7 Dec 2023

Dr Siautu Alefaio appointed as Otago University's first Pacific psychology professor

10:48 am on 7 December 2023
Dr Siautu Alefaio

Dr Siautu Alefaio Photo: University of Otago

The University of Otago in Aotearoa New Zealand has appointed its first Pacific professor of psychology.

"Professor Alefaio, who will commence her role in February, said she was humbled and heartened by this new appointment as it reflects the University's authentic engagement toward meeting the needs of Pacific peoples and communities at large," the university said in the state,ment

Dr Siautu Alefaio was born in Dunedin and is of Samoan descent. Her area of expertise is Pacific-indigenous and humanitarian psychology in climate and disaster resilience.

She has pioneered a platform for more equitable and just societies.

"We are in a new era marked by compounding and cascading disasters that require all hands-on-deck," Professor Alefaio said.

"In these times of unprecedented crises, psychology is a profession that needs to step up and respond equitably for underserved communities.

"I look forward to making a valuable contribution to growing the next generation of psychologists from Otago University that are prepared for these climates of change."

Professor Alefaio's Pacific contribution to psychology has included authoring Pacific-Indigenous Psychology (2022), which has become foundational to the research she undertakes as a Rutherford Discovery Fellow, Health Research Council grant recipient, and Fulbright New Zealand Scholar, the university said.

'A role model'

Department of Psychology head Professor Jamin Halberstadt said he was "thrilled" that Professor Alefaio will be joining the department.

"Otago Psychology has a long and proud history of internationally renowned research, as well as excellence in teaching and clinical training, but our aspirations in the Pacific space have sometimes exceeded our grasp," Professor Halberstadt says.

"Professor Alefaio will no doubt be a role model and mentor to our growing Pacific and staff cohorts, but she will also contribute to the Department and University in a more fundamental way, bringing new ideas, new impacts, and new intellectual diversity to our community."

Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Division of Sciences Professor Richard Barker said Professor Alefaio will make an important contribution to realising the objectives of the University's Pacific Strategic Framework.

"The Framework outlines our explicit and active commitment to fostering the success of Pacific students, staff, and culture across the University.

"We are excited by the appointment of Professor Alefaio and the valuable contribution she will make to grow and enrich our Pacific research, teaching and support for the next generations of psychology leaders," Professor Barker said.

- Otago University