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Routine, passion and support; a recipe for doctoral degree

28 March 2024

A seven-year journey ends with a doctorate for UC’s new Kaihautū Matua | Executive Director Office of Treaty Partnerships Dr Elizabeth Brown (Ngāi Tahu).


Photo caption: Executive Director Office of Treaty Partnerships Dr Elizabeth Brown (Ngāi Tahu)

Weaving life into study, Dr Brown balanced full-time work at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC), her role as chair of the rūnaka and various governance roles with her commitment to completing her Doctor of Education (EdD) from UC.

“Every weekend from nine until four was study, unless I had a meeting to go to, balanced with a weekly exercise routine,” says Dr Brown.

She also attributes her success to having good support from those around her.

“It is not a journey that’s easy to do on your own, I couldn’t have done it without support. I felt well supported by the University and by my partner who took over all day-to-day chores, especially in these last years when I had to say no to everything to get my thesis across the line.

“Even moral support was important from people around me. Those who told me I could do it, particularly my supervisors.”

The reality of doctoral study was a combination of challenges and successes.

“It can be a grind of tedious edits and rewrites, but you can see your way through if you have passion for the research.

“When I was hearing interviewee stories about their own journey in becoming more culturally competent and the personal and professional challenges of doing so, I felt privileged. They would share their passions and their challenges so openly with me, there were times when interviewees cried; what they were sharing was so real for them,” says Dr Brown.

Navigating hurdles such as the ethics process presented its own set of challenges.

“Getting through the ethics process was challenging. Because I was an insider, there was a potential for conflict of interest.

“This can happen to a lot of people—it is a process of being patient and responding to questions politely and positively even though you may think the question is misguided. Ultimately you need to be focused on the end game,” says Dr Brown.

A specialised doctorate for education professionals with a rigorous, structured and supportive approach to doctoral study, the UC Faculty of Education’s EdD is designed so candidates can continue to work in their specific field, and study part-time.

“It is more structured than a PhD—I had assignments that helped form chapters of my thesis which worked well for me.

“You are also part of a cohort for the first two years where you come together on a quarterly basis. We saw each other around campus, and we had that whakawhanaungatanga going on where you can connect with peers and share your journey, which is a great support mechanism.”

Dr Brown’s research topic Intertwining Leadership and Change to Embed Te Tiriti o Waitangi within a University, supported her role at UC, highlighting the practical relevance of her doctoral studies.

“Establishing the Office of Treaty Partnerships came with signing the Ngai Tūāhuriri partnership agreement in 2019 and is a significant pou of the University.

“Our work involves building the Office of Treaty Partnerships as we go, so my study and findings have been particularly relevant to my mahi. It’s helped to inform my role and the direction with which I can assist the Office of Treaty Partnerships.”

Dr Brown says a key learning from her academic and professional journey is that leadership is important throughout the whole organisation. “It is important to work with leaders at every level within an organisation to move in the right direction.”

Having submitted her thesis, Dr Brown has found herself after seven years finally able to say yes to whānau engagements and a well-earned rest in Gore Bay.

Dr Brown will attend a UC graduation celebration next week at which she will also play a ceremonial role as an academic staff member.


There are more named doctorates coming through the University of Canterbury for people who are working in a specific field, and who are looking to do a part-time doctoral degree, including the Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSc) and Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA).

Learn more about it here>

Read more of our graduate success stories here.

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