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Source: University of Canterbury

11 March 2021

Warm congratulations to University of Canterbury (UC) Professor Gail Gillon FRSNZ and Professor Steven Ratuva FRSNZ on being elected Ngā Ahurei a Te Apārangi Fellows of the Academy of the Royal Society Te Apārangi.

  • Professor Steven Ratuva FRSNZ pictured last year with his Metge Medal, presented by the Royal Society Te Apārangi for research excellence, capacity building and leadership in the social sciences.

The professors have been recognised for their distinction in research and advancement of their respective disciplines.

The new Fellows will be formally inducted at an event in Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington on 29 April.

About the new Fellows:

Professor Gail Gillon (Ngāi Tahu Iwi), Founding Director of the University of Canterbury’s Child Well-being Research Institute, Co-Director of Better Start National Science Challenge: E Tipu E Rea

Professor Gail Gillon is a world-leading expert in spoken and written language development. In particular, she studies the critical importance of phonological awareness (the ability to recognise and manipulate sounds within words) in facilitating reading and spelling success. She is an internationally recognised scholar in the area of early speech, language and reading development, and has made a substantial and lasting impact on the discipline of communication sciences and disorders. Her book Phonological Awareness from Research to Practice remains a leading text internationally in this area.

Professor Gillon’s research has resulted in transformation of both speech-language therapy and class teaching practices throughout the world. Her earlier successful intervention trials demonstrated how specific types of phonological processing instruction can rapidly accelerate the reading accuracy and reading comprehension abilities of children with dyslexia. She has also demonstrated through original research that it is possible to concurrently improve the speech intelligibility, reading and spelling of children who have speech sound disorders and who are at significant risk for persistent reading challenges. Her phonological awareness intervention materials that she developed for her research trials have been translated into a number of European languages.

Professor Gillon’s research, together with that of her colleagues, has culminated in the development of the Better Start Literacy Approach, Te Ara Reo Matatini. This is a systematic and culturally responsive approach to advancing oral language, and early reading and writing success in our 5- and 6-year-old tamariki. The approach is currently being rolled out in new entrant and year 1 classes across Aotearoa New Zealand as part of the Ministry of Education’s Early Literacy Initiative. This impact from Professor Gillon’s research is positively enhancing the well-being of thousands of children and their whānau in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Professor Steven Ratuva, Director, Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies, University of Canterbury

Professor Steven Ratuva is at the forefront of interdisciplinary research globally on race relations, global security, social protection for vulnerable groups, climate change and affirmative action for minorities. His leadership of international research teams and networks (such as the International Political Science Association research on global security amongst others) as well as various applied projects has contributed to redefining global security thinking and helped reshape understandings of ethnicity and conflict. Professor Ratuva’s authoritative research on affirmative action in countries like Fiji, South Africa and Malaysia has provided a critical perspective on how affirmative action can be manipulated by elites to serve their economic and political interests at the cost of the poor.

Fiji-born, Professor Ratuva has worked to promote critical minority research internationally and advocate for the importance of minority intellectual innovation which is often undermined by the reduction of knowledge into metrics, algorithm, ranking, use of social index or indexology (a term he coined) and commodification in a modern neoliberal context. He founded an interdisciplinary journal to support young Pacific researchers and he is also advisor and consultant for a number of leading global and regional institutions and organisations. He is at the cutting-edge of interdisciplinary research by breaking down knowledge barriers and publishing in different disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, politics and development studies. In 2018, he was awarded a Fulbright Senior Fellowship for research at UCLA, Duke University and Georgetown University and in 2019 he was co-winner of the University of Canterbury research medal. In 2020 he was awarded the prestigious Metge Medal by the Royal Society Te Apārangi for research excellence, capacity building and leadership in the social sciences.

  • Professor Gail Gillon FRSNZ