Tokoroa’s Shauna Glassie-Ryan hopes to become a beacon for Pacific Islanders in the STEAM sector, which she says is “often under-represented”.
Shauna, a second-year Bachelor of Veterinary Science major at Massey University, is certainly on a promising path.
She hopes to be selected for a voluntary SPAW programme, which provides free veterinary care to animals living in Pacific Island communities once she graduates.
“We must encourage our people to follow their passion into the STEAM sector, explore past their comfort zone and make the most of the endless opportunities available for our people,” Shauna says.
Shauna is a Toloa STEAM recipient who says the MPP scholarship allowed her to carry out study without the “fear of accumulating a large student loan debt”.
The Toloa programme is one of MPP’s flagship initiative, which supports Pacific peoples in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) pathways, over a whole of life approach.
Toloa Tertiary Scholarships aim to inspire and support Pacific students in their engagement with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths), and includes tertiary tuition fees and compulsory course related fees up to $10,000, for one year of fulltime study in STEAM-related courses.
The 21-year-old’s heritage traces her back to Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu in the Cook Islands.
She was born and raised in the South Waikato town of Tokoroa which she added is “commonly called the 16th island of the Cook Islands”, due to the large Cook Islands presence there.
She paid homage to her upbringing and the influence of her grandparents over her lifetime.
“My late Grandfather, John Tapuaetira Glassie, had humble beginnings growing up in the village of Amuri in Aitutaki where he worked to provide the opportunity for his siblings to receive an education, sacrificing his own while doing so.
“In his youth, he migrated to New Zealand in hopes for higher wages.
“I recognise that my beginning is much more privileged than his; the biggest reason largely attributed to his sacrifices.
“My siblings and I were fortunate to have my grandparents involved in our upbringing.
“Through my papa's experience we were taught the importance of education, and how much of a privilege it really is because not everyone receives the same opportunity.”
Shauna recently completed her second year of studying a Bachelor of Veterinary Science, with a further three years remaining at Massey University, Palmerston North.
Earlier this year she was selected to take part in a marine research and training programme in the Cook Islands.
“I was able to see first-hand not only the beauty of our moana, but the magnificent species which inhabit these spaces.
“This experience gave me more drive to gain the knowledge and skills needed to tackle STEAM issues within the South Pacific.
“Therefore, I can return to the Cook Islands and not only give back to my ancestors which have paved the way for me but to help our people, preserve our land, our ocean and the species that are dependent on us, for future generations to also experience.
“The opportunity gave me a better understanding about the health of the marine environment, animals in their natural habitat and how humans have impacted their marine space.
“It taught me ways to mitigate and prevent further degradation to the marine environment for future generations to enjoy.
“My grandmother would always say to my siblings and I; we need to look after our moana.
“It is full of many wonderful things, not only does it play a role in our history as voyagers, but also now in the present day, keeping us alive as it continues to provide a source of nutrition.”
The next goals she has set her mind on is being selected for the voluntary SPAW programme and encouraging Pacific peoples into the STEAM sector.
“The Cook Islands face the problem of having many unneutered and unspayed dogs, therefore I want to help by providing a simple UET impactful procedure to reduce the overpopulation as a result of excessive breeding.
“We need more pacific islanders in the STEAM sector to create diversity, to provide future generations with Pacific leaders.
“Cook Islanders, and Pacific Islanders as a whole, are much more likely to engage with fellow Pacific Islanders because they can connect on a cultural level.
“We can then use the knowledge and skills of our own Pacific people to solve and prevent pacific STEAM related issues.
“With an increase in involvement of our own resources and people, a growth in passion, urgency and confidence is a sure result.”
Visit the MPP website for more information on Toloa.