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Group of people looking out at the ocean
Kilo (observe) is an important cultural practice Kūʻokoʻa faculty members incorporate into courses alongside Hawaiian cultural practitioners in the field.

In an effort to cultivate leaders to connect and care for ʻāina (land and resources) using interdisciplinary skills grounded in a strong foundation of ʻike kūpuna or ancestral knowledge, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies (KCHS) is launching a new graduate certificate program.

In partnership with a number of colleges and schools across the Mānoa campus, KCHS, housed in Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, is offering the Kūʻokoʻa ʻĀina Based Leadership graduate certificate to foster collaborative decision making and enhance community resilience in the face of climate change with a culturally grounded interdisciplinary approach to working on and with the land and natural resources.

Group of people smiling and posing in front of a van
Hawaiʻinuiākea students traveled to Molokaʻi to support an organization’s work toward climate change and sea level adaptation and resiliency.

“We all know that Hawaiʻi’s communities face compelling issues of natural and cultural resource management, sustainability, water justice and sovereignty, food security and Native Hawaiian rights,” said Hawaiʻinuiākea Dean Jon Kamakawiwoʻole Osorio. “Today, Hawaiʻi’s land and sea resources continue to decline under a centralized state management system challenged by underfunded and understaffed agencies, with little grounding in Hawaiian approaches to sustainability.”

In ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language), Kūʻokoʻa means independence, and refers to the ability of communities to kiaʻi or protect, care for and make decisions about, natural and cultural resources.

Eligible applicants

The 16-credit program is open to all UH Mānoa students who are already enrolled in a graduate program as well as community members who are seeking to earn a professional degree. The certificate also aims to promote collaborative decision making in Hawaiʻi by targeting professionals who work in environmental fields but who may not have Hawaiian cultural grounding or experience working with Hawaiʻi communities.

People standing in fishpond
The program will include field courses such as hands-on experiences at Keaweanui Fishpond on Molokaʻi.

Kūʻokoʻa is an innovative learning program to serve a broad population of students, practitioners, professionals and individuals to:

  • Address environmental, cultural, legal and social aspects of aloha ʻāina (love of the land), through collaborative research, teaching and training
  • Focus on interdisciplinary and holistic solutions to natural and cultural resource management, sustainability and food security
  • Ground approaches in Hawaiian knowledge, methodologies and practices, while drawing on cutting edge strategies and tools from around the world.

Applications are due February 1 (non-graduate students) and March 15 (graduate students). For more information, contact Malia Nobrega-Olivera at

Upcoming virtual information sessions:

  • Friday, January 13 from 1–2 p.m.
  • Thursday, January 19 from 3–4 p.m.
  • Monday, January 23 from 5–6 p.m.

Learn more about the Kūʻokoʻa ʻĀina Based Leadership program.

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