A three-year $1-million grant will launch a new Indo-Pacific Affairs Initiative and establish a Center for Indo-Pacific Affairs within the College of Arts, Languages, and Letters at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. The federal funding was secured by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono to provide education, training and professional development opportunities for students and U.S. government personnel to better meet national security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
The UH Mānoa Center for Indo-Pacific Affairs will be one of the first academic institutions in the world to focus specifically on the Indo-Pacific region. Changing strategic dynamics have recently led policymakers to expand their thinking beyond traditional definitions of “East Asia” to consider a much more expansive “Indo-Pacific” that stretches from the west coast of the U.S. to the west coast of India. Throughout the past several years, many countries, including the U.S., have released Indo-Pacific strategies that reflect their recognition of the importance of this region.
“The expertise about the Indo-Pacific region that already exists at the university and across Oʻahu is virtually unparalleled. And, as an integral part of that region, UH is uniquely positioned to educate our future leaders in the kinds of historically-grounded, culturally-aware perspectives that can help ensure that U.S. policies and personnel contribute to the peace and well-being of the entire region,” said Cathryn Clayton, chair of the Department of Asian Studies.
The Center for Indo-Pacific Affairs will be the institutional hub of the broader Indo-Pacific Initiative, which will help to bring together experts and opportunities from the School of Pacific and Asian Studies and across the Mānoa campus. Other goals include the expansion of course offerings, research and Indo-Pacific affairs co-curricular programming, including strengthening the master’s in Asian international affairs program that was launched by the Asian studies department in 2019. Professional development opportunities will also be made available to students at the BA and MA levels.
Kristi Govella, an assistant professor in the Asian studies department who will be the director of the new center said, “Through this new Center for Indo-Pacific Affairs, we will help to bridge the gap between the best scholarly research and timely policy-relevant analysis, while also providing transformative opportunities for students to engage with regional affairs.”
The funding will also provide for professional skills workshops, a visiting experts program, online outreach and help to enhance the visibility of the work UH Mānoa students and scholars are already engaged in the field.
“Importantly, this initiative will enable UH Mānoa to initiate a pilot program that will provide financial support for our students who are engaged in unpaid internships at organizations with a focus on Indo-Pacific issues,” said UH Mānoa Provost Michael Bruno.
UH Mānoa has long been recognized as a leading university for Asian Studies and Pacific Islands Studies. The launch of the UH Indo-Pacific Affairs Initiative comes on the heels of news in August that UH Mānoa was awarded seven Title VI International Education grants totaling $7 million over a four-year grant cycle from the U.S. Department of Education to support language instruction, teacher training, curriculum development, outreach and library collections related to Asia and the Pacific.