Massey staff awarded doctorates


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Clockwise from top left: Dr Sharon Crooks, Dr Kousar Sadeghzadeh, Dr Abdelhamid Safa and Dr An Le.


Eight Massey University staff are among the graduands to have received doctoral degrees this summer.

Dr Sharon Crooks

Dr Crooks is a lecturer at the School of Psychology, whose research involved a multi-perspective, participant-led exploration of in/ex-clusion in New Zealand mainstream high schools, privileging the voices of senior autistic students.

Her study investigated identity acceptance, wellbeing and achievement. Her findings suggest that barriers to inclusion are typically framed by students to include autistic ignorance, compromised human rights, and neoliberal consequences, being the limited opportunities for teacher support and meaningful learning. In contrast, good interpersonal and caring relationships are at the heart of inclusion experiences.

Tertiary students, parents, and professional autistic ‘advocates’ also contributed to these discussions. Taken together, Dr Crooks’ findings speak to contemporary issues involving constrained educational and mental health resources.

Dr Crooks says her doctorate is the culmination of a long journey with Massey as a ‘distance student’, whilst being a mum to three.

“I’m most grateful to everyone who made it possible, especially extended family and great supervision.

Dr Kousar Sadeghzadeh

In her thesis There and Back Again, Research Assistant and Tutor at the School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing Dr Sadeghzadeh examined whether, when and how consumers’ engagement with fantasy stories told through servicescape atmospherics influences their emotions, behaviour, and brand personality perceptions.

As consumers’ responses to the same story differ depending on the story character they empathise with, her thesis further examined how empathy with positive versus negative characters influences consumers’ responses in fantasy designed servicescapes.

Her findings suggest that regardless of the character type highlighted by atmospherics, consumers equally engage with fantasy stories in servicescapes which increase their positive emotions and behaviour while decreasing the negative emotions. Brand personality is perceived positively when a negative story character is highlighted by the servicescape atmospherics.

She says her journey to the world of fairies has not yet come to an end. 

“There’s still much out there I love to explore, examine, and explain on bringing elements of fantasy into reality in the marketplace."

Dr Sadeghzadeh plans to bake delicious desserts and celebrate her fantastic achievement and cheer the unexpected adventures ahead with family and friends. She also looks forward to a magical feast at Hobbiton movie set once the travel restrictions are lifted.

Dr Abdelhamid Safa

Dr Safa is a teacher trainer at the Professional and Continuous Education and an Assistant Researcher in the Institute of Education with 21 years of teaching experience.

He investigated the impact of an exemplary post-graduate Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programme, the Master of Education (Teaching and Learning) (MTchgLn), on beginning teachers’ professional preparedness to cater for diverse learners. His thesis investigated the programme’s effectiveness to prepare equity-oriented, knowledge-based teachers through the eyes of graduates and Lead Teachers.

The findings confirm the positive experience of the MTchgLn graduates to cater for diverse learners. Implications based on these findings are considered for ITE educators and education policy makers in Aotearoa New Zealand to respond to the challenges of today’s multicultural education by prioritising equity.

He says balancing coursework, teaching and parenting presented its own challenges.

“A PhD is never a solo affair; there’s a team aspect to it.”

He is very grateful for the endless support and constant encouragement from his family, friends, colleagues and his supervisors, Associate Professors Sally Hansen and Alison Sewell.

“It hasn’t been easy, but I knew this was what I wanted to do — and that helped me stay inspired and motivated. This is the beginning of another journey in my life. I feel very excited and happy!”

Dr An Le

Dr Le is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Built Environment, her thesis explored challenges in managing school buildings in New Zealand and developed a framework to help school stakeholders manage their property effectively.

Her study argued that all stakeholders are responsible for working closely as a team as they have both direct and indirect impacts on each other’s performance in managing school property. She conducted a mixed qualitative and quantitative study to develop the framework that enhances the collaboration of people involved in the process by a set of diagrams with inputs, outputs, controls and mechanisms of each activity in the management system.

The findings highlight the most needed improvement areas to increase the maturity level of New Zealand’s school property management. She is currently conducting research on exploring capacity and capability of the New Zealand construction sector, so that enables the stakeholders to avoid the lack of ability to deliver the future projects.

She says it is fantastic to have completed her doctoral thesis and “this is the beginning of another chapter in my life”.

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Clockwise from top left: Dr Isaac Henderson, Dr Marianne Simon, Dr Heshani Edirisinghe and Dr Amarachukwu Nnadozie Nwadike.


Dr Isaac Henderson

Dr Henderson has been a lecturer in the School of Aviation since 2016. His thesis Re-thinking the brand concept for air transportation was initially meant to be research into airport branding. However, the study took a different turn within the first 12 months as it became obvious that the brand concept lacked conceptual clarity with competing definitions that were irreconcilable with each other. This lack of conceptual clarity has been imported into many other disciplines such as air transportation.

He undertook empirical work to assist in ameliorating the issues surrounding brand definition. This work supported a return to a Label and Associations Model of the brand, where the brand is a name or logo that is used to recall associations held in memory, known as brand associations. He then applied this model to study airline and airport brand choice and the creation of airport brands.

The results contrast with extant literature by suggesting that it is the tangible attributes of air travel products and services (e.g., price, reliability), rather than the abstract attributes (e.g., reputation, social responsibility), that matter to air travellers.

He says that while there were plenty of challenges throughout the doctoral journey, the most difficult was when his son Aidan was born only 2 and a half weeks before his oral examination. "Most of the defence was prepared while Aidan was sleeping on me so that my wife could catch up on sleep."

Dr Marianne Simon

Writing Consultant for the Centre for Learner Success Dr Simon takes great pride in being able to support students to be confident and independent learners. Her research examined how New Zealand schools enhanced teacher development and integrated the accountability and development requirements of teacher appraisal.

She found that adapting a coherent framework that aligns and intertwines multiple systems, people, and roles, within a culture that loves learning and enables teachers to flourish, was more likely to foster a developmental teacher appraisal approach. The study also discovered that having a developmental focus is not sufficient to make appraisal meaningful. It must be embedded amongst teachers and leaders who have a love for learning.

She says the research process has been a huge learning curve for her where it challenged and pushed her to build good skills and knowledge as a beginner researcher.

“I appreciate the support and encouragement from my family, friends, colleagues, and supervisors, Associate Professor Jenny Poskitt and Dr Peter Rawlins.

She wishes she could celebrate this achievement with her family in Malaysia, but that is too difficult under the current border restrictions. Nevertheless, she is looking forward to celebrating with her husband, son, and friends over the Christmas holidays.

“Remember, that you can achieve anything you want in life if you put your mind to it”.

Dr Heshani Edirisinghe

Dr Edirisinghe is a part-time lecturer at the School of Natural and Computational Sciences. Her thesis investigated the biology and behaviour of New Zealand ladybirds, providing insights into the establishment success of introduced species.  

Assessing phenotypic variation in introduced species is key to understanding establishment processes and thereby improving the effectiveness of biocontrol and conservation programmes. Her thesis is the first study to compare phenotypic variation between introduced and native New Zealand ladybirds and the first molecular phylogeny to include native New Zealand ladybirds. Her research provides valuable insights into introduction biology and garners support for the hypothesis that high levels of intraspecific variation increase the establishment success of introduced species.

She says undertaking a PhD was a challenging but wonderful experience.

I am extremely grateful for my amazing panel of supervisors, family and friends, for making my PhD journey special and memorable.”

Dr Amarachukwu Nnadozie Nwadike

Dr Nwadike is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the School of Built Environment. He is working on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment funded study Creating capacity and capability for New Zealand construction sector.

He investigated the impacts of building code amendments in New Zealand and found that regular building code amendments were significant in reducing disaster impacts. The study also discovered that introducing a two-step consultation process would help present the right questions to the code users before the final amendment process.

Dr Nwadike proposed a three-year building code amendment interval while advising proactive training for building code users and regulators. From his findings, he developed an evidence-based framework that informs and guides the building code regulators in improving the New Zealand building code.

He says completing his doctorate degree at Massey University was the best decision he made.

My doctoral journey was an overwhelming experience, especially graduating during the COVID-19 pandemic era.

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