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AUCKLAND, Michigan (January 2, 2002 – New Zealand Herald/PINA Nius Online)---New Zealand's first Rhodes Scholar of Pacific Islands origin is going to the United States to do his research and teaching on the Pacific, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Dr. Damon Salesa plans to spend nine months a year teaching at the University of Michigan and the other three researching in New Zealand and the Pacific, the newspaper said.

Dr. Salesa grew up in Auckland, attended Selwyn College and did his MA in history and English at Auckland University.

He then turned the tables on the British, going to Oxford to study British colonial attitudes toward race in the 19th century, much as British and American scholars once studied the sex life of Samoans.

He returned to take up a 12-month fellowship at the National Library in Wellington and has been offered jobs at New Zealand universities as well as at Harvard, the New Zealand Herald said.

But although his next goal is to write a history of Samoa in the 19th century, he is going to Michigan.

He told the New Zealand Herald: "One of the reasons I'm going is that here you have one of the top universities in the U.S. prepared to make a major investment in the study of the Pacific, not just with me but with four other staff."

He is joining a Samoan diaspora, which is proportionately even larger than New Zealand's, partly because American Samoans have the right of entry to the U.S.

Nearly 100,000 Samoans are in the U.S., compared with 10,000 New Zealanders.

He believes that when he eventually returns to New Zealand he will have more to offer than he can now. And he hopes that by then New Zealand will recognize the opportunity in Pacific studies.

"You could concentrate a whole lot of expertise to do with the Pacific in one place in New Zealand - global warming, environmental change, medical research," he told the New Zealand Herald.

"This is one of the few things New Zealand can claim to have some leadership in. There is just such a great opportunity here, and we have to grab it because not only is it good branding for us, but it's something that people will be attracted to come here to study."

For additional reports from The New Zealand Herald, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/ New Zealand Herald.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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