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person smiling with graduates in the background

Chosen based on their academic achievements and service to the campus and community, student marshals at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s commencement ceremony wear distinctive silver stoles, and direct graduates and members of the stage party to their seats. Being a student marshal is considered a high honor.

Among the spring 2023 student marshals will be Anamalia Anusaga Suʻesuʻe, 29, who is earning her master’s in psychology and excited to be on track for a PhD in the Community, Cultural and Developmental program. You can’t miss the College of Social Sciences representative: She is 6 feet tall; has long, wavy hair; and wears a blindingly bright smile embodying excitement on her way to a doctorate.

“I’d like to be in a position to help develop and implement services needed for our Pacific Islander communities to be healthy and well,” said Suʻesuʻe. “Projects I’ve worked on before, and potential dissertation topics, include Samoan language maintenance and preservation, health and cancer disparities among Pacific Islanders, and culturally responsive alternative justice models for incarceration.”

UH spring 2023 commencement schedule

Suʻesuʻe was born in Wailuku, Maui, but grew up on Oʻahu and the east side of Hawaiʻi Island. She attended Keaʻau High School, where she played volleyball and basketball, took advanced placement classes, was in the National Honor Society, and served as class president in her sophomore, junior and senior years. After graduating from high school in 2012, Suʻesuʻe and her family moved to Texas to live with her grandparents due to Hawaiʻi’s high cost of living.

But when Suʻesuʻe got married and became pregnant with the couple’s first child, the newlyweds moved back to Oʻahu, where her parents and younger sister had already returned.

“I knew early in my life that I wanted to raise my children with my family in Hawaiʻi,” said Suʻesuʻe.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Chaminade University, and then started thinking about graduate school.

Sign me up!

I wanted to be where brilliant Pacific Islander minds came together to teach and learn.

UH Mānoa has always had a special place in my heart. Both of my parents attended UH Mānoa, and I wanted to be where brilliant Pacific Islander minds came together to teach and learn,” said Suʻesuʻe. “The UH psychology graduate programs had many different areas of research, but what really locked me in was the study of community and culture. The attention to context in human development, the role that culture plays in our thinking and emotions, the call for action as a part of research—wow, sign me up!”

Since enrolling, Suʻesuʻe has collected several awards and honors. Two of her most recent: an achievement award as part of the inaugural Women in Pacific Studies Graduate Student Cohort, and her selection as a summer CDC and ChangeLab Solutions Public Health Law Fellow to learn how law and policy can promote better health for Indigenous communities. She is especially grateful to psychology faculty—including graduate advisor Ashley Maynard, thesis committee members like Joni Sasaki and department chair Charlene Baker—for their unyielding guidance and encouragement.

Impact of a caring teacher

As Suʻesuʻe looks forward to her doctorate, she also remembers to look back. Under her leadership, the Keaʻau High School Class of 2012 reunion committee is in the early stages of setting up a college scholarship fund. She reflects often on how her husband, Bryan, and children Moana and Moeaputia, have supported and believed in her. And she appreciates how much of a positive influence her parents have been, especially her father, Suʻesuʻe Suʻesuʻe, who died in 2020.

“Before his passing, he was a teacher at Nānākuli High School and, before that, at Pāhoa High School on Hawaiʻi Island. I saw the impact that he had on students and the difference that a caring teacher can make,” said Suʻesuʻe. “So I hope, one day, to become a professor, and continue his legacy of service and support for the next generation. Learning and education are such valuable gifts.”

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