The most important things in life for Wellington-based Tala Tuala (pictured) include his family, faith and education.
As a successful recipient of a Toloa Tertiary Scholarship, it means the Massey University Masters of Educational and Developmental Psychology student can focus on those things without the financial burden of his studies.
Funded by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP), Toloa Tertiary Scholarships support Pacific students to pursue studies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects.
Tala was recently awarded his scholarship at the Central Region Toloa Awards ceremony in Wellington, and he says it is a reminder of the responsibility he has to support Pacific communities, and empower them to reach their full potential and contribute meaningfully to society.
“The Toloa Tertiary Scholarship invokes accountability, not only towards successfully completing my qualification, but the accountability to the communities I represent,” he adds.
Of New Zealand-Samoan descent, Tala is a “Westie” at heart, attending Massey High School in Auckland before serving a two-year voluntary mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, in Western Samoa and American Samoa.
Now married with two children aged four, and one and a half years old, Tala also serves as a Bishopric Counsellor at his church.
“In 2016, I graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Science, double majoring in Statistics and Psychology, and have since received a certificate in Management and Leadership and become a Launching Leaders graduate,” he explains.
“I also plan to finish a separate qualification in Adult and Tertiary Training - I currently work as a Data and Reporting Analyst and have been engaged in data analysis and research for four years and counting.”
It was Tala’s mother who inspired him to take up the Sciences, he adds.
“Mum suggested I study Psychology, and then my interest in Statistics prompted a swift change towards the Sciences.
I found myself drawn towards the problem-solving, pattern-seeking and the deductive nature of research through statistical methods and analysis.
“The combination of the two disciplines has guided me to the path of research.”
Tala is hopeful he can use his knowledge and skills in research and analysis in conducting, disseminating and enabling research that supports and uplifts Pacific communities.
“My aim is to provide research and create projects that are representative, led by and beneficial for Pacific peoples.
“I love to encourage and support the rising Pacific generation in unravelling their potential and to consider pursuing alternative academic and career pathways that might otherwise be perceived as unconventional but are rewarding nonetheless.”
Tala says apart from the myriad of opportunities and experiences available to STEM graduates in an age of data and technologies, the demand in the workforce largely relates to STEM subjects.
“Though I could count on my hands the number of Pacific graduates in my STEM related class, there is well and truly, a need to have Pacific representation, perspectives and approaches in these industries and that such contributions make for a more richer and vibrant communities.”