A Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) Toloa Tertiary Scholarship will assist Masters of Architecture student Carl Leiataua with breaking barriers in the Pacific community and his profession.
Of Samoan descent, and a student of at Victoria University of Wellington, Carl was selected as a Central Region Toloa Tertiary Scholarship recipient from a list of exceptional applicants, and recognised at an awards ceremony in Porirua on March 18.
The MPP Toloa Tertiary Scholarships cover tuition and compulsory fees, and aim to encourage Pacific students to pursue studies in STEM subjects at tertiary level and increase the numbers of pacific people employed into STEM careers.
While the Scholarship will assist Carl financially, to pay loans and university fees, he says the message the Toloa Tertiary Scholarship initiative sends is Pacific people are able to pursue a career in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professions and not only be a part of it, but excel in it too.
“We will see more of our people taking steps towards looking outside of the box, which is what the STEM professions are about,” Carl says.
“Pacific people naturally see perspectives and problem solve through different lenses which are missing in society but are very valuable,” he adds.
The eldest of four boys, Carl was born in Samoa and moved to New Zealand with his parents when he was a baby.
He grew up in Wellington, moving around the region to live in Porirua, Levin and now Paraparaumu.
“I have strong links to Porirua as everywhere I have lived I have always come back here for family, friends, school and church,” he says.
The first in his family to gain a university degree, Carl says his humble beginnings never once stopped him from doing what he wanted in life.
His creativity, in fact, comes from those humble beginnings, as well as his Pacific heritage, and family relationships, the recently married Carl adds.
Growing up, Carl loved to draw and design and when he was about to leave high school it seemed like an obvious career path to take.
“However, at the time my parents were looking through a lens of me becoming a Lawyer or Doctor.
“Although that was an option, I chose to stick with what made me happy and came naturally to me.”
On finishing his first year of Architecture, he decided to pursue it as he loved it, which made his parents happy, he says.
Once his studies are complete, Carl has aspirations to assist Pacific communities by providing small businesses with design services.
“I also would like to use the skills and knowledge I have acquired to give back by educating the industry of Pacific presence and processes which will help integrate our ideas into the architectural world.
“This can inspire more Pacific people to be a part of STEM professions that incorporates our ideas and identities.”
Architecture in the Pacific is not new, Carl says.
“There have been countless accounts in the history of our people of primitive architecture by our ancestors, meaning that somewhere along the way we gravitated away from what was natural to us.
“With the lack of Pacific people in STEM professions, there is a missing presence in the architectural industry that could benefit from Pacific and cultural presences in contemporary times.”
We need more people involved in the STEM professions to contribute to our societies by allowing what came natural to us in the primitive times to restore its presence again, he says.