Participants in the Pamantasan Conference at Kapiʻolani CC

On March 17, students, faculty, staff and administrators from nine campuses convened at Kapiʻolani Community College for the 2017 Pamantasan Conference. Using the theme, “Don’t Stop Believing: Journey to Inspired Collective Filipino Leadership (Through Educational, Civic and Creative Engagement),” more than 200 participants enjoyed the full day event which included workshop sessions, cultural activities, and a panel discussion. The second day of the conference with Student Leadership Institute career and community building sessions was held at the University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu.

“Pamantasan” is a Filipino word for higher education. In 1987 a Pamantasan Council was established to address the status of Filipinos throughout the UH 10-campus system. The council ensures that Filipino-American and Philippine courses are represented in the curriculum to encourage and recognize the success of Filipinos at the university.

Workshop sessions covered diversity issues, like Santuwaryo: Creating Sanctuary Communities for All, and The Diaspora Within: A Statistical Snapshop of Filipinos at UH. The panel of Filipino leaders impressed the audience with pride for their culture and encouraged students to pursue their dreams. They all shared one common interest: commitment in public service.

  • State Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran spoke about growing up on Maui, going off to law school and then returning to Maui to practice law. He now serves in the Hawaiʻi State Legislature.
  • Retired Hawaiʻi Supreme Court Associate Justice Simeon R. Acoba, Jr., a graduate of Farrington High School, spoke of his pursuit in law and his civic contributions in law and higher education.
  • Amelfi “Amy” Agbayani’s colorful history shows serious work with a wide range of people and causes including senior citizens and pre-school children, the LGBT community, women, civil rights, worker’s rights, Native Hawaiians, African Americans and other underrepresented groups.
  • Roderick Labrador, associate professor of ethnic studies and writer, previously directed a university-based college access program for a low-income community in urban Honolulu.
  • Rachel Solemsaas has devoted her professional life to higher education, with an emphasis on community college leadership. She now serves as the Chancellor of Hawaiʻi Communty College.
  • Michelle A. Tagorda’s service is primarily in public health. She dedicated herself to the service of both undergraduate and graduate students through academic advising, inspiring many students to pursue rewarding careers in public health and beyond. Her work is seen in measuring and understanding cultural characteristics related to health.

Coordinators for this year’s conference were Maiana Minahal and Ana Bravo of Kapiʻolani CC.

—By Louise Yamamoto