USP Alumni Network

Name: Kilifi O’Brien

Country: Tuvalu

Programme: Master in Science in Marine Science






Why did you choose your field of study?
I chose my field of study because I always had a strong interest in human geography. I grew up very close to history and culture and chose this major because I really enjoyed the subject.  I planned on becoming an environmentalist practitioner, but then I started to get into policy and project management.  It's totally different from history and culture but it really fascinated me.  Now, instead of looking in the past, I'm always looking into the future through my current role to strengthening the education system at the core in Tuvalu.

Briefly reflect on your student life at USP?
As a Master’s research student at USP, I was lucky to hang out with fascinating and fun people who share their passion for education and the environment. We attend yagona bowl sessions, field trips & student retreats, free lectures, football games, and trivia night humanly possible. I knew that I’m only a USP PACE-SD graduate student once, so I make the most of it.

Greatest achievement[s] as a student
Probably the greatest achievements as a student at USP I can think of are aren't just perfect grades, but having a good social life, good friends, being content with myself, getting into a graduate program that I wanted and more importantly is being happy with my overall University life experience.

Career Highlights since Graduation
I worked for the government of Tuvalu as an Assistant Secretary for 4-5 years before I join the DFAT/UNICEF program on Achieving Education for ALL In Tuvalu (AEfATP) in my current role as a Program Manager.

Who/what do you credit your success to? What inspires you?
My immediate family (Wife and children) is the driving engine for my success. I left USP not only personally rewarded, but with a strong family, a more open mind and a more loving heart and inspiration.

How do you think USP helped you in your career?
I spent one and half year on my research thesis project at USP coping with the steepest learning curve. The graduate program that I did at USP has pushed myself out of my comfort zone culturally and personally by honing my intercultural skills, professionally by pushing myself to learn and improve my skill sets and more importantly to learn what it takes to turn my ideas into concrete examples which I now utilized to improve operational delivery of the program and management functions of the Government Ministry that I used to be part of and also the current DFAT/UNICEF program that I am working with at the moment.

Describe any challenges you face to reach where you are today and how you overcame those challenges?
I started with a very humble beginning. I have lots of challenges but to overcome those challenges, I always make sure that I stay focused and always believe in myself.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years (career and/or personal goals)?
I would like to see myself in 10 years to be a torch-bearer of change advocating for community access to better quality and sustainable living for deserving families.

What advice would you give to current and future students of USP?
DISCPLINE is the vehicle to success in any academic institution like USP. Meaning when you are discipline, you are organized, you plan well ahead and you can complete your assignments well ahead of time etc… but equally have plenty of time for some fun.

Please share top three tips that you think are most important for our current students or recent graduates that will help them when starting out on their career paths.
There is always a saying that the real world is a big change, more then you can ever imagine when you are sitting in the classroom thinking about the outside world. There are a lot of advice but one of the advice I will give to recent graduates is Professionalism in the Workplace – It’s not only about your working attire but Professionalism I mean here is dealing with dependability and being a self-starter. There are some things that you just have to figure out or experience on your own. That's called personal accountability.

What has your involvement been with the University since you graduated?
As an Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, I have been involved in providing the support needed by the USP GGCA project especially in facilitating the support from the Island councils for the implementation of the pilot projects in Tuvalu funded under the USP GCCA projects.

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