Graduate Degrees



Master of Arts Program

The Master of Arts degree in Hawaiian Studies builds on the BA program’s areas of concentration. It addresses crucial issues such as the sustainability and resource management of the environment that is consistent with the geography and history of Hawai‘i, indigenous pedagogy and epistemology, and a political and governmental infrastructure for a Hawaiian nation. The MA also provides professionals in government, law, criminal justice, education, social work, and various health fields, the specialized knowledge in Hawaiian history and culture needed to adequately serve an array of communities.

Our BA and MA programs consist of five areas of concentration:

  • Hālau o Laka: Native Hawaiian Creative Expression
  • Kūkulu Aupuni: Envisioning the Nation
  • Kumu Kahiki: Comparative Polynesian and Indigenous Studies
  • Mālama ‘Āina: Hawaiian Perspectives on Resource Management
  • Mo‘olelo ‘Ōiwi: Native History and Literature

This 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.


 Offer an interdisciplinary curriculum addressing colonization, self‐determination and governance for Hawai‘i and all Pacific island nations as seen from a Native perspective. Examine sustainability, economic development, and land and resource management in Hawai‘i. Explore visual culture, both contemporary and traditional. Analyze Indigenous education, methodologies, and epistemologies.

  • Increase Hawaiian participation in scholarship, publications, and the activities of the academy and broader community. Facilitate connections with national, international, and Indigenous scholars worldwide.
  • Promote a model of education advocating all aspects of Hawaiian traditional and customary practices, language, and perspectives in order to provide a Hawaiian sense of place for students, faculty, and all members of the broader community.
  • Promote experiences for leadership development to enlarge the numbers of future leaders in the field of Hawaiian Students to assume positions within the public and private sector, government, higher education, and increase contributions in the broader community.


Upon completion of the Hawaiian Studies master’s program students should be able to:

  • 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 critical thoughts and synthesis through the development of a research proposal and the completion of their thesis or practicum project (Plan A or Plan B).
  • With high scholarly ability, contribute to Hawaiian research and knowledge through publications, presentations, and/or community service.

Degree Requirements


The following 15 credits of prerequisite coursework are required for applicants who are not Hawaiian Studies BA degree recipients from UH-Manoa. These courses represent the educational foundations of our field and are required prerequisite courses to enroll in upper division undergraduate and graduate level courses. Although, students taking these prerequisites may enroll concurrently in graduate level Hawaiian studies courses, enrollment is only allowed by the consent of the instructor.

  • HWST 107 Hawai’i: Center of the Pacific
  • HWST 270 Hawaiian Mythology
  • HWST 341 Hawaiian Genealogies
  • HWST 342 Chiefs of Post-Contact Hawai’i
  • HWST 343 Myths of Hawaiian History or HWST 390 Issues in Modern Hawai’i or HWST 490 Senior Seminar in Hawaiian Studies

Applicants to the MA program must have satisfactorily completed HAW 302 or the equivalent at the time of entry. Any remaining prerequisite coursework that was not completed prior to admission must be completed within in the first year. Courses in directed research/reading (e.g. HWST 499/699) are not to be used to make up any prerequisite courses.

MA Degree Requirements

Students must complete a total of 33 credits (not to include prerequisites) of which 18 credits must be at the 600 level or higher and have completed or tested out of HAW 402. Students are required to complete, within the program, four HWST core courses (12 credits), two HWST area of concentration courses (6 credits), and a HWST thesis research or practicum research course (6 credits). The remaining (9 credits) may be made up of elective coursework.

Major Required Courses

There are four core classes that all MA students are required to take. They form the foundation of the MA program.

HWST 601 Indigenous Research Methodologies

HWST 602 Hawaiian Archival Research

HWST 603 Review of Hawaiian Literature

HWST 604 Thesis Research Methods

Areas of Concentration (AOC)

MA candidates will choose two of the five areas of concentration to focus their research. Candidates will be required to integrate the two areas of concentration into a Master’s Plan A or a Master’s Plan B.

Hālau o Laka: Native Hawaiian Visual Culture

HWST 620 ‘Ike Pono-Visual/Cultural Knowledge

HWST 621 ‘Ike Maka-Visual/Cultural Knowledge

Kūkulu Aupuni: Envisioning the Nation

HWST 690 Kūkulu Aupuni: Envisioning the Nation

HWST 691 Kūkulu Aupuni: Sovereign Hawaiian State, Domestic Kingdom Law, Governance and   Politics

Kumu Kahiki: Comparative Polynesian and Indigenous Studies

HWST 670 Kumu Kahiki: Comparative Hawaiian and Tahitian Cosmogonies

HWST 671 Kumu Kahiki: Life Narratives in Mixed Media & Literature

Mālama ‘Āina: Hawaiian Perspectives on Resource Management

HWST 650 Hawaiian Geography and Resource Management

Mo‘olelo ‘Ōiwi: Native History and Literature

HWST 640 Mo‘olelo ‘Ōiwi: Historical Perspectives

Elective courses*

Master’s Plan A Thesis or Plan B non-Thesis

HWST 700 (Plan A)

HWST 695 (Plan B)

*Electives may include HAW 401 & 402.

Plan A Thesis

Plan A candidates take 6 credits of HWST 700 Thesis Research from their Plan A Committee Chair as they write their master’s thesis and complete the following requirements for graduation

  • Submit a completed master’s thesis (a substantial piece of original research that is a scholarly contribution to the field of Hawaiian studies) to committee
  • Successfully defend thesis in a private thesis defense with thesis committee
  • Public presentation on thesis research
  • Submit final approved thesis paper to graduate division and Hawaiian Studies program

Plan B non-Thesis

Plan B candidates take 6 credits of HWST 695 Practicum Research Plan B from their Plan B Committee Chair as they work on their original project-driven research with accompanying documentation/artifact and complete the following requirements for graduation:

  • Submit research documentation/artifact to committee
  • Successfully defend project in a private defense to committee
  • Public presentation on project
  • Submit project documentation/artifact to Hawaiian Studies program

Dual Master’s Degree Program

Students may pursue a Master’s in Hawaiian Studies and a second master’s concurrently in Library and Information Science. Students enrolled in either program may apply for admission in the other degree program. The dual master’s option allows sharing of many elective courses. For more information, contact the HWST graduate chair or a LIS advisor.




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.