From a very young age he was encouraged by his family to do what he wanted to do, says New Zealand-born Dr Leon Iusitini who is of Cook Island, Samoan and Pakeha descent.
For Leon, working with Pacific people was what he was the most passionate about.
After completing a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Auckland in 2005, he graduated with a Master of Arts from AUT in 2013, focusing on the political participation of Pacific people.
For the past 15 years, Leon has been researching and working on the longitudinal Pacific Islands Families Study at AUT, and in 2017 he joined the New Zealand Work Research Institute (NZWRI) as a PhD student investigating the intergenerational income mobility in New Zealand.
“Working at NZWRI has enabled me to further pursue my research interests in social mobility and intergenerational inequality in New Zealand, as well as other interesting research projects that NZWRI is undertaking across a range of fields including labour economics and health,” he says.
“I’m very glad to have recently completed my PhD, which took many years to come to fruition amidst pandemic lockdowns and having children. The NZWRI team, led by Professor Gail Pacheco, are a superb bunch of smart, good-natured researchers who are great to work with.”
Leon says AUT has “always been a really collegial place to work”, and he has been able to develop his skills and further his career through shared experiences and mentoring.
When asked what makes him proud Leon says it felt good to finish his PhD, and he is pleased to remain a co-investigator and affiliate researcher with the Pacific Islands Families Study, a programme of research investigating the health and development of Pacific youth in New Zealand that has been going on for over 20 years.
Leon says as a Pacific researcher at AUT, his role is both research and promoting the interests of Pacific people in New Zealand.
In his role as a senior research fellow, he is involved in the entire research process, from applying for research funding to publishing journal articles. His role allows him to fully dedicate himself to his research and social justice issues.
“Through our research, my colleagues and I are raising the profile of Pacific people, their concerns and their interests.”