A hand pounding taro into poi
A new associate degree in Hawaiian studies will offer a curriculum focused on Hawaiian culture and knowledge.

A new associate in arts degree in Hawaiian studies to be offered by the University of Hawaiʻi’s seven community colleges received unanimous approval as a provisional degree by the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents at its monthly meeting held May 17.

The degree was collaboratively developed by the community college campuses as an option to prepare students to transfer to a Hawaiian studies baccalaureate degree path at UH Mānoa or UH Hilo.

It also provides students with the option to earn an associate degree that provides the qualifications that would be beneficial in the workforce or or other areas of study where a knowledge of the host culture are desired.

“One of the things we see at the community colleges is that not everyone comes to us intending to transfer to a BA program,” said Keala Losch, assistant professor at Kapiʻolani Community College. “For these students, they will now have an opportunity to follow a path of Hawaiian knowledge that, once they graduate, will allow them to take that knowledge into the workforce and back to their communities.”

All of the colleges currently offer well-established and diverse Hawaiian studies courses based on the expertise of its faculty and existing academic subject certificate programs in Hawaiian studies.

Establishing the associate degree program is also one way of preserving the Hawaiian culture, values and language, according to Losch.

The degree proposal grew out of a desire to strengthen the University of Hawaiʻi’s goal of being a leading indigenous-serving institution and to support the advancement of Hawaiian culture and knowledge. It is also a product of the close collaboration of faculty at the community college campuses interested in offering a single program of study that addresses the university’s strategic goals with a shared focus.

The degree will be offered beginning in the fall 2012 semester.