New multilingual, multicultural certificate aids local professionals

students talking and walking
(Photo credit: HEI)

A new graduate certificate that educates and trains graduate students from various disciplines to collaborate and enact multilingual multicultural awareness and understanding in their professional practices will be offered at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa starting in summer 2022. The multilingual multicultural professional practice (MMPP), a 15-credit interdisciplinary program, is the first cross-college certificate programs in the UH System by UH Mānoa’s College of Education (COE) and the College of Arts, Languages & Letters.

“We use the term ‘multilingual’ to be consistent with current perspectives in the field of second language studies,” said Second Language Studies Professor Graham Crookes, one of the designers of the program. “Instead of using terms such as ‘English Language Learner,’ multilingual emphasizes the cultural and linguistic assets of people and recognizes the need for fostering heritage language maintenance and language acquisition broadly, not just English. These perspectives can lead to educational, social and economic benefits both for professionals and for the communities they serve.”

mural on pillar
Kaimuki High School Multilingual Hallway.

MMPP engages other UH Mānoa professional schools, such as the William S. Richardson School of Law, to promote social justice, equity and sustainability. Part of the UH Mānoa Multilingual Multicultural Strategic Initiative, the certificate cultivates a strong sense of place, building upon Hawaiʻi’s unique cultures and languages, while also preparing graduate students to be leaders in multilingualism, multiculturalism and linguistic human rights.

Connecting courses to professional field

Structured so students across diverse disciplines will share two core multilingual multicultural courses, the remaining three courses of the MMPP program will be elective multilingual multicultural courses connected to their professional field in the context of Hawaiʻi. Hawaiian culture, history and language are foundational across the curriculum. Students will collaborate on an integrative final project drawing on their newfound multilingual multicultural understanding of their professional field.

“It will be exciting to see students network across different disciplines, professions and orientations, to identity problems and create solutions and programs to better serve our multilingual multicultural communities,” said Professor Patricia Halagao, one of the program designers and chair of the COEDepartment of Curriculum Studies, which is administering the certificate.

Working with multilingual multicultural populations

The MMPP certificate offers important knowledge and skills that professionals, including lawyers and educators, need to work effectively with multilingual multicultural populations.

For educators, MMPP coursework addresses essential local policies and national professional standards to ensure they have the needed knowledge, skills, and values to support their multilingual multicultural learners in Hawaiʻi.

Brook Chapman de Sousa, COE Institute for Teacher Education associate professor and collaborating designer, said, “We’ve designed a specific set of coursework aligned to the Hawaiʻi Department of Education Nā Hopena Aʻo place-based policy and the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) standards. We are in the process of seeking approval from the Hawaiʻi Teacher Standards Board so MMPP graduates may earn their TESOL license.”

The UH Mānoa vision statement, Ka lamakū o ke aloha ʻāina: A leading light of aloha ʻāina for Hawaiʻiand the world, is central to this certificate.

“This graduate certificate is grounded in the belief that UH Mānoa should be a leader in this respect and must cultivate deep understanding, respect for, and competencies in this place’s cultural and linguistic diversity and interconnectedness,” said Dina Yoshimi, associate professor and director of the HawaiʻiLanguage Roadmap. “This vision will only be enhanced if we better understand each others’ languages, cultures and various ‘rich knowledge systems’ to serve our local and global communities.”

This program 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.

For more information about the application process and program, contact Halagao at