Meet our PhD students

Find out why our business doctoral students have undertaken postgraduate study, how they collaborate together, and what inspires them.

Ilaisaane Fifita

Ilaisaane Fifita

Ilaisaane is studying for a PhD in Marketing

“I am originally from Tonga. I completed a Bachelor of Business and Information Management with the University of Auckland Business School in 2007. I discovered a keen interest in marketing, so I went on to do a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) degree in Marketing. I really enjoyed the research aspect of the honours programme so I continued with a Master of Commerce in Marketing and I am currently completing a PhD in Marketing focusing on transformative consumer research.

“The Business School and the Department of Marketing have been supportive throughout my studies. Since studying for my PhD I have been exposed to great networks of experts in my field of study when attending conferences overseas.

“I decided to study at the University of Auckland because of its excellent academic reputation. Researchers in the Department of Marketing offer very diverse expertise and originate from different parts of the world. Throughout my postgraduate studies my supervisors have allowed me to explore research topics I am passionate about and at the same time they have challenged me to always think about alternative perspectives in my research area. This has all resulted in a very rich academic experience.

“I have also enjoyed the dynamic and friendly environment of the Business School both in my interactions with staff and fellow postgraduate students.

“I have been fortunate to get an opportunity to teach large classes, be part of innovative programmes that the University offers and work on research projects with different companies. Postgraduate study has equipped me with skills for an academic career but I am also excited about a variety of practical roles in public policy making and the commercial sector that these skills are applicable to.”


Hendrik Reefke

Hendrik Reefke

Hendrik completed his PhD in Operations and Supply Chain Management and is currently employed as a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre for Supply Chain Management

“I came to the University of Auckland in 2006 after finishing my undergraduate degree in Germany and having worked in the automotive sector and in project management. I graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) and a Master of Commerce in Operations and Supply Chain Management before embarking on my PhD. For my doctoral research, I investigated the interaction of sustainability principles and supply chain management.

“Choosing the University of Auckland was motivated by its international reputation, the choice of courses and the appeal of New Zealand as a place to live and study. While working towards a doctoral degree is a very challenging process, I could always rely on the support of my supervisors and the department to overcome any obstacles.

“While I put in a lot of hard work and long hours myself, I have to say that this success would not have been possible without the support and resources of the University, the help and knowledge of its staff, and the friendship of fellow students.

“My doctoral research was motivated by the growing requirement for sustainable supply chain practices which are especially relevant in the New Zealand context. Carefully planning and aligning all research processes, regular reviews and revisions and a great relationship with my supervisor were the keys to this success. The finished PhD has been recognised by fellow scholars for its unique theoretical and practical value which is of course hugely rewarding.

“I am currently employed as a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Supply Chain Management at the University of Auckland and teach as a professional teaching fellow in the Department of Information Systems and Operations Management.”


Selena Sheng

Mingue (Selena) Sheng

Selena recently completed her PhD in Economics and is now working in the Business School’s Energy Centre

“I graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Arts conjoint degree from the University of Auckland majoring in Economics, Finance and French. I furthered my studies with a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) in Economics. With the completion of my honours dissertation topic, that focused on the impact of ramps signals on daily traffic congestion problems, I received an offer to continue my research in the field of transport economics into doctoral study.

“The Department of Economics is keen to support its postgraduate students with part-time job opportunities. While pursuing my PhD degree, I have been part of the team lecturing the postgraduate Economics paper in the Civil Engineering Department and the New Start Economics Course at the Centre for Continuing Education. The above experience has sharpened my academic knowledge and strengthened my teaching and supervision skills.

“In addition to teaching, I have also been involved in research projects headed by my academic supervisors and other scholars on campus. One study on the Emission Trading Scheme in New Zealand headed by Professor Basil Sharp has led to two publications in New Zealand Economic Papers and in EcoNZ@Otago.

“My PhD thesis examines the commuter journey-to-work behaviour in the Auckland region, with a special emphasis on the spatial context. Through years of research experience, I am now familiar with the concepts and methodologies that are essential for the analyses in the areas of transportation and environmental economics and applied econometrics.

“The seminar-based nature of many of the courses, coupled with the PhD programme, has provided me with a diverse and unforgettable learning experience. These postgraduate programmes have given me access to the highest quality academic partners and modern city-centre campus facilities, which I believe will fully equip me to carve out a successful career in the global academic and/or business arena.”


Shahper Vodanovich

Shahper Vodanovich

Shahper completed her PhD in Information Systems and has been working as Assistant Professor at the University of Wollongong in Dubai.

“I graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Bachelor of Commerce in Information Systems, before going on to work in the IT industry as a SAP administrator and a business analyst.

“After completing my masters degree, I decided to pursue a PhD exploring and conceptualising ubiquitous spaces for the wellbeing of digital natives.

“I chose to continue my studies at the University of Auckland Business School simply because of the strength of its research base. The diversity and experience of the lecturers was amazing and with their expert guidance, I was able to explore a broad range of research interests.

“My professors challenged me to think outside the box, while at the same time equipping me with a valuable set of skills to integrate and synthesise information from a wide range of disciplines.

“The world class facilities and awesome new building made my postgraduate experience enjoyable. In addition my fellow postgraduate students were just as committed to making the most of their time here and this made for a hard working, focused and rewarding community.”