Expanding public parklets to improve business in Kailua Town and investigating the reentry of Indigenous wāhine (women) from incarceration were two of the featured projects at the Fall 2022 Undergraduate Showcase, hosted by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Honors Program and Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Approximately 50 students presented at the on-campus academic conference that highlighted undergraduate research and creative work at UH Mānoa.
Public parklets in Kailua
A quartet of undergraduate architecture students investigated the use of public parklets—curbside parking spaces converted into community gathering spaces—to increase business for local shops that grew during the pandemic. Airon Castaneda, Dean Matsumura, Joy Edades and Logan Shiroma worked with Cafe Kopi, a small coffee shop in Kailua, and nonprofit organization Better Block Hawaii to explore public parklets as a medium for community gathering and public engagement. The students created a schematic design and plan that were submitted to Better Block Hawaii that took into account several facets, including the culture of Kailua Town, and the integration of native plants that would best thrive in the area.
“We learned how to work with clients and participate in the entire design-build process. As students, we have focused on conceptual designs and this is the first project where we had to prioritize construction feasibility as well as coordinate with multiple partners,” the team said. “We wanted to bring greater opportunities for small businesses and community outdoor gathering while also finding ways to incorporate native plants in an urban environment as education tools.”
The students were mentored by College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Associate Professor and Landscape Specialist Andrew Kaufman.
Indigenizing reentry solutions for incarcerated wāhine
Department of Political Science student Kylie Noelani Akiona studied the effectiveness of incorporating Indigenous beliefs and practices into reentry programs for incarcerated wāhine. Akiona specifically focused on a Hawaiʻi Island reentry group called Wāhine O PAʻA. The research was intended to evaluate the effectiveness of the organization’s work through a series of interviews and literary analyses, but also explores the carceral constraints placed on the research process, champions the incorporation of Indigenous theories of knowledge and values into reentry methods, critically examines mass incarceration in Hawaiʻi, and echoes the demand for prison industrial complex abolition.
“Reentry, or the system of support for folks leaving incarceration and returning to our communities, is a necessary but often neglected part of decarceration,” said Akiona, who works part-time for American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaiʻi. “Another often ignored fact is that the disproportionate incarceration of Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) and wāhine in particular is not at the fault of our individual actions, but rather, created and perpetuated by the colonial conditions that shape our lived realities.”
Akiona added, “After informing myself and others on the impact of incarceration, I became extremely passionate about following data-driven and abolitionist-oriented solutions and decided to dedicate my life and career to ensuring our liberation from incarceration and the ongoing military occupation of our lands and waters by the American empire; as Indigenous peoples, we have no choice but to become aware of what shapes our oppressed realities and refuse them for our ultimate survival and rightful return of our lands, waters and bodies.”
Akiona was mentored by Department of Political Science Assistant Professor Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio.
UROP project funding
Both of these projects received UROP project funding. Each year, UROP awards approximately $500,000 in scholarship funding to support faculty-mentored undergraduate student research and creative work projects and presentations.
More about the Undergraduate Showcase
The Undergraduate Showcase is held at the end of every fall and spring semesters. It is a public event open to visitors on- and off-campus. All UH Mānoa undergraduate students in all fields of study conducting a faculty-mentored research or creative work project are encouraged to submit an abstract to present. Visit the Undergraduate Showcase website for more information.
—By Marc Arakaki