Computer Science student success

24 June 2016
Etuate Cocker, the first PhD student to come from the Kingdom of Tonga
Etuate Cocker

Congratulations to Computer Science student 'Etuate Cocker, the first successful Computer Science PhD student to come from the Kingdom of Tonga.

“It is a great feeling knowing that I am the first Tongan to receive a PhD in Computer Science. I have extended the level of Computer Science qualification for Tongans to another level,” Says 'Etuate. “My extended family are proud of the achievement and plans are underway for the traditional Tongan kava celebration.”

'Etuate’s supervisor Senior Lecturer Dr Ulrich Speidel is in awe of 'Etuate’s determination and ability to fundraise throughout his study. “A lot of Etuate’s travel was paid for by fellowships or grants from organisations such as ICANN, ISOC, Internet NZ or Pacific Island Partners that he applied for personally,” says Ulrich. “He got to travel widely across the globe as part of his research, and this networking provided us with grants of over $50k from ISIF Asia and Internet NZ.”

Currently an employee of Spark NZ Ltd, 'Etuate who has three children with his wife Keti, is excited to have passed the oral examination, the last step in order to attain his PhD. “This degree has been the most challenging work that I have done in my life and I am happy to be included in the list of individuals that have crossed the finish line.”

'Etuate’s journey through PhD study has been, as Ulrich says, “one of a lot of determination and at times hardship.” Even though 'Etuate was “very fortunate” to be a recipient of a University of Auckland Doctoral scholarship, he was still required to engage in part time teaching to support his family.

“I would like to thank Michael, Matt, and Mona of Student Learning Services for the support they provided. To my mentor Malakai ‘Ofanoa of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences who always made himself available at times I needed support to overcome the difficulties of being a Tongan PhD student,” says 'Etuate.