Skip to content
Reading time: 2 minutes
man smiling
Keoni Williams

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law student Keoni Williams has been named the 2022 Patsy Takemoto Mink Legislative Fellow. The fellowship provides a unique opportunity for a UH law student interested in public policy and social justice to work with a member of Hawaiʻi’s congressional delegation.

Williams will spend the summer working in the Washington, D.C. office of U.S. Congressman Kaialiʻi Kahele, who currently holds the seat once occupied by Congresswoman Patsy Takemoto Mink, the namesake of the fellowship.

In congratulating Williams, UH law school Dean Camille A. Nelson noted, “Keoni was one of the students in our inaugural Island Leadership Lab. He is an exemplary student and a brilliant person. I have no doubt that he will continue to do great things that have a transformative impact. This fellowship will allow him to hone his already strong leadership skills in service of the greater good.”

Empowering his community

Williams, a second-generation Micronesian American who has witnessed firsthand the discriminatory effects of the ambiguous status of his people, has a passion for uplifting and empowering his community.

“These injustices sparked my interest in law and policy and are the personal experiences I think of when I reflect on Congresswoman Mink’s admonishment to use personal experiences to accomplish things that ensure others do not suffer the same discrimination,” Williams said.

Williams is also a recipient of the Graduate Degree Fellowship at the East-West Center, which provides funding support for future leaders in the Asia Pacific region.

“At the East-West Center, Keoni has demonstrated his commitment to service as an elected member of our student Board and has worked closely with the Pacific Islands Development Program, engaging with Pacific leaders at the highest levels on issues of regional importance. He is a future leader with enormous potential to affect positive change locally, nationally, regionally and globally,” said Ann Hartman, dean of the East-West Center Education Program.

Williams’s selection is particularly significant as 2022 marks the 20th year since then-law students Tannaz Simyar, Della Au Belatti, Annie Lee, and Tania Cruz founded the Mink fellowship to honor and continue her legacy following her passing.

Williams reflected on Mink’s advocacy, “Just as the adversity Congresswoman Mink experienced as a Japanese American woman informed her policy priorities, I too am empowered by my identity and lived experiences.”

This fellowship 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.

To support the fellowship, visit UH Foundation. For more information, see the UH law school story.

Back To Top