Māori researcher awarded full sholarship at one of the world’s top universities

By Arohanui West

Top-ranking university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has awarded Māori researcher and Architecture lecturer Jacqueline Paul a full scholarship. 

The Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Tūwharetoa descendant has joined the chosen few accepted to MIT which has been ranked as the best university in the world.

The long-awaited dream is coming to fruition for Paul, her whānau and the community.

“MIT just felt like one of those things that were beyond reach because I didn't know anybody who had actually gone to MIT but I saw the previous lawyers who went to Harvard, so when I saw other Maori doing it I was really inspired by that.”

Paul will head to the United States later this year to pursue her PhD at MIT. She received the news of her successful application hours after graduating with her masters at The University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. 

“Unreal, you know, to be just able to graduate at Cambridge the same day and then several hours later find out that I just got into MIT fully funded, full scholarship and it was just crazy.”

Paul has dedicated more than a decade of her career addressing housing deprivation and advocating for rangatahi Māori in the housing sector.

Her work with Manaaki Rangatahi specialising in youth homelessness has also contributed evidence to the WAI2750 Housing Inquiry. 

“I was asked by Te Matapihi, one of the claimants in the WAI2750 claim, to be able to act as an expert witness as well to be able to provide evidence essentially around some of the grievances around Māori specifically for young people.”

In pursuing her PhD with MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning she aims to build a knowledge base and open doors to more innovative indigenous housing initiatives. 

“Really it's just building on the existing mahi I'm doing here at Unitec so we're working on the Marae Ora Kainga Ora project and the UIKI, the urban intergenerational kāinga innovations project to really look at some of these ideas internationally.”

Whānau and colleagues at Unitec and particularly Ngā Wai A Te Tuī have played a huge role in her achievement. She will relocate to the United States in September this year to begin her five-year-long academic journey with MIT. 

“I think it has been quite overwhelming since I found out and a lot for, not only for me to process but also my whānau. So they're really proud, we're really excited but also quite anxious since we're quite a close-knit whānau.”