Māori academic Linda Waimarie Nikora lasted only a week as a first-year maths student at the University of Waikato.
It was in the psychology department that she found her place.
"There were Māori people, there were Pacific people, there were people concerned about real problems and challenges, there were people who had lived life."
Linda – now a Professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of Auckland – talks to Justine Murray about growing up in Rotorua, her early dreams of being a 'fireman' and how academia can be informed and enriched by mātauranga Māori (customary Māori knowledge).
Linda's academic work appears in the recent collection of writings from 24 Māori scholars - Ngā Kete Mātauranga: Māori Scholars at the Research Interface. (Kete mātauranga means 'baskets of knowledge')
Scholars from every academic discipline and every major academic institution feature in the book, Linda says.
"[These are the people] at the coal face, at the interface, beavering away at bringing mātauranga Māori and Māori experience, knowledge and ways of doing things into their work in order to provide a better training experience for students in those disciplines, as well as to answer old challenges in new ways."
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Linda hopes her Pākehā academic colleagues will read Ngā Kete Mātauranga to gain a better understanding of mātauranga Māori, the challenges facing Māori scholars and how they can be better supported.
Her own academic work "sits more at the preventative end" of the psychology field and often focuses on identity.
"A fundamental tenet within psychology is that an identity is a good thing to have. A positive, nurtured, well cared for identity has positive health outcomes. Knowing who you are, feeling as if you belong to something, feeling as if you're loved, you have purpose … those are all important contributors to our wellbeing.
"Under all that is a question who am I, what do I want to become, am I happy with my life, am I happy with the relationships I have with other people."