Cook Islands Academic From Tokoroa to Hamilton Pursuing Excellence in Education

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Supporting students to find the why when deciding on a course of study is an important question a senior academic at the Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec) believes can help students, whether that be through providing pastoral care or simply motivating students with their studies. Rose Marsters, along with her colleague Colin Tuaa, are the Pacific Leads at Wintec. Rose is the Pacific Lead Learners Success. She says when it comes to motivation you just have to find the right why.

I think if we can find the right why, I think that comes from just being present, connecting with people, building relationships, sharing our narrative, sharing our lived experience because learning begins with a vision.Rose Marsters

She says taking time to sit alongside the Pasifika community and find out what their dreams and aspirations are is one of the things that excites her about her job. “They might be working towards a better quality of life, having a qualification that allows them to get a job that suits them, or perhaps start their own business or create pieces of art so that they can make Pasifika visible in our communities. Whatever, their why, is one of the things that I would encourage to get people motivated.”

Currently completing her Masters in Indigenous Applied Practice, creating her own Doctoral thesis known as Ngaakauology, Rose says she is pleased to see the institute grow the senior leadership with a strong focus on Pasifika. Six months into the role she says they have a huge task ahead of them with a brief that includes wellbeing, success, and achievement. Despite the wide scope they have a strong support system in place with a team working to develop a Pasifika strategy at Wintec, she adds.

Feedback is a key component for Rose and she is heartened when speaking with community who have family who are interested in enrolling at Wintec. She says for some, knowing there are Pasifika leads and a Pasifika team can be a drawcard, and can bring Pasifika communities some confidence to know if they choose Wintec, or go to Waikato University, that there will be a collective of people to support them.

Pasifika leadership in Hamilton is quite strong and we are all in a space working in a reciprocal manner to support each other.Rose Marsters

However, reflecting on her own personal journey it was not always like this. “It’s not something you think about but one of the things I appreciate about being at Wintec is through my experiences of being quite isolated. Its not an unfamiliar feeling, I’m sure there’s a few Pasifika staff members out there that are working quite isolated from the actual Pasifika collective, but have really strong allies with our Papa’a (European decent) peers,” something she says is a positive.

Outside of the classroom Rose takes strength from her extended whanau in Tokoroa and Hamilton. Of Cook Islands Heritage, Rose hails from Palmerston Island and Atiutaki. She treasures her time as a member of the Hamilton Cook Islands Association (HAMCIA) and cites those relationships as a support for her wellbeing.  “They’ve reminded me of who I am. They affirm who I am, and more so they remind me of the humility that our Cook Islands people work from.” Rose also represents the Hamilton Cook Islands community on the Cook Island Development Agency New Zealand organisation.

Rose says it is a double advantage being surrounded by strong leaders in the Cook Islands community and her  support network in Tokoroa where she was born and bred. “I’ve got this bridge between Tokoroa and Hamilton, which I feel blessed, because I have resources to who I am and what I’m about and they’ll be the first ones to sit me down and have a conversation if I lose my path.”

I’m really quite grateful for the lived experience I have in my Pasifika and my Maori community.Rose Marsters

Rose is married to Dale Edwards of Ngāti Koroki Kahukura and Ngāti Hikairo. “Ngāti Koroki Kahukura have helped bring up my children and I’m really grateful for their open hearts and open hands to me and my family so it’s important that I’m serving both communities,” adds Rose

So how important is culture and language in education? To which Rose poses another question, “how vital is breathing?” She believes culture and language contribute to diversity, she believes it is important in the wider picture of working from a value base that is inclusive.

Rose and her children are fluent in Te Reo Māori and she’s humbled to have walked the journey alongside her children learning Aotearoa Māori Reo and the culture. Rose says having an understanding and a comprehension of Te Reo Māori Aotearoa has helped with her Cook Islands community and helps with understanding. It’s an area Rose is working to develop in her Cook Islands Māori language. “It gives me an opportunity to explore more of our narrative and our history, our genealogy. I think its important that I be able to converse with my community in the Reo that makes us uniquely Cook Island.”

In striving for excellence in education, embracing her Cook Islands, Maori language and culture, for Rose it comes down to Kopu Tangata. Whānau. “Dale and I have four children and six mokopuna, and with the extended whānau, 27 children in total. Mokopuna are my stimulus to make a difference in the world.”