Thesis Survivor Stories: Meet one of the survivors – Vivien Wei Verheijen

AUT academics Professor Marilyn Waring and Professor Kate Kearins have recently edited a second edition of Thesis Survivor Stories: Practical Advice on Getting Through Your PhD or Masters Thesis, which is a collection of 23 essays from graduates who survived the thesis journey.

One of the thesis survivors is Dr Vivien Wei Verheijen who has kindly agreed to answer a few questions for us. Vivien was born in China and migrated to New Zealand in early 2000. After graduating from Massey University with a Master’s degree in Social Policy, she became involved in the community NGO sector. Vivien worked at the Office of Ethnic Communities, a central government agency, for a decade and is now a senior community advisor at Auckland Council. Vivien was awarded her PhD in Public Policy from AUT in 2018. Vivien has a strong sense of social justice, championing consumer rights and gender equality. She has been involved in many advisory positions, particularly in supporting the needs of New Zealand’s culturally diverse communities.

Dr Vivien Wei Verheijen

Kathryn: How did you get involved in the Thesis Survivor Stories project?

Vivien: When I was studying for my PhD, I read the first edition of Thesis Survivor Stories several times, and I greatly benefited from the tips and experiences which the authors shared. The book helped me tremendously, learning their pearls of wisdom and advice, and I was spiritually inspired by their dynamic research journeys. Hence, when Marilyn (who was one of my supervisors) announced that there would be a second edition and called for new articles, I immediately agreed to write an essay to share my own learning experience.

K: The doctorate is a big experience, how did you decide which aspects to write about?

V: I reflected on my study process and what helped me accomplish the PhD, aligning with a topic I am passionate about, cultural capital. As an immigrant with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, I hope my strengths-based approach will encourage other students from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds. It is about capitalising on the merits of cultural practice, heritage, linguistic capital and ethnic background; it is about embracing and being confident of who you are as an individual and an academic researcher.

K: What was the highlight of the doctoral journey for you?

V: Completing my PhD according to the timeline I had planned with immense support and blessing from participants, supervisors, academic whānau, colleagues and my former employer (Office of Ethnic Communities, Department of Internal Affairs), and significantly, my family.

K: What was next for you after your doctorate?

V: I intend to work on future publications derived from my thesis if possible. Also, I utilise the critical analysis skills and research capacity that I developed during my studies for my professional work and advisory roles.  

K: What was the best piece of advice you received as a doctoral student?

V: Trust yourself, trust your supervisors and trust your research process.

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Vivien! Thesis Survivor Stories is available in ebook format and can be accessed through the AUT Library here:

About Kathryn Oxborrow

Dr Kathryn Oxborrow is the temporary Researcher Development Coordinator at AUT's Graduate Research School. In her PhD research she investigated how non-Māori librarians in Aotearoa learn about and engage with Māori knowledge in their lives and work. Kathryn is originally from the UK and moved to New Zealand in 2010.

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