Grandmother makes PhD history
Age is nothing but a number for Esther Tumama Cowley-Malcolm.
The 60-year-old grandmother, has become the first student to graduate with a PhD from Victoria University of Wellington’s Pacific Studies programme.
Originally from Tokoroa, Dr Cowley-Malcolm said she doesn’t take the achievement lightly.
‘‘I feel humbled and privileged. It’s an honour and for me it feels appropriate being an older student. I guess that’s what elders do – lead. I feel like I’m leading the way for others.’’
Dr Cowley-Malcolm’s doctoral research is an in- depth exploration of Samoan parents’ perceptions of, and responses to, aggressive behaviour in young children and the usefulness of an intervention tool named Play Nicely.
The grandmother of one says her doctoral study was a culmination of the different areas she has worked in during her career.
She started as a nurse, then became a teacher, worked on prisoner education and was a researcher in a university-based Pacific longitudinal study.
‘‘Doing my PhD was an exten- sion of my work ‘ of service’ to a community I was raised in. It was a way I could give back and make a contribution.’’
Dr Cowley-Malcolm’s research took her back to her home town of Tokoroa where she conducted ongoing interviews with 18 Samoan parents of children aged 1 to 3.
As part of the study, parents were shown the CD ROM Play Nicely which is a conflict resolution tool that guides parents and others working with young children through strategies and techniques for managing aggressive behaviour.
Parents were interviewed before and after Play Nicely was used.
Dr Cowley- Malcolm said the findings of her study suggest they responded positively to the tool and came away with a greater understanding of their children’s behaviour and the impact their responses had on their children.
With the help of her cousin and former Bro’ Town animator Ali Cowley, Dr Cowley-Malcolm is now considering adapting Play Nicely to develop it into an interactive app aimed at young, techsavvy Pacific parents.