Diane (Ngāpuhi) helps ensure that mātauranga (Māori knowledge) is valued alongside science in national problem-solving initiatives such as Rethinking Plastics Aotearoa.
What do you do on an average work day? He aha tō mahi ia rā, ia rā?
I'm a Senior Lecturer at Otago Business School and I'm undertaking a wide variety of research related to understanding the potential and resilience of our Māori economy and enterprise.
I have classes of varying sizes at under-graduate and post-graduate level. I spend time with students, local and international. I might work on some research, an article or report submission. I might also not be on the office at all. For my research, I go to speak to people to learn more about them and their business. I also travel to meetings across the country and internationally to present my research at various conferences.
I am fortunate to be involved in a number of activities across the University campus with Te Poutama Māori, which is our Otago Māori academic caucus. We organise initiatives to support Māori academic excellence and create a culturally stimulating environment for our staff. We host seminars, research workshops, research symposium, or just meet to share kai and kōrero.
Most importantly, during my workday, I make sure to talk to, work and laugh with my colleagues.
What did you study at school? And after high school? I ako koe i te aha i te kura? I aha koe whai muri i te kura tuarua?
I was not very scholarly at high school. I studied English, Math, History, Science, Geography – I did okay. I played loads of sports!
After school, my Mum enlisted me in the Royal New Zealand Airforce. I was in a certificate trainee programme where I was trained in logistics and also attended polytech. It was here that I learnt a lot about my capacity to learn and actually do well in my studies, gaining a Diploma of Business Studies.
Then came the University of Otago and a Bachelor of Commerce with Honours (Management), Masters of Commerce, Post-Graduate Diploma (Tourism) and a PhD.
Was your study directly related to what you do now? He ōrite tāu mahi i taua wā ki tāu mahi o ināianei?
Not so much what I studied at high school, but definitely throughout my post-graduate studies. Although what I do now requires me to think and engage with knowledge much more broadly.
Something I reflect on now, is how important it is to keep learning, through a formal qualification or not. Amongst needing to keep abreast of my disciplinary knowledge and my secret addiction to sci-fi TV, I always find people, articles, books, documentaries, news items to read, watch or listen to what is happening in the world around me. Never stop wanting to learn or find out about stuff.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now? He aha āu kupu hei āwhina i ngā rangatahi wahine e whakaaro ana ki tā rātou mahi mō te wā kei mua i te aroaro?
Throughout my life and career I have made choices – some seemingly good and some seemingly not so good. I have had instances where I have thought I had failed, or missed an opportunity. To be honest, a couple of what I thought at the time were devastating failures are what put me on the pathway to where I am today. While I am not “Queen of the world’” I am “Queen of my world” and that is perfect.
So say yes to opportunities, at the same time do not be afraid to say no if it just does not fit with you at that time. Ask for help when you need it; take it when offered. Grieve your failures, get angry even, but take that next step, and then another. Share your successes and failures with those who matter to you. No matter what, follow your gut and you will be okay.
What are some of your career highlights so far? He aha ngā painga o te umanga e whāia ana e koe?
Being a part of New Zealand’s Science for Technology & Innovation National Science Challenge has been such an incredible experience. It is satisfying working with scientists to bring vision mātauranga to life in their respective sciences.
Participating in the national panel on Rethinking Plastics Aotearoa is also a highlight. Working with an incredibly passionate, knowledgeable, scarily qualified cohort has been inspirational.
I also started a whānau business, which was exciting, scary, hard, but rewarding. I’m really proud because it’s not just about doing good business. For us it is doing business as Māori, and rockin' it big time!
Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand? He aha a STEM (pūtaiao, hangarau, pūkaha, pāngarau) e whai take ana ki Aotearoa?
He rangi tā matawhāiti, he rangi tā matawhānui - The person with a narrow vision sees a narrow horizon, the person with a wide vision sees a wide horizon. We need to know our world, so we can live with it responsibly. I truly fear for the world that we are leaving to our next generations. I do not think STEM is the only answer, but it is certainly an important part of the solution.
We need more exploration of how our ancestral Māori wisdoms can be expressed with integrity in STEM sciences and innovation. I believe if we can achieve synergy of mātauranga Māori and STEM, importantly not one speaking for the other, but working with each other – the vision for our Aotearoa of the future will be limitless!
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM? He aha te take me whai wāhi ngā wāhine ki STEM?
The world needs STEM research and practice that represents the communities we live in – the communities that we want to live in!
Women bring technical skills to science that are strengthened by who we are and how we engage with the world around us. Women have been and continue to be a formidable presence in the world of science.
Mātauranga-a-wāhine (Māori women’s knowledge) embraces the power of our intergenerational knowledge and brings with it deep nuances of resilience, creativity and transformation. Imagine our world of possibilities.
Dr Diane Rongo Ruwhiu (Ngāpuhi) is a Senior Lecturer at Otago Business School undertaking a wide variety of research related to understanding the potential and resilience of our Māori economy and enterprise.
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
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