Dr Ema Atiliva Wolfgramm-Foliaki

MA (Hons) PhD (Education)


'Ema holds a Master of Arts (Honours) and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education from The University of Auckland. In 2006 'Ema successfully defended her PhD thesis in her viva. Her work was supervised by Professor Stuart McNaughton and it examined the literacy practices of book reading, early writing and story telling in a group of Tongan preschool children and their families in Auckland across three sites (a Tongan language nest, their homes and Sunday school). 'Ema  employed a number of methodologies including Pasifika methodologies of working with communities in order to examine how Tongan parents' and caregivers' ideas and beliefs about education in relation to their own culture can facilitate and promote the literacy development of their children. 'Ema's study also examined how three sites that are inter-linked with one another can contribute to the overall development of this group of Tongan children. 'Ema used the Tongan metaphor' Ko e Hala Kuo Papa' (a well trodden pathway) to illustrate the multiple pathways that Tongan children take to acquire literacy. The experiences within these multiple sites enabled this group of Tongan children to construct their own understanding of literacy and its uses within their own homes and culture.'Ema's thesis provides detailed descriptions of the families' literacy practices across the three sites. Her work highlights the presence of specific forms of literacy practices that are underpinned by Tongan cultural values and beliefs. In particular, parents' and caregivers' ideas and beliefs act as guidelines for how they construct literacy activities with their children. She concludes that parents' and caregivers' ideas and beliefs about education play a significant role in the literacy development of their children and that the three sites (home, language nest and Sunday school) are indeed 'resource-full'.

Research | Current

Widening participation: First in the family students succeeding at university. This project is closely aligned with institutional strategic aims, as it  examines the success factors of students who are first in their familiy to study at university.  It is  funded by the World University Network (WUN) and supported by each of the partner universities. It is a global  collaboration of collagues from The university of Auckland, Universities of Sydney & Western Australia, University of Cape Town, The University of California Berkeley and Thompson Rivers Unviersity - Canada. 

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Pacific Island Reference Group

Pacific Island Learning Advisers 


Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Wolfgramm-Foliaki, E., & Goldson, A. (20/4/2020). First in Family: Our voyages at University. Related URL.
  • Wolfgramm-Foliaki, E., & Smith, H. (2020). He vaka moana: Navigating Maori and Pasifika student success through a collaborative research fellowship. MAI Journal: A new Zeland Journal of Indigenous Scholarship, 9 (1), 5-14. 10.20507/MAIJournal.2020.9.1.2
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Hinekura Smith
  • Smith, H., & Wolfgramm-Foliaki, E. (2020). Igniting the Vä: Vä-kä methodology in a Mäori-Pasifika research fellowship. MAI Journal. A New Zealand Journal of Indigenous Scholarship, 9 (1), 15-25. 10.20507/MAIJournal.2020.9.1.3
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Hinekura Smith
  • Hindley, P., November, N., Sturm, S., & Wolfgramm-Foliaki, E. (2020). Rolling out the mat: A talanoa on talanoa as a higher education research methodology. In J. Huisman, M. Tight (Eds.) Theory and Method in Higher Education Research. Bingley: Emerald.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Sean Sturm, Pearl Hindley, Nancy November
  • Wolfgramm-Foliaki, E., & Santamaria, L. (2018). Excavating stories of first generation students in Aotearoa New Zealand. In A. Bell, Santamaría LJ (Eds.) Understanding experiences of first generation university students culturally responsive and sustaining methodologies. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • Carter, S., Laurs, D., Chant, L., Higgins, R., Martin, J., Teaiwa, T., & Wolfgramm-Foliaki, E. (2016). Research report: Supporting doctoral writing: He ara tika mā ngā kaiārahi. Ako Aotearoa.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Susan Carter
  • Wolfgramm-Foliaki, E. A. (2016). ‘Do not assume we know’: Perspectives of Pacific Island first in the family students. In L. J. Santamaria, A. Santamaria (Eds.) Culturally responsive leadership in higher education : promoting access, equity, and improvement (pp. 123-136). New York: Routledge.
  • Wolfgramm-Foliaki, E. A. (2016). Under the mango tree: Lessons for the insider outsider researcher. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 4 (3), 32-37. 10.14297/jpaap.v4i3.165

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 5, Room 552C
New Zealand