Student News

Congratulations to the center’s most recent graduates, BA student Alyssa Nakasone and MA students Chai Blair-Stahn, Kenneth Gofigan Kuper, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Christine Manarpaac, and Jesse Yonover. We also had an honorary CPIS BA graduate, Tiffany Korrsen, who earned a dual degree in international relations and anthropology from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, by completing coursework at UH Mānoa.
Alyssa Nakasone at spring commencement. Photo by Stefanie Vivian Jim.

Alyssa Nakasone at spring commencement.
Photo by Stefanie Vivian Jim.

Alyssa Nakasone’s capstone project was “Pohnpei House: Healthcare and Wellness in Hawaiʻi.” Alyssa was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and served as a student marshal for the School of Pacific and Asian Studies at commencement. She returned to Pohnpei after graduation.

Chai Blair-Stahn’s thesis, “Embodying Kahu: Environmental Stewardship as a Central Practice of Hula and as a Way of Life,” traces his journey in hula and makes connections between dance, the natural world, and present-day environmental issues.
Kenneth Gofigan Kuper’s thesis, “Na’la’la’ I Hila’-ta, Na’matatnga I Taotao-ta: Chamorro Language as Liberation from Colonization,” explores the connections between decolonization and language revitalization in Guåhan in relation to the liberatory potential of language and the ways that language revitalization can be a core method and component of effective decolonization. Through an analysis of the history of language oppression, Kenneth demonstrates that language is an avenue for reconnection, empowerment and resistance, and community building. During his time at UH Mānoa, Kenneth started a weekly Chamorro language pocket open to anyone wanting to learn Chamorro, and he was a founding member of the Marianas Club and Oceania Rising.
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s MA portfolio project, “Iep Jeltok: A History of Marshallese Literature,” considers not only oral traditions but also literature that has always existed but has not been examined. Kathy asks: What happens when we open up the definition of literature, writing, and text to include not only written work but also oral traditions, weaving, tattoos, and stickcharts? Kathy’s portfolio combines archival studies, interviews with elders, and a series of new poems.
The term “Iep Jeltok” refers to a Marshallese proverb meaning a basket whose opening is facing the speaker; it is used when a girl is born. While completing this project, Kathy and Makerusa Porotesano welcomed their daughter Matafele Peinam Kathy Makerusa on 11 February. The center extends warm wishes to Kathy and Makerusa. Kathy will soon return to Majuro to teach at the College of the Marshall Islands.
Christine Manarpaac concurrently completed a master’s degree in Pacific Islands studies and bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education at UHM College of Education. Christine’s MA thesis, “Head & Shoulders: Representations of Polynesian Men in the NFL,” deconstructs the history and marketing of football in Oceania and the resulting Polynesian presence in the National Football League. The title plays on Head & Shoulders shampoo, for which Troy Polamalu is a spokesperson, to situate an analysis of the ways that Polynesian players have been “domesticated” through the sport of football. Christine explores representation, masculinity, and culture as well as the toll of football on players’ physical and emotional health. Throughout the thesis, Christine includes “mind maps”—artistic responses to the topic and research process.
Jesse Yonover explored the tremendous influence of reggae on Hawaiʻi’s culture in his MA portfolio project, “Reggae & Hawaiʻi.” Jesse created a website because he felt it was important to have a public resource for the collective knowledge surrounding the impact of reggae, which he feels is often overlooked. The website allows people to read about the subject and listen to the sounds and see the faces and places that are a part of this music. The site also includes Jesse’s MA portfolio paper, which traces the impacts of reggae music on Oceania’s social and cultural landscapes. For more information, see
Graduate assistant Jocelyn “Josie” Howard completed the CPIS certificate program and earned a master’s degree in social work. Josie’s research in social work focused on Micronesian populations. Throughout her graduate research, she has educated and trained social service providers who work with Micronesian communities throughout Hawaiʻi.
CPIS graduates Jocelyn Howard (center) and Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner with John “Niko” Pātū (far right, graduating in August) with Keola Diaz (CPIS MA 2012) and Julie Walsh at spring commencement. Photo by Tamera Heine.

CPIS graduates Jocelyn Howard (center) and Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner with John “Niko” Pātū (far right, graduating in August) with Keola Diaz (CPIS MA 2012) and Julie Walsh at spring commencement. Photo by Tamera Heine.

The Pacific Islands Studies Merit Scholarship recipients for 2014–2015 are Ronia Auelua, Jacob “Jack” Mayer, and Andrea Staley. The merit scholarships are awarded to students pursuing study important to the Pacific region who have demonstrated superior academic performance. Well done Ronia, Jack, and Andy for all of your hard work!
Congratulations to the CPIS BA students recognized on the spring 2014  SPAS Dean’s list: Cathlyn Faagutu, Jacob “Jack” Mayer, Janniese Mulch, Alyssa Nakasone, Teora Rey, Andrea Stanley, Thelma Tomich, and Luseane Raass.
The 2014 Na Nei Tou I Loloma Research Award recipients are Terava Kaʻanapu Casey and Lee Kava. Thanks to a generous donation to the center, graduate students are provided funding toward research travel that contributes to an increased understanding of humanitarian issues and will benefit their host community or the Pacific region as a whole.
Over the summer, Lee will be conducting research in Nuku‘alofa, Tonga, as well as in Tongan diasporic communities in California and Hawai‘i. Lee’s graduate research explores how Tongans use music to define identity and how place is integral to developing creative projects that empower Pacific voices and address community needs. Her focus on music in indigenous Pacific contexts also connects with how creative expression can provide important commentary on knowledge production in academic spaces.
Terava’s research project explores connections between diasporic communities and homelands. Focusing on performance and language, Terava’s project draws from her participation in cultural outreach programs in Hawaiʻi and research on uses of Polynesian languages, social customs in culture, and indigenous studies of diasporic communities. She presented a paper entitled “Reconstructing Tahitian Identity in the Contemporary Pacific” at the Pacific Arts Association symposium in Nouméa, New Caledonia in May 2014.
Terava was also selected as the recipient of the Jack Haven Ward Scholarship for 2014–2015. The scholarship was established by UHM Professor Emeritus Jack Ward to promote the study of Tahitian and other languages of French Polynesia and is awarded to a graduate student pursuing a course of study focusing on or utilizing that language. Terava has been studying Tahitian language with Steve Chailloux; Steve has been working with her to translate her poetry into Tahitian, including “E Hotu Vau,” which she performed at the CPIS “Expressing Oceania” conference in April.
CPIS MA candidate Rarai Aku was awarded the 2014–2015 Ambassador Mary Olmsted Fellowship. Ambassador Mary Olmsted was the first female US Ambassador to a Pacific Islands nation. She established the US Embassy in Papua New Guinea in September 1975 and was ambassador there from January 1976 to July 1979. The fund has been established to provide fellowships to graduate students from Papua New Guinea enrolled in any area of study at UH Mānoa or UH Hilo. Congratulations Rarai!
Mandy Kiʻaha is the recipient of the Heyum Endowment Fund Scholarship for 2014–2015. The fund was established by the late R Renée Heyum, former curator of the Pacific Collection, Hamilton Library, to assist Pacific Islanders pursuing education and/or training in Hawaiʻi. Mandy will begin the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) program in fall 2014. Her goal is to become an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner to focus on chronic disease management and prevention for organizations that focus on providing health enhancement services to Native Hawaiians. As a Native Hawaiian, Mandy is concerned about the future health of Kanaka ʻŌiwi and wants to work to neutralize the ethnic disparities in healthcare by improving access to quality, affordable care and to implement culturally appropriate and effective practices. Best wishes Mandy!
The Amos P and Edna Lee Leib Fellowship for the Study of Pacific Literatures was awarded to Tagi Qolouvaki, a PhD student in UHM Department of English. Tagi’s research addresses the lack of attention to queer Pacific writers and queerness in Pacific literatures, especially threats to and understandings of Pacific expressions of sexuality given the violence of evangelism and colonialism in home countries and diaspora. She is committed to collaboratively imagining an Oceania that is thriving and sovereign, and she aims to produce intentional scholarship and to write and teach in ways that make space for Pacific Islanders and make way for future generations.
Congratulations to Dr LJ Rayphand. LJ (CPIS MA 2011) successfully defended his PhD dissertation, “Tuuttunnapen Chuuk: Retelling Chuukese Stories in the Digital Age,” in May. His doctoral work at UHM College of Education explored educational technology.
Sara Lightner (CPIS MA 2007) and Marco Johnson welcomed Theodore “Teo” Kaluik Lightner Johnson on 20 December 2013. Sara and her family live in St. Lucia, West Indies. Warm wishes to the Johnson family!
In 1999, Ian Masterson (CPIS MA 2010) began a Surf Science, Culture, and Technology lecture series at Windward Community College (WCC). This May, WCC introduced the Hawaiʻi Ocean Education Academy with a blessing and film festival. Ian is the coordinator of the academy, which aims to provide education and training in ocean recreation and safety activities and creates partnerships with community members and ocean industry organizations. For more information, see
The center was saddened to learn of the passing of Mariana Ben Dereas (CPIS MA 2007) in March 2014. Mariana started the Micronesian studies program at the College of Micronesia–FSM. She began her career at the college in 1997 as an instructor in the Social Sciences Division and became the vice president for instructional affairs. We extend our condolences to her family.