The McNair Student Achievement ProgramThe University of Hawaii at Manoa

Our Enthusiastic Team

Cristin Kalai Castro, M.S.

Cristin "Kalai" Castro, M.S.

McNair Coordinator | Telephone: 808-956-4392 | Email:

Raised in Kāne'ohe, Kalai Castro credits her elders for inspiring her with their many stories about overcoming adversity.  She became the first in her family to seek a college education. She holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa and a master's degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.  In pursuing her educational goals, she has often turned to the wellspring of wisdom provided by the cultures of her mixed heritage (Native Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Puerto Rican, and Portuguese). The collective guidance of those who came before her, she says, is summed up best in this saying from Confucius: “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”

Maile Goo, Psy.D.

Maile Goo, Psy.D.

McNair Director | Telephone: 808-956-9663 | Email:

As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Maile Goo has provided therapeutic counseling services and advocacy for numerous socially and economically disadvantaged groups, including ethnic and racial minorities, native peoples, foster children and victims of crime and domestic abuse.  She has served in executive capacities within public and non-profit programs designed to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty by expanding access to higher education. Her work as a tribal advocate and case manager for a Native American Tribal Consortium in California provided the motivation and focus for her doctoral dissertation, entitled “Emancipation of American Indian Youth, Fledging Eagles Program for Success.” For more than ten years at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Maile has worked as a student mentor and program administrator for federal and state-funded grants, including National Institute of Health initiatives for increasing the number of underrepresented students in the biomedical sciences. As a tenured faculty member within the UH office of Student Equity, Excellence, and Diversity, she currently directs the McNair Student Achievement Program and is the principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Education/TRiO funded sister program "Mānoa Educational Talent Search," serving Native Hawaiian youths on O'ahu's leeward coast.  Of Chinese and Hawaiian descent, Maile draws inspiration equally from her immigrant and indigenous roots. She remains dedicated to a holistic vision of education that addresses the inherent connectivity of individuals. Her lifelong avocation is music, which has led her to explore and share the spiritual and cultural contexts of Afro-Cuban drumming. “My experiences as an aspiring Afro-Cuban drummer have given me insight into the value of connectivity. Like other folkloric styles of drumming, it brings people together and provides a heartbeat for hope,” says Maile.

UHM Student Equity, Excellence & Diversity

Pua Auyong, MA

Pua Auyong, M.A.

Institutional Support/Media Productions Specialist | Telephone: 808-956-3714 | Email:

Pua Auyong, who comes from the 'Ewa plain of O'ahu, attended Campbell High School and represents the first generation in her family to get a college degree. A University of Hawai'i at Mānoa alumna, she holds a bachelor's degree in liberal studies with a focus on ethnobotany. She has a master's degree in non-profit management from Regis University in Colorado. The slogan which carries her through all of life's journey is this: “Be grateful to everyone.”

Charlene Cuaresma, MPH

Charlene Cuaresma, M.P.H.

Institutional Support/Community Participatory Research Coordinator | Telephone: 808-956-3404 | Email:

A third generation descendant of Filipino laborers brought to Hawai'i to work in the sugar mills, Charlene Cuaresma was raised in a plantation camp in Waipahu and became the first in her family to go to college. "Education is your ticket out. And never ever depend on a man," advised Charlene's mother, who succumbed to kidney disease, when Charlene was just 11. Empowered by her mother's guidance, Charlene earned a bachelor's in psychology and a master's degree in public health from the University of Hawai'i. Her lifelong interest in ending disparities in education and health has led her in many exciting directions: as the community director for the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training, she supports the efforts of minorities to conduct research within their home communities. An avid believer in the power of exercise to provide “free medicine” for body and soul, she has completed seven marathons and over 20 biathlons and triathlons. In 2011, she was appointed to the Hawai'i State Board of Education.

Richard Okubo, B.A.

Richard Okubo, B.A.

Fiscal Support Officer | Telephone: 808-956-0916 | Email:

Born and raised in Okinawa, Japan, Richard Okubo comes from the first generation in his family to attend college. While the value of a higher education was always emphasized in the Okubo household, Richard says his mother was never able to finish elementary school due to the devastation of her community during World War II. Richard is an alumnus of the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, where he has also worked for undergraduate training programs. Richard says that his experiences at UH have strengthened his conviction that education paves the way to a better life.

Liza Simon-Tuiolosega, B.A.

Liza Simon-Tuiolosega, B.A.

McNair Web services and Student Support | Telephone: 808-956-4392 | Email:

Liza Simon-Tuiolosega loved working in the field of advocacy projects even before she knew the meaning of the word. In her Connecticut elementary school, she was the perennial winner of prizes for the state's annual anti-litter campaign poster contest. Amid the social upheaval of the 1960's, she wrote editorials for her high school newspaper about civil rights and peace activism. She attended Barnard College on a full scholarship and majored in English with a focus on creative writing, but during her junior year she opted to start her media career as a radio reporter. Several decades later, she completed her undergraduate studies in English at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. She has worked for more than twenty-years in broadcast and print journalism in Hawai'i and has won recognition from the Hawai'i Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalist for her coverage of local arts and culture. She also holds a position as a college English instructor, where she enjoys helping students discover the broad utility of writing as a tool for self-empowerment. Much like her mother, who re-entered the workforce at retirement age and helped establish one of the nation's first high school programs for health career training, she considers herself a work-in-progress always open to new paths. Or, as her mother liked to put it, “Never put a period after your life.”