Master of Arts in Sustainable International Development

Sita Leota, MA SID'20 (Samoa)

Sita Leota
Sita Leota, MA SID'20

Fulbright Scholar

Before hopping onto a near 24-hour-long flight to Boston to join the Sustainable International Development (SID) program at Heller, Sita Leota was working as an Audit Director in the Samoa Audit Office, investigating fraud, compiling audit reports and simplifying finance for politicians in the government of Samoa. So, what is an accomplished civil servant from this Pacific island nation doing at Heller?

“When we were growing up, we were limited in the choices of what to study. We had to either pursue law, medicine or business, even though writing and politics have always been my interest. So, when I got the chance, I applied to the Fulbright Program and chose International Relations,” says Leota. “I chose Brandeis because of the programs here at Heller. They were really attractive to me as I want to work with people back home to bring a change in mindset. This goes together with the Fulbright tradition of making an impact in the lives of people in our communities.” 

With this mission in mind, she is looking forward to her time at Heller. She says, “This is outside my comfort zone – but I want to expand my knowledge; learn from the faculty and diverse community of students. I’m very interested in the Pacific and bringing the Pacific perspective into the classroom. Often when ‘Asia Pacific’ is mentioned, it is limited to the Australian and New Zealand context. I want the Pacific to have a voice, even though we are very small and often excluded from larger world events and politics.”

After only a few weeks in Boston, Leota was already planning for her practicum next year and her career after Heller. She says, “In my work at the Samoa Audit Office, I was key liaison between our office and Parliament to provide advice to politicians and to guide them into the types of questions they could ask of government entities relating to their performance. My motivation in pursuing the SID program was to extend on that work to help Samoan people debate critically on issues involving the Samoan government and issues that involve the Pacific. There's a lot of government and public information that's available, but most people are not aware of that. I want to help Samoan citizens to be engaged in issues, do their research and hold the government accountable.”

As a former writer for major newspapers in Samoa, Leota has a robust following on Facebook and Twitter, where she shares engaging content that inspires her. She says, “I always believe that you can change the world if you have the stubborn conviction that you can do it regardless of the circumstances you are born into. I’ve been working for 10 years mostly in government finance, but I felt that I could use what I was passionate about to change people’s lives.”