Category Archives: Student and Alumni Activities

Baninnur: A Basket of Food

In collaboration with blackmail press in Auckland, the Center for Pacific Islands Studies recently published Baninnur: A Basket of Food, a special issue of the online poetry journal. The collection of creative works was guest edited by recent CPIS MA graduate Kathy Jetnil-Kijner and copyedited by CPIS GA Candi Steiner, this project was instigated and coordinated by CPIS Outreach Director Katherine Higgins. The special issue is available at

Spring/Summer Student Activities

Congratulations to the center’s most recent graduates: Lesley Iaukea, Janniese Mulch, and Luseane Veisinia Moalapauu Raass.
Janniese Mulch’s capstone project focused on contributions made by Compact of Free Association (COFA) citizens to their families, especially teenagers who have jobs or provide unpaid services such as babysitting. Janniese’s service-learning project and research was with the Salvation Army Social Services Department in Honolulu, where she continues to work.

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Janniese Mulch and Alyssa Nakasone at spring commencement. Photo by Anna Oh.

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Spring/Summer Alumni Activities

Many students, alumni, and affiliate faculty members presented at the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association conference, which was held 28–31 May at University of Texas, Austin.
Kenneth Kofigan Kuper (CPIS MA, 2014) chaired “Decolonial Chamorro Studies: Language Revitalization, Sex Education, and the Trans-Oceanic Home” and presented “Na`la`la` I Hila`-ta Na`matatnga I taotao-ta”; also in that session, American Studies doctoral student Jesi Lujan Bennett (CPIS MA, 2013) presented “Taimanu Hu Ayuda I Tano`-Ta Yanggen Taigue Yu`: Chamorro Diaspora and Trans-Oceanic Sovereignty” and comment was provided by Craig Santos Perez (UHM English Department).
Congratulations to recent MA graduate Kenneth Gofigan Kuper and Francine Naputi, who welcomed their daughter Inina on 18 July 2014.
Hōkūlani Aikau (Indigenous Politics, UHM Political Science Department) presented “On being Malihini” in “Kānaka Maoli Methodologies” and chaired the session titled “Success at Settler U.”
Noenoe Silva (Indigenous Politics) presented “Towards Hawaiian-American Indian Diplomacy and Solidarity: An Update on Jodi Byrd’s ‘Satisfied with Stones’ in The Transit Empire” in a session titled “Indigeneity, Racialization, and Colonial Entanglements: Engaging Transit of Empire: Part 2.”

CPIS Welcomes New Students for the Fall Semester

We are excited to welcome Luseane along with Kaimana Bajados, Asalemo Crawford, Rolando Espanto, Joseph Halaʻufia, Gerald Ramsay, Dalaunte Stevenson, and Travis Thompson as graduate students at the center. We also welcome undergraduate students Tavita Eli, Kauanoe Kalili, Serena Michel, Erica Rosales, and Brandi Tarkong.
Diamond Kaimana Badajos is from Waipahū and earned a Master’s of Professional Journalism from the University of Oregon in 2014. She graduated from UH Mānoa’s Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Hawaiian studies. Kaimana is interested in continuing research around the politics of sex—biological sex, gender, and sexual relationships—in Hawaiian culture before European contact and exploring present-day Kānaka ʻŌiwi relationships with their bodies as well as changing practices that have contributed to reformation of Hawaiian thought, perceptions of Hawaiian bodies, and ways bodies are used.

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CPIS Alumni Network

The center would like to help establish an alumni network to help keep in touch, to host events in Honolulu and elsewhere, and to establish an alumni scholarship fund. If you are interested in helping to establish an alumni group and activities, please email Katherine Higgins at

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.

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Alumni Spotlight: Asuka Hirabe Hamakawa (CPIS MA 2011) Recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as an Unsung Hero of Compassion

After graduating from Boston University in 2004, Asuka “Aska” Hirabe Hamakawa was traveling when a series of coincidences brought her to Sāmoa, where she stayed for a few months in the village of Tafitoala. She returned to Sāmoa a year later and was shocked by the immediate and powerful effects of climate change. The experience drove her to change career paths from being a business consultant and, in 2008, she joined the Center for Pacific Islands Studies to pursue graduate research on climate change impacts on Tafitoala.
During her second year at UH Mānoa, the earthquake and tsunami hit Sāmoa. Within a week, Aska raised $16,000 in donations for relief efforts and then flew to Sāmoa to assist with reconstruction of homes and deliver aid. Aska returned to UH Mānoa and completed her thesis in 2011. “Rising Waves of Change: Sociocultural Impacts of Climate Change in the Village of Tafitoala, Sāmoa, in the Face of Globalization” draws examples from Tafitoala to illuminate the invisible, intangible, and immeasurable effects of climate change. Aska presented the “human” side of climate change and described the ways that local perspectives have too often been cast aside for numbers and scientific analysis. The final chapter of her thesis, “Looking into the Past for the Future” proposed ways to incorporate traditional knowledge and methodologies to deal with environmental degradation and adapt to climate changes in Sāmoa.

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Pacific Verse

CPIS graduate assistant and MA student Leora “Lee” Kava initiated “Pacific Verse,” a project focused on developing and encouraging indigenous Pacific languages in songwriting. Lee, a poet and musician, has been looking for ways to promote Pacific language songs; she developed this series of events in the hope that it will lead to a music festival in the future. The project began in March 2014 with a song-writing and music composition workshop at Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies and will continue in future semesters with public performances, recording sessions, and follow-up sessions with the participating musicians.
The workshop was facilitated by Aaron Salā, assistant professor of Hawaiian Music and Ethnomusicology in the Music Department, and Dr Raukura Roa, instructor of Māori Language in the Department of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures, with assistance from language partners Kamahana Keaola and Doris Tulifau, and Jason Mateo and Melvin Won-Pat Borja, CPIS MA students and co-founders of Pacific Tongues, a nonprofit organization that cultivates an active artistic Oceanic community.
As a community component of Pacific Verse, Lee conducted a workshop at Pālolo Community Homes as part of the Pālolo Pipeline program through the Pālolo ʻOhana Learning Center.
All events for Pacific Verse are free, and the only requirement for participants is that they be proficient in at least one instrument (including voice) and be interested in working with indigenous Pacific language(s). Pacific Verse is sponsored by the Center for Pacific Islands Studies and the Office of Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity (SEED).
Lee Kava with workshop participant Britanica Sene and Samoan language partner Doris Tulifau. Photo by Yu Suenaga.

Lee Kava with workshop participant Britanica Sene and Samoan language partner Doris Tulifau. Photo by Yu Suenaga.

Capturing Waves of Change

In November, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner (CPIS MA student) and Leonard Leon (Academy for Creative Media BA student and Marshallese instructor) conducted a weeklong workshop on creative expression. “Capturing Waves of Change” encouraged youth from the Pālolo Homes community to tell their stories through photography and poetry at the Pālolo Ohana Learning Center with funding from the UHM Office of Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity (SEED). Continue reading

Student Interview: Nikita Salas

CPIS BA student Nikita Salas was the teaching assistant for Dr Monica LaBriola (CPIS MA, 2006) during the GEAR UP 2013 summer session of PACS 108. GEAR UP—Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs—is a US Department of Education program aimed at increasing the number of low-income students pursuing and succeeding in higher education. UH Mānoa partners with Farrington and Waipahu high schools to support for incoming freshman by offering introductory courses during the summer sessions.  Continue reading

Student and Alumni Activities

“Tell Them” Poem Inspires Musical Production at USP
“Tell Them,” a poem by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner (CPIS MA student), was the inspiration for a music-dance-drama production at the University of the South Pacific (USP), in Suva, Fiji, in December. Moana: the Rising of the Sea was produced by USP’s Oceania Centre for Arts, Cultures and Pacific Studies and highlighted the issues and challenges associated with climate change. The play opened with a recitation of Kathy’s poem. Themes such as sea level rise, relocation, and culture and identity loss were featured throughout the play.
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By Keola Kim Diaz, CPIS MA 2011 and member of COFA-CAN (Compact of Free Association Community Action Network)
On Saturday, 3 August 2013, members and friends of the outreach program Reach Out Pacific gathered at the UHM Richardson School of Law to help load classroom furniture into a 40 foot container bound for the Marshall Islands. In July, the law school contacted Hawaiʻi State Senator Glen Wakai to notify him that classroom and office furniture were slated to be disposed of. Senator Wakai, founder of ReachOut Pacific, secured the items and coordinated with various community contacts to ship the furniture to the Republic of the Marshall Islands for the community college. More than 30 people arrived early Saturday morning to lend a hand. Volunteers representing the various Pacific Island nations—Palau, Marshall Islands, Yap, and Sāmoa—came eagerly to help. The volunteers loaded the container in about an hour. This will be the third shipment that Reach Out Pacific has sent to the Micronesian region. The container and shipping were donated by Matson Shipping Company.


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).


The center congratulates its most recent graduate, Jesi Lujan Bennett. Jesi’s thesis, “Apmam Tiempo Ti Uli’e Hit (Long Time No See): Chamorro Diaspora and the Transpacific Home,” explores Chamorro migration and settlement within new diasporic spaces like San Diego, California. It shows how Chamorros living away from their home Islands still find ways to stay connected to their cultural roots through their trans-Pacific homes and identities. The movement of Chamorros to the United States changes how Chamorros choose to articulate their indigeneity. Jesi’s thesis highlights the challenges and nuances of living in the trans-Pacific diaspora through the examination of Chamorro organizations, clothing brands, and festivals. Today there are more Chamorros living away from their home Islands than on them. This project shows that Pacific Islanders abroad continue to keep strong links to their home Islands despite their physical location.
This semester, Jesi joins UHM’s Department of American Studies to pursue a PhD focusing on indigenous studies and work as a graduate assistant for the department.
At the beginning of fall semester, the center welcomed six new students into the MA program:
  • Rarai Aku Jr is from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, and attended Hawaiʻi Pacific University, where she earned a BA in political science. Her experiences growing up in Papua New Guinea motivate her research interest in women’s roles in society. Rarai is interested in exploring gender equality in the Pacific Islands and hopes to develop culturally sensitive and respectful ways to address the issues.
  • Terava Casey has a BS in political science from Brigham Young University–Hawaiʻi Campus. As a student at BYUH, Terava performed at the Polynesian Cultural Center. She enjoys performing hula and ʻaparima [dance] because through dance, she connects with her Hawaiian and French Polynesian heritage. She is interested in employing creative methods to examine regional issues.
  • Matthew Locey graduated from Brigham Young University–Hawaiʻi with an associate of science degree. He has long been fascinated with Hollywood’s portrayals of Hawaiʻi and other Polynesian cultures. Drawing from his Hawaiian heritage and experiences working in Hawaiʻi’s film industry, Matthew looks forward to conducting researching comparing Hollywood’s version of the Pacific Islands with perspectives from the Islands.
  • Jason Mateo graduated from San Francisco State University with a BS in ethnic studies. In San Francisco, he was a youth advocate and developed the Brave New Voices International Youth Slam Poetry Festival. He has continued to work with youth and communities in Hawaiʻi and cofounded Pacific Tongues to create access to sustainable youth programs through an active community of writers, spoken-word performers, educators, and students.
  • Yu Suenaga was born in Japan and grew up in Weno, Chuuk. He earned a BA in Japanese studies from UH Mānoa. Together with other graduates of Xavier High School, he cofounded the Fourth Branch, a news and media outlet to inform and involve the people of Micronesia, particularly those living in Hawaiʻi. Yu is pursuing Pacific Islands studies to gain a deeper understanding of his home, Weno, and explore the connections between Japan and Chuuk, particularly during the Japanese colonial era.
  • Melvin Won Pat-Borja is from Guahån and earned a BEd in secondary education from UH Mānoa. He has worked in high schools in Guahån and Hawaiʻi teaching poetry and spoken word, and he cofounded Youth Speaks Hawaiʻi to develop critical thinking, writing, reading, public speaking, and leadership skills through spoken-arts education. Melvin is interested in exploring ways that educational systems in the Pacific region can validate oral histories and adapt to the needs of young people.
The East-West Center recently welcomed four new US–South Pacific Scholarship students. The students studying at UH Mānoa are:
  • Geejay Paraghii Milli, from Papua New Guinea, who will be working on her MA in political science
  • Devereaux Kolosefilo Takagi, from Niue, who will be working on his MA in public administration
Students studying at UH Hilo are:
  • Ada Kettner, from Vanuatu, who will be working on her BA in marine science
  • Pelenatete Katie Leilula, from Sāmoa, who will work on her BA in business management, is the fourth scholar and she will arrive in January.
Congratulations to CPIS BA students Ronia Auelua, Alyessa Nakasone, and Teora Rey, who were awarded 2013-2014 King David Kalakaua Scholarships.
The center congratulates its Pacific Islands studies undergraduate majors Jacob Mayer, Andrea Staley, Ronia Auelua, and Alyssa Nakasone, who have been awarded 2013-2014 Pacific Islands Studies scholarships. This award is for undergraduate majors who demonstrate superior academic performance.
Lesley Iaukea is the 2013 recipient of the Heyum Award. The Heyum Endowment Fund, at the University of Hawaiʻi, 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.
The 2013 Na Nei Tou I Loloma Award recipients are Kahala Johnson, Lesley Iaukea, Kenneth Goffigan, and Jesse Yonover. Thanks to a generous donation to the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, this travel award is presented to students to undertake projects that will contribute to an increased understanding of humanitarian issues and will benefit communities or the Pacific as a whole. The awardees will give a public presentation on their research projects on Friday, 18 October 2013.
Congratulations to CPIS MA students who were awarded East-West Center Graduate Degree Fellowships Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner and Melvin Won Pat-Borja. They join continuing fellow and CPIS student Kenneth Golfigan Kuper.
Congratulations to CPIS MA student Leora Kava who received the East-West Center’s Alumni Award as well as the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council’s Paul S Honda Fellowship.
CPIS faculty and staff also want to congratulate alum and PACS instructor Monica LaBriola (CPIS MA, 2006) on earning her doctorate in history in August 2013. Monica’s dissertation “Likiep Kapin Iep: Land, Power, and History on a Marshallese Atoll” explores the cultural, epistemological, and historical context of the 1877 sale of Likiep Atoll to José Anton deBrum of Portugal and deBrum’s subsequent transfer of ownership to the partners of A Capelle & Co. The investigation applies an eclectic ethnographic approach to reveal some of the historical and cultural dynamics that played a key role in the momentous transaction. The dissertation’s focused methodology and use of diverse cultural and historical resources demonstrates the important contributions ethnography can make to local interpretations of history and ongoing academic discussions of translocal themes such as colonialism and imperialism, Islander agency, accommodation and resistance, Christian conversions, indigenous knowledge and epistemology, land and sovereignty, and the practice and construction of history itself. LaBriola’s approach demonstrates that localized histories and historiographies are key to understanding the vast and expanding region of Oceania and to the ongoing dehegemonization of the discipline of Pacific history and Pacific studies more generally.
Congratulations to Edelene Uriarte (CPIS MA, 2010) and Derrick Albert, who were married on 8 June 2013 at the Diamond Head Seventh-Day [capitalization per Webster’s] Adventist Church.
Best wishes to Rachel Miller (CPIS MA 2010) as she pursues an MA in public affairs with a concentration on nonprofit management at Indiana University Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Rachel was instrumental in developing and teaching Marshallese language and culture courses at UH Mānoa. For the past two years, Rachel was a project assistant with the Pacific Regional Integrated Science and Assessment (Pacific RISA) at the East-West Center and she collaborated with CPIS for programs such as the tok-stori series preceding the “Waves of Change” conference.
CPIS faculty and staff were saddened to hear of the passing of alumna Beverly Chutaro (CPIS MA, 2002) on 4 June 2013. Beverly was born and raised in Portsmouth, Ohio, and in 1968, only a week after graduating from college, she moved to the Marshall Islands with her husband Chuji. She spent time in the Mariana Islands and Hawaiʻi, but her home was in Majuro where she and Chuji raised their children Emi and Ben. Beverly was a faculty member in the Department of Liberal Arts at the College of the Marshall Islands.

Pan Pacific Association at the “Waves of Change” Conference

By Karin Louise Hermes, CPIS MA Student and Pan Pacific Association Secretary 2012–2013
For the opening ceremony reception of the “Waaves of Change” conference on Thursday 4 April 2013, Pan Pacific Association (PPA) coordinated and performed several Pacific songs and dances to welcome conference attendees from all over Oceania. PPA President David Dugucanavanua recruited singers and dancers from PPA, his hula halau (Ka Liko Pua o Kalaniakea), and UHM’s Polynesian InterVarsity ministry chapter (Hui Poly) to perform at this event. After several weeks of intense practice, PPA performed three dances in addition to contributions by Hui Poly and Ka Liko Pua o Kalaniakea. These three group dances emphasized the pan-Pacific spirit of PPA’s members and were taught by the PPA members in the 9th floor lounge of the East-West Center’s Hale Manoa dormitory: a Solomon Islands shark dance was led by Derek Mane, the always-popular Fijian raude was led by David Dugucanavanua, and Sandrine Meltewomu, from Vanuatu, taught a Kanaky dance from New Caledonia, where her mother is from. The dancers’ costumes were a combination of black and red lava-lavas, as well as skirts, assorted body ornaments, and accessories made from ti leaves by the dancers during a sleepless night on April 3. Since PPA activities this semester revolved around learning and practicing these dances, they gave a crowd-pleasing encore performance of the three dances as the final act of the East-West Center Participant Association’s “East-West Fest” the following week, on April 13.

“Waves of Change” and Kaimukī High School

By Jocelyn Howard, School of Social Work and CPIS MA Student
The April 4–6 “Waves of Change” conference brought many different people to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Among them were students from Kaimukī High School, located down the road from UHM campus. These students are part of the STEM and Media Projects of the Imua and the Pālolo Pipeline programs, which focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Their participation in the conference was to help them learn about climate change and how it is affecting the Pacific, their home countries, their lives and the lives of their future children, and media training. My service learning involved planning for how these students could prepare before the conference, mentoring students during the conference, and providing feedback for video editing after the conference.
The students visited UH Mānoa two times prior to the conference, during which they watched films on climate change, listened to presentations by Pacific Islander students—including myself—about how climate change has affected their communities, learned interviewing skills, learned techniques for video recording as well as how to interact among themselves and with the UH students and faculty.
The part of my service-learning project that I enjoyed the most was working with the students during the conference. The students had the opportunity to meet the keynote speaker, Minister Tony de Brum from the Marshall Islands, listen to his message, and conduct an interview with him to further explore the subject of climate change. The students interviewed other conference speakers including HE Ambassador Takesy from the Federated States of Micronesia to the United State of America. The students also participated in giving lei to the conference speakers.  Overall the opportunity to have this service learning has been a crucial part of my learning in the Pacific Islands Studies program. It allowed me to put theory into practice, serve my community, and learn from my community to be a better student, researcher, service provider, as well as community advocate. I would encourage every student in the program to do service learning.

I Finakmatan I Hila’ta (The Awakening of the Tongue)

By Kenneth Gofigan Kuper, CPIS MA Student
“I Finakmatan I Hila’-ta” or “The Awakening of the Tongue” is a service-learning project dedicated to perpetuating the Chamorro language. Kenneth Gofigan Kuper and Brant Songsong teach Chamorro language every Saturday from 10:00–11:15 am at Kakaʻako Kitchen. Hawai‘i has a large Chamorro community and many of these Chamorros were born and raised here. These classes were started to help diasporic Chamorros connect to their roots through the language. This language class helps Chamorros to learn and speak the language of their ancestors and also serves as a social tool for Chamorros to get to know and support one another. Each week participants can meet new people and develop new friendships, thus forming a stronger sense of community. Ranging from 7 to 20 people per week, the language pocket has been successful and fun. Each class starts with a different lesson that ultimately leads to direct dialogue between the members. The lessons they learn can be used in conversation, so the pocket views each week as a building block for becoming conversational in Chamorro. Each week, an e-mail is sent out by the Marianas Club at UH Mānoa providing a vocabulary list and lesson worksheet for that week’s class. This helps people to get familiar with the concepts beforehand and also allows those who are not able to attend to keep up with the lessons. This project has been a Chamorro community collaboration and will only continue to grow as more Chamorros find out that they can learn the language free of charge!
If you would like to learn the Chamorro language also, please feel free to contact Kenneth Gofigan Kuper at and the Marianas Club at These classes are for everyone, whether Chamorro or not, and only require an open mind, pencil, and paper. We hope you will join the effort to keep the Chamorro language alive and spoken!

Foods of the Pacific Islands

By Juliette Budge, Urban and Regional Planning PhD Student
While helping in an afterschool and workforce-training class in Kalihi-Palama, I got to know a group of women who often cook for events in the community. I asked if they would be willing to share their knowledge of some Pacific Island foods with me. The women agreed to cook on-camera and the foods were identified with the help of children from the afterschool program, who chose three of their favorite dishes to focus on.
Fried fish with sweet potato and taro was the first meal filmed. The chefs—Marie Akitekit, Asarina Yerten, and Ignacia Terno from Chuuk—explained the process as they skillfully prepared the meal at Shem Hall in Kalihi-Palama. The end result was not only delicious but also a record of their valuable cultural knowledge.
The next cooking segment focused on tapioca. The chef was Rakei Aunu from Chuuk. Filming began in Chinatown as Rakei navigated the shops with precise knowledge of the place that would have the ingredients she needed. Back in the kitchen, she stirred, kneaded, wrapped, and boiled the roots. While preparing and cooking, she told stories about learning to cook and the meaning of these foods for her family.
The final film was about otai, a Tongan specialty made with watermelon, pineapple, and coconut. With the help of Mina Ikavuka, Fane Lino, and Lilette Subedi, thirty children in an afterschool program set up stations for each fruit. They harmoniously went to work cutting, shredding, and juicing each ingredient. Fane showed the teenagers how to split the coconut without spilling the juice, and Villiami Lino, Fane’s son, taught the younger children how to shave off the white flesh of the coconut without scraping the shell.
The preparation of these foods was enjoyed by all participants. The short films will be screened in the afterschool program and will hopefully contribute to the interesting culinary and cultural knowledge that is here in the Islands.

Grant Writing as Part of Service Learning

By Keali‘i MacKenzie, CPIS MA Student
For my PACS 603 service-learning project, I wrote a SEED grant application. SEED stands for Student Equity, Excellence, and Diversity. The purpose of these grants is to address issues on ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, and culture. These may be projects that take place on campus or in the community.
With my background and connections to the Hawai‘i slam poetry community, I wanted to pursue a project involving poetry. Fortunately, I knew of the nonprofit organization Pacific Tongues. According to their Facebook page, their mission is “to provide a safe and central location in the Hawaiian Islands to facilitate a cross-cultural exchange within Pacific influenced populations through spoken arts education. Our commitment is to honor the practice of kuleana (responsibility or privilege in the Hawaiian language) through creative workshops, public events and pedagogical development.”
I was naturally drawn to Pacific Tongues’ commitment to creative workshops in the public school system. I worked with Jason Mateao and Melvin Won Pat Borja, two of the co-founders, to propose a project that SEED could fund. We decided to apply for funds for a poet to conduct workshops with students in an O‘ahu public high school. These workshops would focus on creative writing as means of expression and an avenue to improve the students’ self-confidence.
Although we were not awarded a SEED grant, this project taught me about the potential for partnerships between the university and arts-focused nonprofit organizations. Institutions such as the University of Hawai‘i and Pacific Tongues have distinct strengths that can be used to foster a vibrant creative arts community, which I believe is essential for students’ success at all education levels. The programs organized by Pacific Tongues are vital to unleashing the creativity of Pacific Islander and Kanaka Maoli students. Lastly, the experience of applying for a grant was very useful. This is a vital skill for students and those who do community-based work.

Tuesday’s Pacific Tongues Writing Workshops

By Kathy Jetnil-Kijner, CPIS MA Student
“The creativity beaver beatboxes prayers.” This gem of a prompt originated out of a freestyle session during one of the Pacific Tongues Tuesday workshops in Kuykendall Room 409. We discussed what is “creative” versus what is “wack/hackneyed.” What does creativity look like? Does it look like a beaver beatboxing sermons? The poetry and the freewrite that originated out of this workshop showed what Pacific Tongues is actively involved in—getting youth and writers around the Pacific to tell our stories and to think outside the check-marked box of what is “Pacific” and what constitutes “art” and “writing.”
Pacific Tongues is a new nonprofit organization that cultivates an active artistic Oceanic community of writers, spoken-word artists, rappers, and educators. One of the initiatives of the organization is to facilitate spaces to encourage creative writing for youth and for community members through school visits, open mics, slam poetry competitions, and free workshops in the community. The Tuesday workshop that birthed the “creativity beaver” was one in the series that Navid Najafi and I were leading and facilitating. With my background as a spoken-word artist and poet and with Navid’s background as a rapper with the group Ill-nomadics, we organized weekly writing workshops that fused poetry and hip-hop. Participants, who ranged in age and background from high school students to PhD students, wrote along to beats, freestyled poetry on myths and ghost stories, and talked back to the shadows that haunt them.
As a part of my service-learning project, I used the weekly sessions with Pacific Tongues to understand how spoken word can be integrated into my MA research project. My research project is focused on bridging the gap between the Marshallese oral traditions and the written word, with an emphasis on encouraging more writing among our youth. One of my theories is that spoken word, as a fresh and oral art form, might offer a solution for filling this gap. The Pacific Tongues workshops gave me the experience I needed to better understand how to encourage writing, and what kinds of structures, prompts, and discussions lead to participants being able to express themselves through writing and also share and connect with one another.
Ultimately, Pacific Tongues is about healing and connection through expression—a worthy endeavor in this day and age when so many of our Pacific communities are silenced or voiceless. I am excited to see this organization grow as we spread into the Pacific through the Marshall Islands, Guåhan, Saipan, and other places. I’m sure the creativity beaver is excited as well.


By Kahala Johnson, CPIS MA Student
Makawalu was established in 2010 in response to the lack of active Native Hawaiian organizations at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa. Since then, the group has been involved in Hawaiian advocacy initiatives on and off campus, including opposition to GMO kalo, the Honolulu Rail Transit, and the exhuming of iwi kupuna (ancestral bones) at Kawaiha‘o church; an Independent Hawaiʻi petition drive; and celebrations of Hawaiian holidays such as Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea (Hawaiian Kingdom/Sovereignty Day) and Lā Kūʻokoʻa (Independence Day).
The mission of Makawalu is to promote the vision of Hawaiʻiʻimiloa: a far-seeking Hawaiʻi in which pono imbues all aspects of life and ancestral knowledge is sought in realizing our futures; a Hawaiʻi whose people are the healthiest and happiest on earth; a place where sustainability is not a trend but a way of life; a Hawaiʻi that serves as an example for the rest of the world to live by. The way we achieve Hawaiʻiʻimiloa is through education, community support, advocacy, and numerous other far-seeking endeavors that serve the perpetuity of life.
In 2013, the group became an RIO (recognized independent organization on campus). Prior to achieving this status, its members volunteered their time and effort to the organization and execution of its events. Therefore, we decided to apply for a SEED (Student Excellence, Equity, and Diversity) grant to support the creation of an online media series describing various political and cultural issues in the Hawaiian community such as food sovereignty and the Kanaʻiolowalu Hawaiian roll commission. This was my first attempt at writing for financial support; I took this opportunity to learn the process, which I will use to help other Hawaiian groups in the future. Although the need to abide by deadlines and fulfill all parts of the application was important, the ability to articulate the objectives of the group was my foremost concern. The experience continues to inspire me to refine my skills and hopefully reapply for funding for subsequent projects next year.

Sound Project

By Jesse Yonover, CPIS MA Student
Music has always been an important part of my life and especially over the past few years. Last spring, some friends and I decided that a good way to give back to the youth in our community was through music, acknowledging the positive role it played in our own upbringing. Our desire to give back evolved into the formation of Sound Project in 2012.
Sound Project is a nonprofit organization that strives to involve local youth in Hawaiʻi’s thriving music industry. The project seeks to:
1) Involve students in the process of creating music on a professional level with guidance from established artists, producers, and experts.
2) Educate students on aspects of the music industry such as production and business through hands-on experiences.
3) Encourage creativity and innovation through educational outreach, competitions, and hands-on learning.
4) Elevate aspirations of students to share their music and make careers in the music industry, and promote socially and culturally constructive uses of music.
5) Connect reputable Island artists, producers, and studios with up-and-coming musical talent to nurture and mentor young musicians, helping pass along musical ingenuity to future generations.
Our vision is simple—to inspire Hawaiʻi’s youth to play and create original music, playing a pro-active role in their musical endeavors to instill exceptional musicianship in the next generation.
During the spring 2013 semester, I was able to develop the founding concepts as part of my service-learning project. Despite complications related to registering the program as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization in the State of Hawaiʻi, we were able to launch the program on the Internet in collaboration with the reggae blog ( I co-founded in 2010. The site gets close to 10,000 hits per month from over 30 countries and there is a dedicated page on the blog to inform followers about Sound Project. The next goals are to release previously recorded music for Sound Project with proceeds helping us get the operation off the ground and hold the first competition for high school students in the fall of 2013. For more information, see


From time to time, the newsletter profiles former student to see where their interests in Pacific Islands studies have led them. In September,
the editor talked to artist, curator, and contributing writer to Pacific Magazine Margo Vitarelli (CPIS MA, 1985).
LH: How did you first become interested in enrolling in the Pacific Islands Studies MA program at UH Ma¯noa?
MV: I was living and working in Palau at the Palau Department of Education as a curriculum writer and illustrator in the late 1970s when I first heard of the Center
for Pacific Islands Studies. Continue reading


by Kat Lobendahn, VP/PR for PISO, KCC
“I have laid a stick that connects people together. Now it was up to you, your generation and the generations to come, to build upon that stick a bridge that will ensure the free sharing of information and teaching between the two peoples until the day we become united again as a single people, as we were once before; before men separated us with their imaginary political boundaries of today’s Polynesian and Micronesia.” Grand Master Navigator Dr Pius Mau Piailug Continue reading