Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio (photo by Will Matsuda)

Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio was honored with the 2017 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, which will support the final year of her dissertation writing and defense. Osorio, a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa PhD candidate in English, is 1 of only 38 individuals to receive the fellowship among the national competitors.

Osorio’s dissertation is titled Aikāne, A Kanaka Maoli Moʻolelo Beyond Queer Theory: Unsettling White Settler Logics and (Re)membering Indigenous Desires.

The Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship provides a $25,000 stipend to individuals working to complete a dissertation leading to a PhD or ScD degree, and valuable networking opportunities.

“I think I’m most excited about collaborating with other fellows who share common goals and whose work I admire,” said Osorio. “I’m grateful to the Ford Foundation for providing resources (both physical and intellectual) that would not otherwise be available to us and that further our academic goals.”

Passion for sharing the spoken and written word

Osorio was judged on scholarly competence and future potential as a scholar, researcher and teacher in higher education. The review panel clearly saw what Osorio has always exhibited from “small kid time”—a passion and gift for sharing the spoken and written word, be it in Hawaiian or English. Teaching is innate in Osorio, having been a student of her kupuna (elders), ancestors and others who have left their indelible mark on her life.

Also among the judges’ considerations is the applicant’s ability to use diversity as a resource to enrich teaching and learning. Osorio currently works as a student support specialist in the Native Hawaiian Student Services at UH Mānoa and will continue to do so throughout the fellowship. Perhaps more profound is her in-depth knowledge and stewardship of Native Hawaiian culture and practices. She shares Hawaiian culture through activism, poetry and music. She is a professional performer and widely published poet who has shared her art throughout Oceania on five continents, and at the White House.

Earning the fellowship has further ignited and reaffirmed Osorio’s desire to return to the classroom in order to help students develop, and develop consciousness for Hawaiian issues.

—By Karin Mackenzie