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PhD graduate shares her journey of courage, commitment and dedication

Dr Whippy receiving her PhD award from USP’s 25th Chancellor, His Excellency TanetiMaamau, the President of the Republic of Kiribati. Photo: USP MEDIA

SUVA, Fiji – September 27, 2018: 3.15pm (USP Media): Hearing your name being virtually blasted over the microphone and resonating around the auditorium to receive your PhD following years of sweat and hard work is a moment too sweet to cherish, too overwhelming to contain one’s self.

Such, and even more was Dr Kelesi Whippy’s experience when she walked up to the stage to receive her award during The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Faculty of Arts, Law and Education (FALE) afternoon graduation ceremony on 20 September 2018 at the National Gymnasium in Suva.

The emotional mother of eight (8), also an Assistant Lecturer at USP’s Laucala Campus, did her PhD research on An exploration of the iTaukei perceptions and expressions of play and its implications for early learning and development.

On the challenges faced along the way, Dr Whippy said at times she felt lost, but her elders kept reassuring her to depend on God Almighty.

“Time passed by and through it all, my family and colleagues kept reminding me that life has to go on, to keep myself occupied with work and life experiences and not to miss out on special moments with family and friends,” shared Dr Whippy, who also took into her stride her sister’s four children.

She added that all those years of hard work, exhaustion, self-doubt and tenacity culminated in the PhD, “but one must understand that we only get to live once so the PhD journey is part of that precious one-time opportunity to engage in this life” so she ensured its successful completion.

“All in all, I found that procrastination was my biggest challenge. Most often than not, I had to mull over few things in my head first before getting it down on paper which resulted in the long ‘silences’ during the course of this journey,” she said.

When asked how she felt for her achievement, Dr Whippy stated that it certainly felt good and there were some mixed feelings.

“I am deeply humbled to carry with me the blessings of the Yavusa Nayaumunu, the people and the land of Viwa, Bau, in the province of Tailevu.

“I am eternally indebted to the Vanua for influencing my perceptions and attitude as a vasu (a relation through maternal links), ivukevukeyaga (supportive wife), dauniveisusuvinaka (mother; of motherly disposition) and dauniveituberiuasivi (an educator) to relook at the interactions between people and environment as a unitary system or the ability to veivakavulici e na itovo e veiganiti kei na bula ni veimaliwai. So, even in that precise moment of relief and joy to have accomplished this goal, I feel a deep sense of obligation and connection to the Vanua,” Dr Whippy shared.

She said her achievement reminded her of everyone who had touched her life in one way or another during the course of her study, in particular, her late mother, Vakatawa (Deacon) Siteri Lalaciwa Raduva-Sale, grandson – Iliesa Roko Johua Koroibete and the rest of her family.

“This milestone is also dedicated to my Adi Cakobau School Alumni and the group of vibrant young women of the Class of 88. The gift of their support and acknowledgement is truly appreciated,” she said.

Her advice to aspiring students is to persevere with dedication because “a doctoral degree is no mean feat, without the failures, there would not be any successes”.

“Your area of specialisation is important so strive to set a precedence. Similar to all success stories, the initial chapters may denote humble beginnings. It is the author who drives the tone so be passionate about the storyline. There will always be an oasis for refresher ideas and of course the punchlines (not so academic in nature) but include it anyways,” she said.

Dr Whippy, though originally from Samoa, has strong paternal links to Sawana, Vanuabalavu in Lau and maternal links to Viwa, Bau, Tailevu and Namacu, Koro, Lomaiviti.

Among those who Dr Whippy acknowledged was her late mother Siteri Lalaciwa Raduva-Sale, who molded her into the woman she has become today and who served as an inspiration even until the end; her husband, Peter Whippy of  Kasavu, Savusavu,  a source of strength and stepping in to play both parental roles throughout her academic journey; Dr. Akanisi Kedrayate, Dean of the  FALE, the Research and Internationalisation office and the School of Education Research and Postgraduate committee for the tremendous support in providing the approvals and sponsorship needed for enrollment into the doctoral studies.

In addition, she acknowledged Dr. Jito Vanualailai, Director USP Research Office for facilitating a weeklong face-to-face consultation with her supervisors, Dr. Salanieta Bakalevu, Dr. Mesake Rawaikela at the School of Education and, Professor Margret Sims at the Faculty of Education, University of New Engalnd, Armidale, Australia.

“I take my hat off also to my colleague and mentor, Dr. Lavenia SaulecaTausere – Tiko, a graduate of the University of New England, who had paved the way for ECEC scholars in the Pacific.”

“Without my colleagues’ and supervisors’ critical remarks, I would not have done it for which I am very grateful,” she added.

A total of 238 students graduated from FALE during the afternoon graduation session on 20 September, 2018, while a total of 1,321 students graduated from USP in a ceremony at the National Gymnasium over a two day period from 20-21 September.






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