University appoints first deputy vice-chancellor Māori

Distinguished Māori legal scholar Prof Jacinta Ruru is ready to start her new role as the first...
Distinguished Māori legal scholar Prof Jacinta Ruru is ready to start her new role as the first deputy vice-chancellor Māori for the University of Otago. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A prominent legal scholar has "very ambitious" goals after being appointed the University of Otago’s first deputy vice-chancellor Māori.

Prof Jacinta Ruru (Raukawa, Ngāti Ranginui) said it was an "incredible honour" and she was excited to start in her new position late March.

The role was created to lead the Māori academic agenda of the university.

"It's a position a lot of us Māori staff have been hoping and wishing for, for a long time."

By establishing Māori academic leadership, the university hoped to strengthen the overall experience for both Māori staff and students.

"I feel really privileged and really excited to have this opportunity to work with the senior leadership team to bring a really strong Māori academic voice into the university and help contribute towards making some real incredible change."

The role would allow for mātauraka (knowledge) Māori to flourish, creating more spaces for Māori to be Māori.

Prof Ruru said she had a "very ambitious" goals, but it would take some time to set up the office.

"I really love my job in the law faculty and I love research, but I'm really ready for this role.

"I have worked across the whole university for more than 20 years, so that trust and confidence of my colleagues and peers means the world to me and I'm really looking forward to working together as a collective."

Prof Ruru was New Zealand’s first Māori professor of law and the first to be recognised as a fellow of the Royal Society, along with Prof Linda Tuhiwai Smith. 

Her devotion to her work saw her receive numerous significant awards, including the Prime Minister’s Supreme Teaching Excellence award and the University of Otago’s Distinguished Research Medal in 2022.

She is also a member of both the New Zealand Order of Merit and is a senior Māori scholar for Fulbright Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence.

Chancellor Stephen Higgs said Prof Ruru’s appointment helped the university’s goal of promoting the wellbeing and success of Māori academic staff and students.

Ōtākou Rūnaka Upoko (Head) Edward Ellison said he was "very pleased" with the new role.

"Mana whenua have long held aspirations to see such a prominent Māori position at Otago University, to see Māori academia leadership elevated and set the platform for growth and pursuit of excellence in Māori epistemology.

"We acknowledge the university for the commitment to Māori and mātauraka that the position represents," he said.