core faculty
   • terence wesley-smith
   • tarcisius kabutaulaka
   • lola quan bautista
   • alexander mawyer
   • moana nepia
   • julie walsh
   • managing editor
   • outreach director
   • administrative asst
   • graduate assistants
   • affiliate faculty
   • graduate students

graduate students

Over the years, students in the MA program have enlivened classes and enriched each other’s experience through the wide range of interests and talents they brought to the center. Center students have backgrounds in a variety of disciplines, and many have studied or worked or have family roots in the Pacific. After graduation, they undertake doctoral study or pursue their Pacific interests in fields such as education, journalism, regional government service, social work, and library and museum work. For a list recent theses, Plan B papers, and portfolios produced by the MA students, see Theses, Plan B Papers, and Portfolios.

Current MA Students

Otis Aisek is from Weno, Chuuk, and graduated from Chaminade University in 2010 with a BA in historical and political studies. He is interested in Micronesian civic engagement and the ways that education can be a means of finding balance between customary culture and Western influences. In his MA studies, he hopes to bring attention to social and political issues in places like Chuuk.

Christina Mauigoa Akanoa has a BA in political science from Brigham Young University–Hawai‘i Campus and an MA in political science, specializing in comparative and indigenous politics, from UH Mānoa. She is interested in the economic, social, and cultural changes taking place in the Pacific and how these changes, and the issues they give rise to, can be approached.

Rarai Aku Jr is from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, and attended Hawaiʻi Pacific University, where she earned a BA in political science. Her experiences growing up in Papua New Guinea motivate her research interest in women's roles in society. Rarai is interested in exploring gender equality in the Pacific Islands and hopes to develop culturally sensitive and respectful ways to address the issues.

Chai Blair-Stahn graduated from the University of Puget Sound, with majors in natural science. He is interested in exploring environmental issues, focusing on the traditions, values, and protocols associated with Pacific dance. He has a particular interest in Māori language and culture and is a recipient of a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) award for 2009–2010.

Terava Casey has a BS in political science from Brigham Young University–Hawaiʻi Campus. As a student at BYUH, Terava performed at the Polynesian Cultural Center. She enjoys performing hula and aparima because through dance, she connects with her Hawaiian and French Polynesian heritage. She is interested in employing creative methods to examine regional issues.

Dominique Cordy graduated from the University of California–Davis with a BA in anthropology. She was born in Guam and lived briefly on Yap and Kosrae and in Aotearoa New Zealand before moving to Hawai‘i. She is interested in the interaction between globalization and local cultures and intends to look at literature and music as forms of resistance and cultural preservation.

Brian Dawson graduated from Brigham Young University–Hawaii with a BA in Pacific Islands Studies. Brian became interested in Oceanic orthography, in part, from studying Tongan language. He developed a website with instructions and downloadable keyboards to allow standardized orthography for several Oceanic languages. He is interested in exploring how orthography strengthens indigenous identity as communication in spoken and written form.

Dietrix Jon Ulukoa Duhaylonsod was born and raised on the Wai‘anae Coast of O‘ahu and his ancestors hail from the Hawaiian Islands, Mariana Islands, and Visayan Islands. Ulukoa received his BA with dual majors in anthropology and ethnic studies as well as a certificate in Hawaiian language from UH Mānoa. He is a kumu hula and a member of the cultural group I Fanlalai‘an. He is interested in discovering ways to reawaken Chamoru culture in the Mariana Islands and the region, as well as protecting cultural sites for future generations.

Nicole Llewella Dela Fuente was born and raised in Hawai‘i and has a BA from UH Mānoa in interdisciplinary studies. While working in the retail business, she because interested in the increasing demand for objects with cultural meaning. In particular, she is interested in the impact that Asian-made cultural reproductions have on Pacific artists and Pacific Islands art.

Karin Louise Hermes lived in Papua New Guinea and the Philippines, where her mother is from, before returning to Germany, her father’s birthplace. She earned a BA in ethnology and sociology from the University of Heidelberg in 2011. As part of her BA, she returned to Papua New Guinea for an internship at Divine Word University in Madang. Her interest in transnationalism, cultural identity, and colonial history are inspired by her childhood experiences traveling throughout the Pacific Islands with her parents.

Lesley Kehaunani Iaukea, who is from Hawai‘i, earned her BA in geography from UH Mānoa. She has a diverse background including paramedic training and psychology. For her graduate studies, she is interested in learning about the effects of climate change in Oceania and its role in shaping the future of Pacific Island nations, such as Tuvalu. She hopes to explore ways to maintain cultural identity despite the loss of land by drawing from examples of how Hawaiians perpetuate culture.

Liane P C Iaukea, who has a degree in nursing and is from New Zealand, has lived in Hawai'i for the past 42 years. She has spent 20 years researching genealogies and land tenure in Hawai'i, and will continue her research into Polynesian cultures and their genealogies more broadly, focusing on New Zealand, Tahiti, and Hawai'i. Ultimately she would like to use this knowledge to help disenfranchised people tell their own stories.

Mechelins Kora Iechad is from Palau and graduated from Holy Names University with a BA in international relations. Her undergraduate research focused on critical issues related to nuclear activity in the Pacific and she worked with other Pacific Islander students to address environmental concerns. Mechelins is interested in exploring how politics in the Pacific relate to the political climate elsewhere.

Healoha Johnston, who is from Hawai‘i, has extensive work experience in the art world, as a consultant, gallery director, and museum curator. She recently completed her BA in art history and economics at UH Mānoa and is also working on an MA in art history. She is interested in exploring issues of art and the representation of Pacific peoples, as well as the relationship between art and social change.

Kathy Neien Jetnil-Kijiner is from the Marshall Islands and graduated from Mills College with a BA in English. She is a poet, writer, performance artist, and journalist and has performed in the Marshall Islands, United States, and England. Kathy is interested in learning from the oral historians before her and furthering her writing based on Marshallese legends in order to encourage other Marshallese to write and publish.

Kahala Irving Andrew Johnson, who is from Hawai‘i, graduated from UH Mānoa with a BA in Hawaiian studies. He has helped with the ‘Awaiaulu Newspaper Project, digitizing Hawaiian newspapers, and is a member of Hale Mua. Kahala is interested in continuing research on Māori language, literature, and culture to compare Hawaiian and Māori traditional knowledge particularly in relation to warfare, warriors, and battle strategies that can be applied to current political struggles against occupation and colonization.

Leora Kava earned her BA in East Asian Language and Literature with a concentration in Chinese language and history from Brown University. At Brown, she worked as a minority peer counselor, which allowed her to engage in cultural discourse related to her own experience as a Tongan-American woman. She has a particular interest in the cultural and political relationships between Tongans and Chinese and she plans to focus on the experiences of migrants and the host communities.

Kenneth Gofigan Kuper is from Guam and graduated from University of Guam with a BA in psychology. An East-West Center degree fellow, he is interested in learning from traditional indigenous governance systems and how they can provide directives for contemporary issues of indigenous rights and self-determination. Kenneth is a musician and is interested in the knowledge associated with songs, performance, language, and other creative aspects of Pacific cultures.

Kimoku Lee earned his BA in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on cinematic arts and Hawaiian culture from UH Mānoa. During an exchange program at Hunter College he learned film production, and he continued honing his skills through courses at the UHM Academy for Creative Media. He produced a film that traces his grandmother’s life as a spiritual guide and kahu (caretaker). Kimoku is interested in exploring Kamehameha I’s vision for the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and comparing his rule to that of elected monarchs.

Kelea K Levy, who is Native Hawaiian and was raised on the US continent, has a BA in development studies from the University of California–Berkeley. She is interested in fostering social change in the Pacific and helping Pacific Islanders redefine the political and economic geography of the region in their own terms. She plans to attend law school after getting her MA.

Matthew Locey graduated from Brigham Young University–Hawaiʻi with an associate of science degree. He has long been fascinated with Hollywood's portrayals of Hawaiʻi and other Polynesian cultures. Drawing from his Hawaiian heritage and experiences working in Hawaiʻi's film industry, Matthew looks forward to conducting researching comparing Hollywood's version of the Pacific Islands with perspectives from the Islands.

David Keali‘i Mackenzie was born in Massachusetts and attended Westfield State College before coming to Hawai‘i to pursue graduate studies in library and information science. As a poet, scholar, and librarian, he is interested in grounding his research in an indigenous space. David plans to learn about the creation, organization, and dissemination of Pacific knowledge and ways to bridge the digital divide in Oceania.

Daniel Maile completed a BA in anthropology at Hawai‘i Pacific University. He is an intern at Bishop Museum and has also been developing his skills as a carver, working with other Hawaiian artists. He is interested in issues of identity, representation, and power, with a particular focus on Hawai‘i.

Jason Mateo graduated from San Francisco State University with a BS in ethnic studies. In San Francisco, he was a youth advocate and developed the Brave New Voices International Youth Slam Poetry Festival. He has continued to work with youth and communities in Hawaiʻi and cofounded Pacific Tongues to create access to sustainable youth programs through an active community of writers, spoken-word performers, educators, and students.

John F Patu Jr earned a BA in religion at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and has a strong interest in educational service to the Samoan community. He studied Samoan language as an undergraduate and intends to make language maintenance, language transmission, and Samoan philosophy focal points of his graduate studies.

Yu Suenaga was born in Japan and grew up in Weno, Chuuk. He earned a BA in Japanese studies from UH Mānoa. Together with other graduates of Xavier High School, he cofounded the Fourth Branch, a news and media outlet to inform and involve the people of Micronesia, particularly those living in Hawaiʻi. Yu is pursuing Pacific Islands studies to gain a deeper understanding of his home, Weno, and explore the connections between Japan and Chuuk, particularly during the Japanese colonial era.

Olivia Vea, who was born in Hawai‘i, earned a BA in creative media from UH Mānoa. Olivia has written screenplays and produced films, including a documentary on the tradition of kava in the Tongan community. Drawing from her experience as a first generation Tongan-American, she plans to continue producing indigenous films and explore issues faced by American-born Pacific Islanders.

Melvin Won Pat-Borja is from Guahån and earned a BEd in secondary education from UH Mānoa. He has worked in high schools in Guahån and Hawaiʻi teaching poetry and spoken word, and he cofounded Youth Speaks Hawaiʻi to develop critical thinking, writing, reading, public speaking, and leadership skills through spoken-arts education. Melvin is interested in exploring ways that educational systems in the Pacific region can validate oral histories and adapt to the needs of young people.

Jesse Harris-Kawika Yonover graduated from University of Colorado–Boulder with a BS in environmental science. Having grown up in Hawai‘i, Jesse is interested in the histories and contemporary issues faced by Pacific people in his home state as well as the wider region. He also plans to explore Polynesian reggae and other creative popular cultural responses to social, political, and economic issues.

Current Certificate Students

Jessica Garlock, from Ohio, has a MSW from Boston College. She is a PhD student in the School of Social Work at UH Mānoa with a research focus on the Samoan population and social issues in Sāmoa.

Jocelyn Jose Howard is from Onoun Island in the Namwonweito Atoll in Chuuk State, Federated States of Micronesia. She attended Xavier High School in Chuuk and went on to study at the Community College of Micronesia and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. She is currently pursuing an MA in social work at University of Hawai'i at Mānoa focusing on Micronesian populations.

Klouldil U Hubbard is from Palau and graduated from Baker University, in Kansas. She is a teaching assistant in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, where she is working on her PhD in urban and regional planning, with a focus on indigenous planning.

For a list of recent graduates and their research topics, see Theses, Plan B Papers, and Portfolios.


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