Category Archives: Alumni Interviews

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


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).

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