Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai (left) and Dr Tootooleaava Fanaafi Aiono Letagaloa
University of Otago Pacific Islands Centre Manager Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai, who was event master of ceremonies, says it was “wonderful to see such energy, interest, enthusiasm and strong emotional ties to Otago in the room.”
“From the moment we arrived in Samoa our visits with Otago alumni, friends, partners and the New Zealand High Commission showed the launch of the new Samoan chapter was much anticipated.”
While the launch event gave alumni the opportunity to reminisce and share fond memories of campus days, they also showed a genuine interest in hearing about the future direction of the relationship between the Pacific and Otago, she says.
“Also, from the University’s perspective, it is humbling to see how our alumni are contributing in their local communities in so many ways. An added bonus was meeting many alumni who have sons, daughters or grandchildren currently studying at Otago and we really enjoyed the opportunity to acknowledge the richness Pacific Island students bring to Otago’s New Zealand campuses while studying.”
Development and Alumni Relations Office engagement manager Diana Dobbinson said following the “highly successful” launch the new chapter had held a meeting and initiated a membership drive. Alumni and Chapter members had also been instrumental in having discussions with several prospective postgraduate and undergraduate students, she says.
The University was honoured to have Deputy Head of State (and Otago alumnus), the Honourable Le Mamea Ropati Mualia accept the position of inaugural Chapter Patron and to welcome the Honourable Sili Epa Tuioti, the Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to speak at the launch.
Honourable Mualia achieved a national first when he graduated from his studies at Otago in 1970 and became New Zealand’s first Samoan pharmacy graduate.
In the past two decades about 660 students who identified as Samoan have completed an Otago qualification.