NZ-born Samoan academic Therese Lautua lands Harvard teaching role

A Samoan academic is heading to Harvard University to share her knowledge with students across the globe.

Auckland University Theologian Dr Therese Lautua is taking up a teaching position as a College Fellow in Indigenous Religion at the Ivy League university.

The Manurewa born, 31-year-old first embarked on an academic journey with her doctoral thesis that explored ‘God in the 21st century’ and how images of God and cultural identity affected mental wellbeing.

She now hopes to inspire and inform people through a Pacific worldview.

“I was shocked I got an interview. I don’t think teaching at an Ivy League university was something that I had ever considered but I wanted to help people de-colonise in their own context and share our amazing Pacific knowledge.”

She drew inspiration for her teachings from Pasifika women being able to juggle a lot in their everyday life.

“Being mothers, working at the same time, understanding their gender roles and within church too. Communicating how important our religious beliefs are to us and incorporating how mental health is not separate from our spirituality is something I hope to do.”

She wants to highlight the importance of “how we can decolonise Christian beliefs and practices and how we might better connect with our faith and theologies.”

“Even though the majority of our region is Christian it is wrong to think our ancestors who were not Christian were not holy in their own way. We are all the more richer for having our indigenous beliefs and Christianity woven together to better the wellbeing of our people as a whole.”

Dr Therese Lautua

She said wants to showcase the “resilience of the Pacific people” and portray the rich understanding of “relationality and holistic wellbeing” which includes how Pacific relationships are connected with the environment, family and culture.

She is encouraging other Pasifika dreamers to shoot their shot and apply for opportunities like she had.

“Even if it seems ridiculous and audacious – apply for it. Our people are incredible at what we do so why not show the world what we can do.”

Lautua leaves for Boston at the end of June with her husband and two children.

She hopes this is just the beginning of her career as an international lecturer.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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