From student to lecturer

10 March 2017
Sam Manuela

The School of Psychology has a new staff member with the appointment of Lecturer Sam Manuela.

Head of School Professor Will Hayward considers Sam’s presence in the school to be very important due to “Pacific people being under-served by the discipline of Psychology and mental health services in general.”

Sam began his undergraduate degree at the University of Auckland and specialised in biology before enjoying a psychology paper so much he changed tact, and is due to graduate with his PhD in May.

Due to Western-centric biases in psychology, current theories and models that seek to understand identity and wellness may not accurately reflect Pacific peoples’ conceptualisations of these constructs. Sam hopes to introduce more indigenous Pacific knowledge into the discipline.

During his studies, Sam developed a psychometric tool that is more in line with Pacific perspectives of identity and wellbeing, whilst still adhering to psychometric principles to ensure the tool is valid and reliable. This was done by drawing on both psychological and Pacific understandings of the self-concept and overall wellbeing.

“It’s cool to integrate these different forms of knowledge into a quantitative tool that will be beneficial to our community,” says Sam.

“We want to produce Psychology graduates that are equipped with a skill-set that allows them to adapt to a constantly changing world. That includes having an understanding of diverse cultures and how those cultural understandings inform the everyday lives of people.”

Sam, who is the first person in his family to graduate from university, is heavily involved in the Tuākana programme and is pleased to be developing content in the curriculum. A new venture for the school is a new stage 3 course that Sam is contributing toward called Culture and Psychology.

“It’s exciting to see a paper devoted to the role that our cultures and ethnicities have in shaping the way we understand human experiences. By doing so, we not only challenge assumptions made by Western theories and practices, but also encourage students to think about how their own cultural norms and values fit within psychology.”