The Political Science Program at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMU-K), with the assistance of the University’s Division of International Studies & Programs, is pleased to introduce its Pacific Studies Program 2015 - a collaborative initiative between A&M-Kingsville and the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. The Pacific Studies Program (PSP) is being co-directed by Dr. Nirmal Goswami, Professor of Political Science, TAMU-K and Dr. Elaine Webster, Director, Summer School and Continuing Education, University of Otago. The PSP will include graduate and undergraduate students traveling to and staying in New Zealand in July of 2015, attending classes at the University of Otago, and visiting multiple sites through field trips in the greater Otago region. Areas of focus include history, politics, economics, culture, sustainability and environmental policies, etc., with reference to both the greater Pacific region and New Zealand. You are all invited to cyber travel with us as we learn about the uniqueness of New Zealand and the surrounding region. This blog will document our experience. You are welcome to post comments.

Hoggies NZ Slideshow

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Texas Topic!

Dr. Randall Williams, Professor at TAMU-K’s College of Agriculture and his wife, Dr. Karen Blaesing (Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio) joined us in Dunedin. Dr. Williams made a presentation about how agricultural education can contribute to the academic successes of college students. He cited data from his research work in Texas.  Dr. Williams’ presentation was at the University of Otago’s Centre for Sustainability. His presentation was well attended and led to a vigorous Q&A session with Otago’s doctoral students. We were happy to see the interest shown by Kiwi students about a topic that had a Texas focus!

-- TAMU-K Studennts

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Finding “Extra” in the “Ordinary”

 The “Maoris,” New Zealand’s indigenous population, translates simply to “ordinary” as that is how they described themselves to foreign settlers in the 1800s. Today we had the opportunity to do something the exact opposite, something extraordinary. We experienced something that even many here in New Zealand do not. We visited a marae
Before our marae visit, University of Otago’s (UO) Mark Brunton, a Maori himself, talked to us about: a marae; Maori culture; society; and structures. A lot of this knowledge was pertinent to our marae visit. A marae is an important aspect of each Maori tribe, or iwi. A marae is essentially a complex of buildings that always include the following:

  • A wharenui, the main meeting house
  • A wharekai, the dining hall
  • A wharepaku, showers, toilets, etc.
  • An atea, the area in front of the main meeting house, usually grassy
  • A waha roa, the gate or main entrance to the atea

Maraes can also include a school (kura), a worship house (whare karakia), and a graveyard (urupa). At the presentation we were taught the “welcome ceremonies” or “rituals of encounter” (powhiri) in Maori culture. This last bit was the most crucial for our visit. 
After the lecture we were driven out onto the Otago Peninsula to visit the Otakou marae. Once there we participated in the powhiri. We lined up, women first, as Maori culture dictates and we were all slowly led through the waha roa, up the atea, and into the wharenui. Throughout the walk a mana whenua, or one of our hosts stood right outside the wharenui and would perform a karanga, or a call. Claire Porima, a Maori lady associated with UO, led us in with a karanga of her own. Once inside, a separate host began the whaikorero, or the speech-making portion of the powhiri. This was followed by a waiata, or song, sung by his group. A waikorero was then given by Mark Brunton as a part of our group and then altogether we sang a waiata we had been taught just for this occasion. Gifts were exchanged and then we all participated in the traditional greeting which includes shaking hands and pressing your forehead and nose to those of the person you are greeting, breathing together so that you are united by breathing the same air. This is called hongi and is very different from the less personal and distanced handshake we are familiar with. Last was the kai, or the sharing of food that also denotes the end of the welcome ceremony. The kai is the “final balancing out” of the powhiri and the visitors are now, for their stay, a part of the family. 
While eating we met with and talked to our hosts and then listened to Donna Matahaere-Atariki, a local Maori leader, speak of stories of her specific iwi and discuss current issues relevant to not only her iwi but to all Maori people. The entire experience, introduction to Maori culture, meeting with our Maori hosts, and especially the traditional welcome, was something that really needs to be experienced first-hand. It was a rare experience that we will  remember as one of the most extraordinary ever. 

-- Arianna A.

Coconuts, Bananas, and Socioeconomics

University of Otago (UO) Professor, Dr. Sarah Walton, began one of our  classes by referring to a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) called Women in Business Development Inc., (WIBDI). This NGO started in 1991 and focuses on creating economic opportunities for local populations in Samoa. The reason this is a prime example of socioeconomics is because WIBDI uses Samoan culture and traditions as a “backbone” for many of its programs.  WIBDI emphasizes social impact rather than only profit. It creates goods with an entrepreneurial spirit, however the end goal is ethically-based social advancement. The NGO supports products like coconut oil and dried banana snacks by working directly with home-based rural residents, especially women, making these items.  
WIBDI worked with local cultures without intervening in family values and roles. This approach, sometimes, led to issues like tensions with male family members when women generated high incomes. WIBDI addresses these types of consequences as well. WIBDI, in essence, is an example of how a business endeavor can go beyond commerce to help small populations in difficult circumstances become economically self-sustaining, and still retain cultural traditions. 

-- Dakota R. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mothers’ Darlings

For our 6th lecture, we learned about a unique aspect of WWII. We mostly know about the war from an American perspective. During this lecture we learned about what it was like for New Zealand and the impact stationing of US servicemen had on New Zealand. The arrival of Americans, overwhelmingly men, had a dramatic consequence, both economically and socially.This was something the Pacific had never experienced before. Many US men developed relationships with local women. This was a very different experience for both the natives and the US men stationed in the Pacific. For the Americans, it was a new found freedom for them to not have to worry about the scrutiny that came with being a white man involved with a woman of color, and for indigenous women, it was different to be treated well by whites. As a result of these relationships, both casual and serious, there were many children born out of wedlock. Due to the times then, many of the marriages between the US servicemen and Maori women were not legal. In some cases, if the woman could prove that she was at least 51% white they were allowed to marry and permitted legal entry into the US. Unfortunately this was very rare and many men had to leave their families behind once their New Zealand posting was over; many men were not even aware that they fathered children. Most of these children were raised by the women left behind.

-- Catrina G. & Ema G.


Tony is owner and operator of Kiwi Shuttles. He's driven us to the Otago peninsula to see penguins and also to Queenstown to go skiing. He is also a long-time Dunedin resident, originally from Samoa, an entrepreneur, and an avid rugby fan and rugby coach. In addition to getting us around the South Island safely, Tony has also helped introduce us to some of Dunedin's local food and sports. On the way back from Queenstown I mentioned to him that I hadn't yet tried any local seafood. To my surprise, after arriving in Dunedin he stopped to pick up a freshly fried order of fish and chips, mussels, and oysters for us to enjoy. Also knowing we hadn't yet been to a rugby game, he offered to pick us up and take us to watch our first rugby game here in New Zealand. The next day he drove us to the Harbour Hawks vs University of Otago game at Forsyth Barr Stadium, bringing along some pineapple bread (a pastry with pineapple filling) for us to try. We were also joined by his daughter, Kala, whose fiancee plays on the Harbour Hawks. It was a fun experience watching and learning the game of rugby. Tony's generous sharing of kiwi culture with us has been very cool and much appreciated!

--Aaron H.

The Past Preserved

On our fourth day of class we had the pleasure of listening to Professor Colin Campbell-Hunt. Professor Campell-Hunt is actually not a wildlife expert but has a background in economics. He developed an interest in wildlife preservation because his late wife never had the opportunity to complete her dreams of establishing an eco sanctuary that regenerated New Zealand’s original, fauna and flora. After the lecture, we took a field trip to the sanctuary to experience its beauty first hand. 

The goal of Orokonui Ecosanctuary (www. is to preserve selected tracts of land and restore them to how they once were in this part of New Zealand. The Ecosanctuary is an impressive 307 hectares, surrounded by a customized fence designed to keep pests out.

-- Mikayla R.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Inspired Skating

On July 22, a few of the girls and I went to Dunedin Ice Stadium to test our ice skating skills. Most of us had ice skated at least once before but it’s been a while so we were a little nervous about stepping on the ice. Those nerves quickly diminished once we started skating. Even though we stumbled and tumbled, with the bruises to prove that, it was a lot of fun. Our ice skating skills got better the longer we skated; we even got helpful tips from a man who worked at the ice stadium. I didn’t quite catch his name, but he was a very cool elderly who skated like a professional. We talked to him a little and he told us that he and his partner competed in an ice skating competition in Japan a couple months ago and won third place. He proved that age is just a number! We were inspired. 

-- Ashley M.