Throughout the center’s fall seminar series, “Employing Pacific Studies,” alumni and current students will reflect on personal, academic, and professional experiences with Pacific studies.
Myjolynne Kim (CPIS MA 2007), or Mymy as many of us know her, is the executive director for the Federated States of Micronesia Association of Chambers of Commerce. Mymy and Katherine Higgins were classmates, and they caught up during the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts in Honiara, Solomon Islands, in July 2012.
Katherine Higgins: Why did you first pursue a degree in Pacific Islands studies?
Myjolynne Kim: When I was doing my undergraduate studies in philosophy and theology, I started thinking about it. I was exposed to all of these ancient ways of thinking and foreign ways of thinking, like Greek philosophy and Chinese philosophy. It prompted me to think back to where I’m from. What are my ways of thinking? What are the Micronesian ways? What are my Chuukese ways of thinking? What are the Chuukese epistemologies? My fascination with ancient history also led me to questions. What was Chuukese prehistory like? I was looking around for programs, and Pacific Islands studies was one way that could lead to understanding Chuukese history, Micronesian history, and indigenous epistemologies.
KH: What did you want out of it? Were you thinking of doing a degree for a particular career or to just inform yourself?
MK: Both, to inform myself and eventually for a future career. I never really thought of what sort of career I wanted but then I got into the CPIS program and that’s when the career ideas started coming to life. I recognized different possibilities and different approaches, and I could still use my Pacific Islands studies background.
KH: Such as?
MK: Such as going to museums, art, history. And I think there’s a lot of opportunities in the Pacific in terms of creating programs, cultural centers, or Micronesian studies programs, or even a language center…. We used to have traditional schools of Itang— traditional knowledge or persons trained in oral history, languages, arts, music, navigation and all aspects of traditional lifestyles—in Chuuk. Some of the existing traditional schools include traditional navigation, which is still taught in some of the western islands. One of my hopes is to eventually revive it, maybe in a modern sense, and retain ways of how they find students and educate them; to acknowledge and promote it in ways that people are excited to teach it, especially those who can pass it on, even if it’s just within their clan.
KH: What was the most beneficial part of the CPIS degree for you, whether it was a class or experience?
MK: All of it. The awareness of what’s going on in the Pacific and the approach. The artistic approach the center has, a native approach, a creative approach… for me, that was a very unique way to do Pacific Islands studies or even history. I used to take history classes as an undergrad and I never liked them. When you’re given that freedom of creative expression and to take a creative direction, it makes a difference in what you’re doing…. CPIS encouraged us to take that direction, and of course a lot of the people there and the classmates we met made the difference, because they are the ones that really shape your work. I don’t give myself credit for my project. It was a process from myself and my classmates and my professors.
KH: Do you use that experience from CPIS now in your life?
MK: All the time. I’m involved with our Chuuk Youth Council and I incorporate culture most of the time. Sometimes I bet they’re thinking, “Why is this girl talking about culture, culture in all of these things?” We organized the Chuuk Youth Cultural Day, and that was a success getting all the traditional knowledge holders together in one place to talk about cultural values, cultural epistemologies, and Chuukese epistemologies. It was beyond what we expected. So I do apply a lot of the experiences. I also used my experience for a cultural policy project with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and, of course, when I used to teach at College of Micronesia–FSM, I taught Micronesian culture. And I continually work informally in cultural areas.
Postscript: Myjolynne continues to work for the FSM Association of Chambers of Commerce but currently focuses all of her attention on her beautiful newborn son Rohannes Rongatoa Kim. In the next few months, she will begin working with FSM Department of Education through a contract with Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL).