football player in white jersey and helmet getting ready to run
Jonah Panoke

Some University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa student-athletes are gaining a broader perspective and deeper learning experience with a customized approach to their college degrees. The Interdisciplinary Studies Program (ISP) allows students to work with several academic departments and develop their own degree and path to graduation. The program’s goal is to provide students with diverse ways of thinking and the knowledge and skills necessary for their future professional endeavors.

Erika Sanchez, UH Mānoa ISP coordinator and MFA dance candidate, created a series of features highlighting student-athletes in spring 2021 to highlight the accomplishments of the students on and off the field. They explained how ISP was the best choice for them to be able to create their own degree pathway that suited their rigorous training schedules.

Dominique Martinez, softball

softball pitcher wearing a camouflage jersey pitching a ball
Dominique Martinez

A UH Mānoa softball pitcher, Martinez joined ISP in 2019 with the objective of taking control of her education, and handpicking classes that align with her interests in business and healthcare. Martinez was raised in Othello, a small town in Washington state, and her passion for softball first sparked in T-ball. As Martinez’s athletic skill and passion for softball grew to the competitive level, she realized she had the opportunity to play at the collegiate level.

“I made sure to get the best grades I could in high school,” Martinez said. “I enrolled in challenging classes that would stand out when I started to become recruited by college scouts. During the recruitment period college coaches look at your athletic skill level and see if you can play on the team, as well as, they look at your grades to make sure you can balance school work with the sport that you are playing.”

Martinez’s tenacity on the field is indistinguishable with her persistence off the field. She is fearless in managing her educational journey, looking for resources and questioning what fits into her academic pursuit.

Emily Klee, softball

softball player pitching the ball
Emily Klee

A fourth-year student in ISP and a pitcher on the UH Mānoa softball team, Klee was born and raised in Placentia, California. Klee’s parents immersed her in an array of sports at a young age. She decided to commit to softball as she advanced to a competitive level. The influence of sports, love for an active life and her passion of giving back to others, drove her to pursue an interdisciplinary studies (IS) sport management degree, and coming from a family of big-time UH supporters, she knew she would become a Rainbow Wahine.

Additionally, since Klee’s extended family lives on Oʻahu, she recognized her chance to connect with her family, learn about her Hawaiian culture and simultaneously earn a degree. With help from her academic advisor, Klee’s educational design for her 4-year plan suited her ambitions to bring sports and management together. Klee was named a National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American scholar athlete and continues to secure her spot on the Dean’s List.

“I was most excited about finding a major that fit my interests and allowed me to broaden my future with a degree that covered multiple fields,” Klee said. “Getting my degree in IS allowed me to focus on what I was interested in and gave me connection with people who have helped me with my future.”

Jonah Panoke, football

In his first semester in ISP, Panoke is studying sports-related business management and athletic administration, with hopes for a career as an athletic director or a role in sports business administration. A wide receiver on the football team, Panoke juggles family time with his two sons, football practices and studying for classes.

Panoke sought out ISP for flexibility to reach his degree goals. Through advising and research, he found opportunities that allow him to take courses essential for his potential career and interests. The program has allowed Panoke to plan both online and hybrid courses that align with his football and family schedules.

Panoke was born and raised in Honolulu. The aloha spirit, friendly nature of the community and close family ties of the Hawaiian culture were instilled in him at a young age. His advice for future ISP students is, “Take the leap of faith, do not allow the predetermined degree frameworks confine what you want to be by determining what you want to major in.”

For more, visit the ISP website, Facebook and Instagram pages.

This program is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.