Graduate Degrees


Master of Arts Program

“I think more than anything, it’s the people here, and I guess, you know, the focus . . .The area of study revolves around a culture. And, so, with that, it’s not just a matter of academic study; it’s a matter of values, and lifestyle, and principles and things, and, you know that you’re learning about and that you’re trying to perpetuate. And so I think that is what really adds to, if not creates, the atmosphere . . . I would have to say, you know, that’s what I enjoy about it.”

—Hawaiian Studies Master’s Program Alumnus


In April 2005, the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents approved the Master of Arts program in Hawaiian Studies, which marked the end of a twenty-five year struggle to establish a Hawaiian Studies graduate program following the bachelor’s degree and the fulfillment of a recommendation of the 1986 Ka‘u: University of Hawai‘i Hawaiian Studies Task Force Report. It was a time of evolution for Hawaiian Studies faculty and students, a time to build on the B.A. program areas of concentration and create opportunities for graduate level challenges in critical thinking, research, writing, and other scholarly skills.

Our M.A. program is rooted on honoring our Kamakakūokalani vision and mission statements by fostering a post-secondary degree that honors and ensures the continuation of Hawaiian and indigenous knowledge, acknowledging the value of such knowledge and its usefulness in contemporary society, and legitimating the exploration of Native ways of knowing, classifying, and understanding.

Our approach is simple, we do the following:

  • Offer an interdisciplinary curriculum that addresses sustainability, economic development, land and resource management in Hawai‘i; issues in visual culture, both contemporary and traditional; issues of Indigenous education, methodologies, and epistemologies; and issues regarding colonization, self-determination and governance for Hawai‘i and all Pacific nations.
  • Increase Hawaiian performance, scholarship, and publications in the field, and enhance connections between Hawaiian academics and other scholars, specifically indigenous scholars worldwide.
  • Promote a model of education of all things Hawaiian, language and culture, in order to provide a Hawaiian sense of place for students, professionals, educators, and community members to develop leadership and increase contributions to community and nation.

In our sixth year as a program, we have experienced much growth expanding our academic program goals and objectives, in how we deliver and assess our program, in faculty and faculty areas of expertise, and in our students, their learning experiences, research, and the impact they have within and without our program. We are a stable and healthy graduate program with a firm foundation to carry us forward as we continue to emerge as a leader in graduate Hawaiian Studies education.

Our M.A. requires 33 credits of coursework, made up of core foundation courses, area of concentration courses, and fourth-year proficiency in Hawaiian language. Our M.A. students choose two of the five areas of concentration to focus their research. After the completion of their major coursework, students are required to combine and integrate their studies into either a Master’s Plan A (thesis) or a Master’s Plan B (practicum project).

Our scope of course content fall into foundational and area of concentration content.

  • Core foundational courses focus on indigenous methodologies, archival research, literature, and research methods.
  • Area of concentration courses are sectioned into five interdisciplinary areas.
    Hālau o Laka: Native Hawaiian Creative Expression courses focus on visual cultural interpretations and visual cultural knowledge.
    Kūkulu Aupuni: Envisioning the Nation courses focus on community activism, Native Hawaiian empowerment, domestic law, governance, and politics of the Hawaiian kingdom.
    Kumu Kahiki: Comparative Polynesian and Indigenous Studies courses focus on cosmogonies and relevant literay traditions, histories of interaction, and literary politics across the Pacific.
    Mālama ‘Āina: Hawaiian Perspectives on Resource Management courses focus on Hawaiian geography and research management methods.
    Mo‘olelo ‘Ōiwi: Native History and Literature courses research interpretations of the past from Native Hawaiian and foreign world views as they relate to culturally-based knowledge systems (see Appendix 2: HWST GRAD Course Listing).

This coursework prepares a Hawaiian Studies Master’s graduate to be able to do the following:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of Indigenous research methodologies and develop a native Hawaiian epistemology from sources in comparative indigenous thought.
  • Demonstrate understanding of Hawaiian archival research and familiarity with the rich historical primary sources existent in various archives.
  • Demonstrate critical analysis of Hawaiian literature and an understanding of the significance of secondary sources in Hawaiian topics.
  • Demonstrate synthesis of writing a Hawaiian thesis and ability to fashion research proposal.
  • Contribute to the new body of Hawaiian research and knowledge with high scholarly ability by thesis/project (Plan A or Plan B).

Our current M.A. program features an interdisciplinary curriculum that draws from faculty strengths in indigenous knowledge as well as other academic fields. Some examples of faculty expertise in Native customary practices include oli, music, fiber arts, voyaging, and navigation. Our faculty members’ expertise also covers a wide spectrum of other academic fields that include planning, poetry, educational technology, political science, history, geography, Hawaiian visual culture, education, and natural sciences.

Our program is organized so that students can complete their program in 2 years attending full-time or 3 years attending part-time. However, after the first two rounds of student admissions, the graduate faculty determined that many of the students admitted to the program during the initial intake, because they did not have a working knowledge/depth of Hawaiian Knowledge and/or fluency in Hawaiian Language (in particular, those who did not have a B.A. in Hawaiian Studies or Hawaiian Language), were having difficulty matriculating through the course work. The deficiencies were identified as a lack of foundational Hawaiian Studies courses and third level Hawaiian language proficiency. As a result, these students were taking longer to complete their degrees. Faculty revised the program to include these foundational courses and language requirements as program prerequisites for admission beginning in AY 2011 – 12. This revision to our admission prerequisites has addressed this deficiency and the faculty now find newly admitted students well prepared for the M.A. coursework.



Support For Graduate Students

The graduate chair guides students through course scheduling, consults about administrative forms and deadlines, discusses research options, and advises on how to form thesis committees.  The graduate chair is integral to a student’s success and feeling of efficacy as she/he is always available to talk through challenges student may be experiencing in the program. Each student is also asked with in the first year to approach a faculty member to chair their thesis committee, once this faculty member is selected, she/he (often in partnership with the graduate chair) plays an instrumental role in the student’s academic and scholarly mentoring.

Another priority in our program is to offer professional development opportunities that parallel our coursework to help shape our students’ learning experiences. These professional development opportunities include invitations to present at local, national, and international conferences, to travel to indigenous cultural exchanges, to host symposiums and visiting indigenous student groups, to join professional associations and organizations, to perform and conduct protocol for university ceremonies, and to submit work for publication.

Some examples of varied student professional development opportunities include the following:

  • Panel presentations for 4 of our graduate students regarding their research on land and language issues at the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association Conference in Uncasville, Connecticut, June 2012.
  • A delegation of graduate students and faculty testifying on human rights for Indigenous Peoples of the world represented Hawaiian Studies at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues in New Youk City, May 2012.
  • As a graduate course assignment to submit their work for publication, 4 graduate students’ work was published in Pacific Island Studies Occasional Paper Series: a collection of graduate student essays, poetry, and art entitled The Space Between: Negotiating Culture, Place, and Identity in the Pacific, in 2010.

In direct services offered to each student, we have implemented a mandatory orientation each Fall semester to the new intake students. At this session, we introduce our M.A. program student handbook and we review the requirements, services, and policies with students. Annually, partnering with the Graduate Programs Assistant and Native Hawaiian Student Services, we plan workshops that are relevant to the needs of our graduate students (e.g., financial aid, human subject research, and thesis writing).




Master of Arts Program

Beginning in 2005, the first M.A. degree in Hawaiian Language in the world was approved by the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents to be established at the Mānoa campus, fulfilling a 26-year-old call for the establishment of graduate programs in Hawaiian Language and Studies in the 1986 Ka‘ū Report (The University of Hawai‘i’s system wide Hawaiian Studies Task Force Report) that echoed the same desire of students, faculty, and community members across Hawai‘i. At the time of its establishment, there was a great need for such a program at the University of Hawaiʻi’s flagship research one campus. First, after decades of colonization, Native Hawaiians were demanding our right to establish a system of education that reflects, respects, and embraces our cultural values, philosophies, and ideologies the same values, philosophies, and ideologies that shaped, nurtured, and sustained our people for thousands of years. Second, the Hawaiian language is an endangered language. Furthermore, Hawaiian is one of the two official languages of the State of Hawai‘i. The survival of the language is a vital component of the welfare of the Hawaiian people. Third, advanced research is needed in order for the Hawaiian language to expand into new domains that have emerged since the language was suppressed in 1896. The M.A. fosters the production of this research and thus the new knowledge needed to ensure the life of the language. Finally, the community needs the expertise of trained individuals and the materials that they will produce.


Program Objectives

  • Provide the necessary faculty expertise and methodology with the appropriate venue for conducting research in Hawaiian.
  • Create scholarship in Hawaiian in new domains, including advanced study of literature.
  • Provide the framework and preparation for using the language resources located on O‘ahu.
  • Strengthen and expand the understanding and use of various styles of Hawaiian.
  • Develop curriculum and resources and teacher training for the Kula Kaiapuni (Hawaiian medium schools).
  • Provide support to graduate students in related fields, especially, but not limited to, graduate students in Hawaiian Studies.
  • Create new literature in Hawaiian.
  • Integrate and utilize new technology in the curricula of the program.


Requirements (Effective Fall 2012)

Students interested in applying to the MA in Hawaiian do so once a year in the Spring semester.  Applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree as well as 18 upper-division credit hours in Hawaiian including HAW 402 and HAW 452 or equivalents. Additionally, all applicants are required to take the Hōʻike Pae Komo (HPK), the department’s admission exam that includes an interview by a graduate faculty member in Hawaiian. The HPK is intended to assess an applicant’s proficiency in Hawaiian.


Kawaihuelani Graduate Program Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the Hawaiian language master’s program students should be able to exhibit the following:

  • Reading: Demonstrate comprehension of traditional literary texts.
  • Listening: Demonstrate comprehension of native speaker dialog.
  • Speaking: Offer a quality public presentation in Hawaiian (i.e., proper use of the Hawaiian language and demonstration of Hawaiian concepts).
  • Writing: Demonstrate competence in formal writing skills that have practical/contemporary application.
  • Culture: Demonstrate the ability to apply cultural norms in a range of communicative events.
  • Research: Construct a culturally sensitive research project that utilizes/analyzes relevant existing resources and contributes to the overall Hawaiian knowledge base.


Graduate Learning Opportunities

Kawaihuelani offers curricular and co-curricular learning experiences that provide opportunities for our students to be introduced to the concepts and practice the skills needed to eventual master the SLOs above.

Taking advantage of the diverse expertise of our graduate faculty, Kawaihuelani offers most courses in the following three areas:

  • Mo‘olelo: The Mo‘olelo curricula focuses on Hawaiian history and literature through the analysis, critique, creation and presentation of Hawaiian language resources.
  • Kumu Kula Kaiapuni: The Kumu Kaiapuni curricula focuses on the educational, linguistic, and cultural tools that teachers need to perform better in Hawaiian medium schools. Students producing curriculum and developing their own teaching skills will also be able to work closely with the Mary Kawena Pukui Hale.
  • Kālai‘ōlelo: The Kālai‘ōlelo curricula focuses on the linguistic analysis of Hawaiian.

In addition to our coursework, Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language provides a host of professional and scholarly development opportunities for our M.A. students. Paid graduate assistantships are a way in which students are able to gain valuable research and/or teaching experience under the supervision of seasoned Hawaiian language faculty. The experience students obtain from their graduate assistantships make them attractive to potential employers after graduation.

Kawaihuelani also provides scholarly development opportunities to students by sending them to local, national, and international conferences. In addition to presenting their own research, students attend presentations and network with prominent academics in the field. In this way, our graduate students begin to build their academic networks and develop their research interests even before they graduate.

In recognition that the greatest stumbling block for students is completing their thesis or final project, Kawaihuelani provides writing retreats for M.A. students to focus their efforts on their final project. During the writers’ retreats, students discuss their work with fellow M.A. students as well as faculty members. During the retreat, faculty members mentor the students through the writing process. Room and board is provided free of charge by Kawaihuelani.

M.A. students have been afforded the opportunity to learn more about the Hawaiian language and culture via place-based experiential learning by attending Hawaiian immersion camps on the islands of Kauai and Maui. Kaulakahi Aloha is a professional development Hawaiian immersion camp on the island of Kaua‘i whose target group is Kawaihuelani faculty. In 2011, an invitation was extended to M.A. students to participate in Kaulakahi Aloha for the first time. Participants were immersed in the Hawaiian language alongside a dozen or so native speakers of Hawaiian in the last remaining Hawaiian speaking community in the world. Participants fished, prepared a imu, rode horses, attended church, and encircled the island of Ni‘ihau by boat while speaking solely in Hawaiian with fellow students, Hawaiian language faculty, and native speakers of Hawaiian. Mauiakama is a week-long Hawaiian immersion camp whose primary target is university students. During the camp, students engage in varied kalo farming practices, visit Hawaiian historical sites, and perform traditional land management practices. Like Kaulakahi Aloha, students speak solely in Hawaiian with other students, faculty, and native speakers. These Hawaiian immersion camps have increased the language proficiency of our students and have enhanced their educational experience at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. See the “Native Hawaiian Student Services Kauhale” section, the “Inquiry Excellence” section, and “Transformative Teaching and Learning” section for more detail.