Faculty of Science - Leading creativity and innovation in the sciences


Department of Exercise Sciences


Tuakana mentors in a study space for science students at the main science centre

The ‘teina’ of the Tuākana in Science programme

The Department of Exercise Sciences (ES) has a nascent Tuākana programme in place with a dedicated Tuākana Mentor to support ‘teina’ in their first year. This was borne out of the need to establish a support system that models the Tuākana in Science programme.

However, one of the major challenges that prevents the ES Tuākana programme from expanding to a well-established formal programme (with multiple student mentors/tutors and a dedicated space) is the relatively small number of new enrolments they receive each year. Of the annual 40-60 new enrolments, typically only 10-15 of those are Māori and Pacific students. An additional challenge is that the the Department (and senior students) are based at Tāmaki Innovation Campus, while the majority of Stage I classes are conducted at the City and Grafton campuses.

As an alternative to student mentors and tutors, Professional Teaching Fellow (and Undergraduate Coordinator) Waruna Weerasekera has been acting as both an academic and pastoral support person for Māori and Pacific students, with some fairly good results so far.

Waruna has made himself available to Māori and Pacific students for academic assistance, by running regular drop in sessions and Tuākana tutorials for core first year papers (e.g. MEDSCI 142 and BIOSCI107). These sessions are very informal, and are not only an opportunity for Māori and Pacific students to ask questions about their courses, but to also come together and form friendships – a very important part of the Tuākana in Science programme.

As the key contact for pastoral support in the department, Waruna is also the person that first year students (including Māori and Pacific students) come to when they are struggling and would like to seek advice.

While these early steps to implement a Tuākana programme are unique to the department, there is also an important commonality with how our more established schools and departments first become involved in the Tuākana in Science programme – that is, following a path that meets the unique requirements of the students studying in their programme.

Key contacts


Programme Coordinator

Waruna Weerasekera
Email: w.weerasekera@auckland.ac.nz