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Local politician graduates with a PhD

14 April 2021

Community Board Member Sunita Gautam will be donning a cap and gown this week as she graduates with a PhD from the University of Canterbury (UC).


Sunita Gautam has certainly been busy over the last four years, balancing her PhD research, tutoring for the UC Business School, parenting two children and serving her community as the Community Board Member for the Central Ward.

On Wednesday 14 April Gautam will graduate with a PhD that focuses on self-employment as a strategy for Indian immigrants’ settlement in New Zealand.

“It is a dream come true,” Gautam says about her upcoming graduation. “I come from a background where education was not a priority for girls. I strongly believe that education is crucial and it plays a huge role in empowering wahine, and to change my destiny, I wanted to gain the world’s highest degree.”

Originally from Shaktinagar, a small town in India, Gautam moved to Christchurch nearly twenty years ago. She and her husband have made Ōtautahi their home, with Gautam giving back to the community through her work as a board member, Justice of the Peace and volunteer business mentor.

“My vision is to ensure Christchurch Central is a place where all community members feel safe, valued and have a sense of belonging. My PhD journey has changed the way I look at the world around me and has given me the perspective of a researcher who seeks various ways to solve problems. These insights allow me to communicate, relate and facilitate with the people and business communities of my ward.”

“Moreover, my PhD journey has taught me that as a researcher, my work is important and could make an impact in the real world.”

Researching how entrepreneurial theories influence Indian migrants’ rationale to start their own businesses and how this impacts communities, Gautam studied under the supervision of Associate Professors Michaela Balzarova and Herb de Vries in UC’s Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship.

“They have not only guided me through the research but have polished the researcher in me. Misha’s care for her students goes beyond – she not only supported me to develop critical thinking, but also supported me emotionally. Misha, Herb and the community at UC have made a huge difference in fulfilling my dream of completing my PhD,” Gautam says.

Looking ahead, Gautam is committed to continuing her research and making positive changes in the central ward, continuing to serve her community.

“My aspiration is to put New Zealand based research and the University of Canterbury on the world stage. I will continue to work in the research sector to achieve this goal, exploring and investigating social issues to find solutions that can be used to develop evidence-based policies for Aotearoa.”

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