Meet Anita Kiteau-Tuiaki: Higher Education Researcher for Pacific Islanders

It was in college where Anita Kiteau-Tuiaki, Tongan EdD student identified her passion for making a difference in people’s lives. During her undergraduate years at the University of Utah, through student affairs, student government, and student housing, Kiteau-Tuiaki knew she wanted to leave an impact on students and guide them into elevated leadership and higher education.

“Success is not about your net worth, but the meaningful relationships you develop and the difference you make in peoples’ lives,” Kiteau-Tuiaki affirms.

With the support of her grandparents and her mom as motivation, Kiteau-Tuiaki was also granted the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship to fund both her undergraduate and graduate degrees.

In a South Pacific Islander article, Kiteau-Tuiaki explains how she was able to receive over $37,000 in scholarships:

“I was blessed to have a cousin who worked in higher education and encouraged me to look into scholarships. Thanks to him and some of my high school counselors and teachers, I decided to apply to every scholarship under the sun at East High School. I applied to all sorts of scholarships and was grateful to land many of them. I received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Utah in addition to becoming a Gates Millennium Scholar and a Ronald McDonald scholar.”

After her Business degree, she then pursued a Master’s of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah in 2012.  After receiving more funding from the Gates Millennium Scholarship in 2014, she started her EdD at Northcentral University with a focus on Leadership in Higher Education. Currently, she is in her last year of the program where she applies theories to the field work in order to make real change happen for the misrepresented.

Today, Kiteau-Tuiaki focuses on how to increase Pacific Islanders’ college graduation rates. Due to inaccurate data, diversity challenges, and other reasons, their college graduation rates are lower than the national average. Kiteau-Tuiaki aims to share her research on the first-year college experience of Pacific Islanders in order to resolve this issue and let their stories be told.

“We bring with us a wealth of cultural assets to thrive in academia while combating systemic oppression and navigating oceans of opportunity. We have a rich history and our stories need to be told by us. Hence, I’m specifically conducting my research on the first-year college experience of Pacific Islander students and how those experiences contribute to their college success. I’m giving them an opportunity to tell their own stories.”

Written by Mashari Grissom

For more information on Anita sharing her experience on transitioning to the U.S and pursuing higher education, click here for the full South Pacific Islander interview.

Featured Image: via South Pacific Islander