Pacific scholar Dr Damon Salesa named AUT’s next vice-chancellor

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Toeolesulusulu Dr Damon Salesa
Toeolesulusulu Dr Damon Salesa ... excited to be leading AUT, "a pacesetter in the social, educational and economic transformation in Aotearoa New Zealand." Image: AUT

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

Pacific scholar and senior university sector leader Toeolesulusulu Dr Damon Salesa has been appointed as the next vice-chancellor of Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland University of Technology (AUT), AUT News reports.

The appointment by the University Council at Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makaurau AUT was announced today and is the result of a global search after current vice-chancellor Derek McCormack announced his retirement in March 2022 after 18 years at the helm.

Toeolesulusulu is a prizewinning historian and former Rhodes Scholar. After obtaining his MA with first class honours at the University of Auckland, he completed his doctoral studies at Oxford University.

He is the author and editor of many books and academic articles including Island Time: New Zealand’s Pacific Futures (BWB, 2017) and Racial Crossings (Oxford University Press, 2011) which won the international Ernest Scott Prize in 2012. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, and currently serves on their council.

“For 20 years AUT has been the most remarkable story in Aotearoa New Zealand tertiary education, showing how the pursuit of excellence can be set on a foundation of service, inclusion and close relationships with our communities, businesses and stakeholders,” said Toeolesulusulu.

“AUT is New Zealand’s tech university, a pacesetter in the social, educational and economic transformation in Aotearoa New Zealand. I am excited by the opportunity to lead AUT on the next leg of its journey of excellence, Te Tiriti partnership, equity and service to our city, nation, region and the world.”

His current role is as pro vice-chancellor Pacific at the University of Auckland where he also serves on the executive committee tasked with the strategic leadership and governance of the organisation.

Pacific programme in US
Toeolesulusulu has also served as co-head of Te Wānanga o Waipapa (School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies) at the University of Auckland and previously worked at the University of Michigan for 10 years, including in roles as director of the Asian Pacific Islander American Studies Programme and as an associate professor in the History Department and Programme in American Culture.

An Aucklander, Toeolesulusulu was born and bred in Glen Innes, the son of a factory worker from Samoa and a nurse from the Far North. He is married with two teenage daughters.

Toeolesulusulu retains strong connections to many of Auckland’s communities, especially in South Auckland. He has been an innovator at the interface between schools and universities and has been an important leader and supporter of the work of schools, in pedagogy, curriculum and governance.

AUT chancellor Rob Campbell said the council was looking forward to welcoming Toeolesulusulu Dr Salesa to AUT next year.

“We are impressed by Damon’s vision of the critical contribution AUT can make to Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific through quality research and teaching, and the role of Te Tiriti o Waitangi throughout the work of the university,” he said.

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