Center for Pacific Island Studies

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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.

Diamond Kaimana Badajos is from Waipahū and earned a Master’s of Professional Journalism from the University of Oregon in 2014. She graduated from UH Mānoa’s Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Hawaiian studies. Kaimana is interested in continuing research around the politics of sex—biological sex, gender, and sexual relationships—in Hawaiian culture before European contact and exploring present-day Kānaka ʻŌiwi relationships with their bodies as well as changing practices that have contributed to reformation of Hawaiian thought, perceptions of Hawaiian bodies, and ways bodies are used.

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.

Asalemo “Asa” Crawford grew up in Seattle and South Auckland. Asa graduated from University of Washington Seattle (UW) with a bachelor’s in anthropology. At UW, he was an ambassador for the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity’s Student Outreach Program and volunteered with the Pacific Islanders Partnerships in Education program. Influenced by his personal experiences as a Samoan born in the United States, Asa is interested transnational identity and in the ways that education can help young Pacific Islanders know their roots and go on to become effective leaders. He is an East-West Center degree fellow.

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.

Rolando Espanto Jr grew up in Wai‘anae, Oʻahu. Rolando graduated from University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with a bachelor’s degree in history. His undergraduate studies focused on Pacific and Asian histories, particularly the role of the Samoan matai system in relation to the US governance in American Sāmoa. Rolando is interested in education, particularly ways that indigenous methods of education can help communities overcome obstacles and reclaim a sense of place in the Pacific Islands.

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.

Joseph Halaʻufia grew up in San Mateo, California. He attended Boston University and earned a bachelor’s degree in history. During study abroad at University of Auckland, Joseph became interested in the influences of the global community on the indigenous people and cultures of the Pacific Islands. From Auckland, he was able to visit Tonga, where he connected with family and learned more Tongan language. Joseph is interested in building on his undergradate research on Asian history to explore the influences of China in the Pacific.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Luseane Veisinia Moalapauu Raass grew up in Kapetā on Tongatapu in Tonga and completed concurrent bachelor’s degrees in sociology and Pacific Islands studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. As part of service learning and her undergraduate capstone project, Luseane worked with youth at the Pālolo ʻOhana Learning Center and Ka Holo Waʻa where she helped prepare Hokuleʻa for its worldwide journey. Luseane is interested in exploring what it means to be Tongan today, particularly for women in diasporic communities.

Gerald Ramsay is from Aunuʻu, American Sāmoa, and lived with his family in Saudi Arabia for many years. After moving to Hawaiʻi, he earned a bachelor’s in anthropology and a certificate in TESLO (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. Since graduating in 2007, Gerald has worked at a Hawaiian charter school and performed at the Polynesian Cultural Center. His research interests relate to the interplay of religion and cultural identity in the Pacific Islands and diasporic communities.

Dalaunte Taz Stevenson grew up in Waipahū. He graduated from the University of Washington (UW) with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. While at UW, he was a mentor at the nonprofit Taro Roots Foundation in Seattle and lead football clinics for Pacific Islander youth to demonstrate to how sports can be a vehicle for education and professional opportunities. In 2012, Taz participated in UW’s student athlete summer program in Tahiti, French Polynesia, where he researched colonialism and its impacts on Tahitian communities. He is interested in law enforcement and social work, particularly in relation to its effects on understanding sovereignty and cultural values.

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.

Travis Kaululaau Thompson was raised in Kāneʻohe. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in history at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. For more than a decade, Travis has performed poetry in Hawaiʻi and abroad. He uses creative writing and slam poetry to tell audiences how Hawaiʻi has become American. He is one of the founders of Youth Speaks Hawaiʻi. Travis hopes to explore the ways that communities are reintroducing traditional cultural knowledge and practices to mitigate environmental degragation in the Islands and add his voice to the historiography of Oceania.

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.

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.

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.

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


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

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