“In everything you do – exemplify excellence, embrace innovation, uphold the highest ethical standards and operate with integrity; be respectful to all, and celebrate diversity and above all, never settle for second best because you have the potential to do anything that you set out to.”
This was echoed by the Vice-Chancellor and President (VC&P) of The University of the South Pacific (USP), Professor Pal Ahluwalia, as the University’s Laucala Campus held its first graduation ceremony for the year at the Vodafone Arena in Suva.
Professor Ahluwalia stated that the graduation ceremony would culminate over two days and in four sessions, with 1,786 students graduating, where 61 graduands would receive two awards and are counted once under their highest honour.
He stressed that the most remarkable figure was that 61 per cent of those graduating over the four sessions were women. Students from 22 countries will be graduating in this March Laucala graduation, including ten non-member countries testifying to the growing international profile and attraction of USP.
“We have 204 students graduating in Postgraduate programmes, of which 104 will receive their master’s qualification in this session. That is an amazing figure. We have one out of the six students graduating with a Doctorate in Philosophy in this session who will receive a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Computing Science,” he said.
The Vice-Chancellor highlighted that USP has and continues to be a bedrock for regionalism, a resource owned by the region; for the region and a precious institution that needs to be protected in line with the vision of our forbearers.
He said the staff and students are just as proud of the many alumni currently leaders in the international and private sectors and continue to make an immensely invaluable contribution to the development of these countries and the region.
“Our graduates have filled critical roles, and many have become leaders across all sectors in their respective countries. We are proud of our alumni who have become Prime Ministers, Presidents, Ministers of the cabinet, leaders of the public and private sector in our member countries,” the Vice-Chancellor echoed.
Professor Ahluwalia has been immensely proud of USP’s achievements and is passionate about the exciting possibilities before the University and over the institution’s horizons.
“Our top 10% Times Higher Education global ranking has demonstrated that we continue to punch above our weight compared to the more than twenty thousand universities across the globe. For the second time in a row, USP ranked 101-200 in the Global Top 100 Innovative Universities by the World University Real Impact Ranking (WURI) 2022. USP also ranked in the top 151-200 in the latest Shanghai Rankings through the Discipline of Tourism and Hospitality Management,” the VC&P added.
The Vice-Chancellor reminded the graduates to reflect on the values that have brought them this far and those that would guide them forward.
“I also want you to think of the many people who have shaped those values and have contributed to your success so far, your parents, siblings, grandparents, spouses, partners, aunties, uncles, cousins, kindergarten, primary and high school teachers, tutors and lecturers – these are all members of your proverbial village,” Professor Ahluwalia said.
Meanwhile, among the graduates in this morning’s session was Ms Dolores Leneuoti, who also received the HFC most outstanding graduate with a major in Land Management.
Ms Leneuoti has worked for the Department of Lands in Tuvalu for a decade and realised the need to upgrade her qualification. She started her degree at USP Laucala Campus in 2020, and the government of Tuvalu sponsored her through the in-service scholarship programme.
“The transition was quite difficult because a lot has changed over ten years, and as you age, studying is a different thing, especially with what you do back home, the need to reprioritise everything. Also, when I started with this programme, I had more responsibilities when compared to when I started in 2008. But I managed to adjust well,” she said.
Ms Leneuoti added that the journey over the past three years at USP had had its fair share of challenges, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic started to take a toll on Fiji and the regional countries.
“It was challenging because of the pandemic. But the school was very supportive in providing platforms to continue our studies even though we were supposed to stay home. Staying home would be chaotic, where children are distracting, and finding time to study was challenging. But I guess you must find your way around it,” she stated.
She was proud to be recognised for this award and gave her advice on the importance of education.
“Education has no end; you learn something every day and now and then. I encourage everyone out there to get themselves a proper qualification. From what we learn in the workplace, there are many gaps. When you enter a university such as USP, where regionalism is encouraged, you can fill these gaps, making life easier. That was one reason I chose USP because of how connected it is with its member countries,” Ms Leneuoti said.
Ms Leneuoti is currently undertaking a Postgraduate Diploma in Land Management programme for at least another year and will return to serve the government of Tuvalu after completing this course.
Meanwhile, there will be three more sessions of the USP graduation for the students from the School of Pacific Arts, Communication and Education (SPACE), School of Agriculture, Geography, Environment, Oceans & Natural Sciences (SAGEONS) and Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD).
As well as sessions for students from the School of Accounting, Finance and Economics (SAFE) and the School of Law and Social Sciences (SoLaSS) to receive their accreditation in the morning. It will be followed by the afternoon graduation session for the Pacific Technical and Further Education (PTAFE).