A Te Wānanga o Aotearoa rangahau adviser has scooped one of New Zealand's most prestigious doctoral scholarships.
Pauline Adams is the recipient of a Ngarimu VC and 28th Māori Battalion Doctoral Scholarship for 2018.
The undergraduate, masters, and doctoral scholarships commemorate Victoria Cross winner Second Lieutenant Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Ngārimu and members of the 28th Māori Battalion, who served on the battlefields of Greece, Crete, North Africa, and Italy between 1941 and 1945.
This year three undergraduate, three masters and two doctoral scholarships were awarded to support Māori excellence at tertiary level, with academic merit a high priority.
Pauline said receiving the scholarship was a huge honour that came with huge accountability.
"It's been quite overwhelming to be honest, it's a lot of weight on the shoulders. I knew it wasn't just a 'fill in the form and see what happens' scholarship.
"I put a lot of work into it, a lot of thought into it."
She said having strong whānau links to the 28th Māori Battalion added to the honour, and the responsibility.
"My koro was in C Company. I was very close to him and my daughter carries his name so that was significant," she said.
"In applying for the scholarship, I went back to whānau and said 'I'm applying for this scholarship and this is the importance of it'. So I talked about my koro a lot in the application and the lessons we've learned as a whānau from him."
Her doctoral research is about bicultural identity and how society portrays and influences identity, particularly among young people.
"There's a lot of research on Māori adolescents and how they identify as Māori. Things like 'I know I'm Māori because I'm poor' or because 'I grew up in a gang'. That's all they've seen and that's all they've heard of what it means to be Māori.
"That's a colonised perspective of Māori and it's reinforced through our media, through our film, our television. Part of my research is about pushing back against these narratives."
A large part of Pauline's research draws on her experience growing up with a Māori mother and Pākeha father in suburban Auckland in the 1980s. It's an approach she finds challenging.
"From the beginning it became obvious I had to do this from my perspective. I'm pretty introverted but it's important to do this to understand how I saw the world growing up," she said.
"Something like the 1981 Springbok tour - which really held a mirror up to each and every one of us - has an impact on how you see yourself and I guess that's what I'm really exploring."
Her rangahau also considered the connotations of urbanisation.
"I look at urbanisation as a narrative. Being 'urban' comes with all these connotations. 'You don't know who you are', 'you need to go home and find out who you are'. Well, I know exactly who I am."
Paulne has a strong background in educational research and experience. She trained as a primary school teacher more than 20 years ago and completed her undergraduate degree in education at Auckland University.
After teaching in Auckland and overseas, she returned to Rotorua in 2010 and began teaching on the Bachelor of Education programme at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa while also completing her masters.
She began her current role as rangahau adviser in 2015.
"The biggest part of our role is support.
"We are also developing the Te Wānanga o Aotearoa position on rangahau, not research. We will continue to take that kaupapa out of the wānanga and to challenge those spaces. I love it here and I love the rangahau kaupapa and just want to continue to grow rangahau in Te Wānanga o Aotearoa."
Like many Māori tāne, Lebon Wilson struggled with mainstream schooling and left at 14. It’s taken him a long time to realise the benefits of being able to channel his learning and effort into something that he’s passionate about. That was by discovering whakairo.