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Two images of Pasifika woman Tutai with her laptop

Helping a community

In between being heavily involved in multiple community organisations, working full-time and raising her family, Tutai (Tai) Daniel-Teuhema still found time to complete a Bachelor of Business (Management) by distance learning with Open Polytechnic. 

Motivated to help Pasifika community 

Manurewa resident Tai had heard positive feedback from people in her life about the Open Polytechnic, and after carrying out her own research about the institution she decided to enrol in the Bachelor of Business (Management). Her keen interest in this particular field enabled her to apply the skills that she learned to not only her career, but also her Pasifika community where she sits on the board of multiple charitable organisations.

“Being part of these charitable organisations, on top of working full-time, and organising a very large extended family, made distance learning the best option for me. In terms of time, it was far easier for me to manage because I wouldn’t have been able to attend classes. The biggest advantage was that I could set up my own timetable, and when I wasn’t working I was able to squeeze in studying.”

Career change

When she first started her study, Tai was working as a project coordinator for a government department. During her studies she moved into an administrator role at HEB Construction, which involves the management of finances and other administration responsibilities in the civil engineering sector of the company.

“My role is heavily finance-related with a lot of administration, which involves ensuring each project is running smoothly in terms of dealing with subcontractors and suppliers and providing the operational support our team needs for a successful project. Basically, it involves everything to do with project costs, which makes it an incredibly busy, challenging and interesting role – no two days are ever the same.”

Employer and family support

Tai says while there were times when it could be very overwhelming to balance study with all her other commitments, having the support from her family helped to keep her going and not give up.

“Not only were my family extremely encouraging and supportive, but also my job as well. My manager, who is absolutely brilliant, could see that at times it was getting quite overwhelming, so he would allow me time to study if I needed to meet a deadline for one of my assignments – so supportive.”

Community involvement

Of Cook Island descent, Tai is committed to helping her Pasifika community get ahead. She says her studies have been a big help in her charitable work.

“A lot of what we do is to help contribute and build communal housing (hostels) and community halls where people can go to engage with others from the same community. I have enjoyed being able to apply my learning from my courses to these organisations and these projects. In particular, I have been able to look at a business structure and what steps we’ve needed to take in order to help these projects. The renovation and refurbishment of the Hostel in Rarotonga is nearly complete.”

Future plans

Now that Tai has finished her degree, she’s looking forward to future endeavours, including thinking about gaining a masters degree, and one day would like to start her own business to benefit the Pasifika community.

“I'd like to start my own business to support my Pasifika community and to encourage my Polynesian people to get involved in order for them to change, grow and advance. A lot of young people do not have a clear direction of where they want to go and what they want to do, so I want to use that as a stepping stone for them. It is also a goal of mine to set up some sort of funding scheme to sponsor people who want the opportunity to further their education – their success is our community’s success.”

Advice to others

“The benefits of studying at the Open Polytechnic fall more on a personal level for me, feeling a sense of pride and achievement that I'd accomplished this on my own. I had a lot of support, but it ultimately came down to my hard work, determination and a lot of coffee. There was a great sense of pride when my children came to my graduation. I wanted to be an example for my children so they could see that if their Mum can get her degree, then they should be able to as well.”

Tai says she has encouraged lots of people to try distance study with Open Polytechnic. “For anyone wanting to study, I would tell them it's not about how young you are or how old you are, it's about self-belief and your determination to succeed, and it only takes one step at a time.”

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