Anna now interviews Pasifika students prior to them commencing their study to pinpoint their strengths, learning needs and the support they required. These profiles can then be sent to lecturers of their classes.

“Asking lecturers to build strong relationships with every Pasifika student is unrealistic because of the teaching time constraints and many other students in the class. Yet we know that the key to working with Pasifika students is to build relationships and staff are one-half of that equation,” explains Anna.

“My model assists teachers to get to know their Pasifika students before they even knock on their door.”

Otago Polytechnic’s School of Midwifery has been particularly interested in, and involved with, Anna’s research. Like Anna, they also share a desire to help their Pasifika students achieve. Dr. Jean Patterson, Deb Beatson, Chris Griffiths and Kerry Wilson, together with Anna, looked at a method called Talanoa, which means “conversation” or “discussion” in Fijian, Samoan or Tongan. The concept of Talanoa, which can be formal or informal, is used to teach, share stories and bring people together.

“As part of our research, we were privileged to hear the amazing narratives of Pasifika student experience including the struggles they face, their determination to succeed and their desire to be role models for their children.”

The team’s research was presented at an international nursing conference (NETNEP) in Brisbane. “Deb and I co-presented at the conference and it was the most profound thing. The research talks about finding a place to belong and these students have found their place. At the end of the presentation, there was silence in the room, followed closely by a standing ovation.”

Since the inception of Spacifichology, the School of Midwifery has had their first Pasifika midwifery graduates since the blended programme model began. In addition, two Pasifika students are in year two of the degree and are doing brilliantly.

“This research adds another strength to their School and shows that their practice is research informed.”