Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga celebrates new Principal Academic Staff Members  

Posted on 25 October 2023

Four Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga Academic Staff Members, Dr Melissa McMinn (Initial Teacher Education), Dr Mathew Thomas (Engineering), Dr Waireti Roestenburg (Social Health & Wellbeing), and Dr Indu Peiris (Management and Economics) were recently promoted to the prominent position of Principal Academic Staff Member.  

Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga Executive Director Alan Cadwallader congratulated kaimahi (staff) on their promotions in this year’s formal Academic Staff Member promotion round.  

“Academic promotions recognise the wealth of skills, knowledge, experience, and expertise that our valued academic staff members bring to our organisation.  I congratulate everyone promoted in this year’s promotion round, and especially recognise those staff who have attained the level of Principal Academic Staff Member.” 

The distance learning specialist organisation, which is a business division of Te Pūkenga, also celebrated a further 17 Academic Staff Members who were promoted to Senior Academic Staff Members during the same promotions round including Josiah Koh, Richard Sheehan, Teresa Hall, Dana Brown, Lisa Buck, Thomas Vazhathara, Sarah Hassall, Cherie Toatoa, Dr John Allen, Kate Caie, Chris McKenzie, Alison Holleyoak, Colin Bloomfield, Renu Joshi, Puvana Natanasabapathy, Deborah Neilson, and Jude Douglas.  

Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga Acting Executive Director Learning Delivery, and Chair of this year’s evaluation panel, Andrew McCulloch, says this year's promotion round saw an increase in the number of strong applicants and this “demonstrates a growing commitment to academic excellence and academic leadership within our organisation.”   

Principal Academic Staff Member is the most senior title an academic staff member can hold at Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga. 

“Applicants must exhibit thought leadership in their area of specialty and be widely recognised as leaders in their field of study and teaching practice, both within New Zealand and ideally at an international level. Their reputation should extend beyond academia, reflecting their exceptional influence and contributions,” says Andrew.  

Principal Academic Staff Member Dr Indu Peiris acknowledged the stimulating and fulfilling work environment Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga offers, “The flexibility in work arrangements coupled with its supportive culture makes our organisation an outstanding place to develop professionally. Collaborating with my team and the leadership group is both a pleasure and a source of constant inspiration.”  

Dr Indu Peiris

He says he is looking forward to working in the wider Te Pūkenga network to expand research collaboration and teaching opportunities. 

Andrew says, Indu, who has a PhD in International Entrepreneurship, is a leading researcher in Open Polytechnic's Business Management team, “His impact as an academic extends beyond our organisation, as he actively collaborates in his research with industry partners, community organisations, and policymakers.”  

Principal Academic Staff Member Dr Mathew Thomas says he too is grateful to have Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga as his employer, “I firmly believe that my growth and development have been shaped and refined through the guidance and collaboration of my colleagues and managers. Promotions are not solitary achievements, they result from the combined support of the organisation and the opportunities provided to employees, fostering self-growth.”    


Dr Mathew  Thomas

Mathew says he is looking forward to working on additional projects within the organisation.  

Andrew says, Mathew’s promotion highlights his dedication to professional growth, strong industry engagement, and nationally recognised expertise. “As one of the four provider representatives on The Vocational Engineering Education New Zealand (VEENZ) Board, Mathew's influence and leadership make a significant impact in shaping the future of engineering education in Aotearoa NZ.”  

Principal Academic Staff Member Dr Melissa McMinn says it is a privilege to be promoted and have the work she has done throughout her career recognised in this way.   

Dr Melissa McMinn

She says she finds inspiration at Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga through her work and her team “I work in an amazing team and help facilitate future teachers.  As a part of the Initial Teacher Education (ITE) team, I’m looking forward to the on-going development of the new suite of ITE programmes, launched this year.” 

Andrew says Melissa’s promotion “celebrates her contribution, as part of the Initial Teacher Education Team at Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga, for research excellence and significant impact on teacher education. With a Master of Education and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Mathematics and Science Education, Melissa has achieved the esteemed status of Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and is recognised for outstanding teaching and learning support in higher education.”  

Principal Academic Staff Member Dr Waireti Roestenburg (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa, Ngāti Pāhauwera, Rongomai Wahine, Ngāpuhi nui tōnu, Dutch, Irish, English, Scottish) considered achievements that have led to her promotion.  

Dr Waireti  Roestenburg

These include graduating with a PhD of Philosophy in Psychology in which Māori/Indigenous Cycologies are re-emerged, increasingly being recognised as a subject matter expert in the areas of Māori and Indigenous mental illness/wellness, rongoā mauri, and healing; all while fulfilling a promise to heal, revitalise and reinstate the mana of her past, present and future Ancestors, says Waireti. 
“Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga has provided an environment that has enabled me to thrive, supported me to complete my doctoral research and re-emerge knowledge that accords with, and extends the presence, power and healing authority of our past and ongoing Ancestors.”  

“While my research informs the courses I teach, the work goes far beyond vocational outcomes,” says Waireti. 

Andrew says, Waireti is leading the way in her field of research, “With a deep understanding of Mātauranga Māori, her blend of academic and indigenous wisdom focuses on reconnecting people to their indigenous roots and championing wellbeing. Her work exemplifies our commitment to societal progress and positive change."