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Pacific Islands Studies undergraduates complete community-based capstone research projects

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CPIS brings together people and resources to promote an understanding of the Pacific Islands and issues of concern to Pacific Islanders.

For the first time since UH Mānoa’s Center for Pacific Islands Studies’ BA program began in 2011, the senior capstone ran as a course (PACS 401) rather than as a one-on-one project with faculty. PACS401 requires BA candidates to complete community-based research projects and give presentations on their processes and outcomes. Lola Quan Bautista and Julie Walsh designed the course to build on service-learning experiences gained through 200- and 300-level courses.

At the beginning of the semester, representatives from local Pacific Islander and Hawaiian organizations came to the PACS 401 class to discuss potential projects. Hamilton Library’s D Kealiʻi MacKenzie (CPIS MA candidate) played an important role, as he described:

This semester I had the privilege of volunteering my time as the embedded librarian for PACS 401, in which students have a capstone project combining research with service learning. The class consists of ten students from various backgrounds and connections to the Pacific region. I worked with Professor Bautista to come up with ways I could support the class. First, along with Julie Walsh and Malia Nobrega-Olivera, I was on a panel that provided feedback and commentary on student projects. Second, I conducted a library instruction session on search strategies and standard Pacific studies resources. Third, I created a library guide for PACS 401, based on my instruction session with students and a survey they took. Finally, they were each required to meet with me twice for hour-long sessions to develop research strategies as they encountered difficulties in their research process, such as finding relevant sources for their papers. This has been a highly rewarding experience and it was a real pleasure to get to know the PACS 401 students, their academic interests, and their service-learning interests.”

PACS 401 students with Lola Quan Bautista

PACS 401 students with Lola Quan Bautista. Photo by Katherine Higgins.

Kealiʻi as well as the center’s managing editor, Jan Rensel, and Graduate Assistant Candi Steiner conducted writing workshops and provided editorial guidance to prepare students for public presentations at the HELP Symposium at UH Hilo on 2 May 2014.

The biannual HELP Symposium is designed to raise awareness of the needs of the Pacific Island communities in Hawaiʻi and the efforts of Pacific Islander college students to engage in community-based projects that both broaden their education and help their community. The Highly Engaged Learning Placement (HELP) program is part of the high-impact student-employment initiative at the Pacific Islander Student Center (PISC) at UH Hilo. PISC invited CPIS BA students to present their community-based projects. Lola and Coco Needham coordinated the trip and accompanied the students to Hilo for the symposium.

The symposium also featured a special lunchtime keynote presentation “Pacific Islander Students Navigating Success at UH Hilo” by Denise Uehara. An assistant professor in the UHM College of Education, Uehara discussed preliminary findings from research on Pacific Islander students at UH Hilo.

Nikita Salas was the first presenter of the day. She shared her project, “Understanding Vaccination among Women in Micronesia,” which explores the types of resources and knowledge Micronesian women have about the Human Papillomavirus Vaccination (HPV). Nikita has worked with focus groups of women ages 18–26 to help develop better educational strategies to improve vaccination rates among Micronesian women. Next, Luseane Veisinia Moalapauʻu Raass and Ronia Auelua shared their experiences as participants with Ka Holo Waʻa (the Kualoa Canoe Festival) for their service-learning project “Reconnecting Oceanic Through the Resurgence of the Waʻa.” Luseane and Ronia learned the parts and structure of the Hōkūleʻa, helped maintain it and prepare it for voyage, and learned navigation skills. Through the project, they mentored and tutored Pacific Islander youth living in Pālolo Valley to strengthen relations between Pacific communities.

Janniese Mulch shared her experiences working with the Salvation Army Social Services Department in “Teens in the Household: Contributions by Compact Impact Youth in Hawaiʻi.” Janniese focuses on the contributions made by Compact of Free Association (COFA) citizens to their families, particularly by young adults and teenagers, through after-school and summer jobs as well as unpaid services provided to their families including babysitting, care-taking, and translating. Vaeliseiletalalelei Letava Ofagalilo’s presentation, “The Art of Language in the Samoan Diaspora in Hawaiʻi,” highlighted the impact of language learning in the Samoan diaspora in Hawaiʻi, particularly at the Le Fetuao Samoan Language Center in ʻAiea, Oʻahu. Vaeliseiletalalelei discussed the role of traditional Samoan art in Le Fetuao’s classes in which students learn the processes of making siapo (bark cloth). Cathy Faagutu shared how she found a way to combine service learning with her passions for couponing and rugby in “Coupon-ing with a Purpose: The Lady Raiders Rugby Team of Kalihi, Oʻahu.” Cathy has been working with the Lady Raiders Rugby Club, who are mostly women from the islands of Polynesia, to teach them to use coupons strategically to save money that can be used toward other important household expenses like monthly bills. She continues to work with the Lady Raiders to establish a “give-back” program through which participants can opt to give the money saved to nonprofit organizations such as food banks, shelters, and other community programs.

Pohnpei House: Healthcare and Wellness in Hawaiʻi” was Alyssa Nakasone’s project with Pohnpei House, which hosts patients referred from Pohnpei State to the Tripler Hospital in Hawaiʻi. Alyssa worked alongside the house coordinator to help facilitate patient stays and develop goods and services including brochures that explain transportation options, typical expenses, and resources available in Hawaiʻi. Joshua Manupuna discussed his work with the Tongan Choir at the St. Augustine by-the-Sea Church in Waikīkī tutoring youth by teaching English and encouraging them to learn more Tongan language. “Singing It Up with the La Taki: Tongan Youth Ministry” also highlighted Joshua’s work with the Tongan Youth Ministry to record the history of how the Tongan diaspora became involved with this Catholic community. Oless Mauigoa gave the final presentation of the symposium, “‘Traditional’ Performing Arts from the Cook Islands to Sāmoa.” As a choreographer and costume designer for Pacific Islander performing groups, Oless described preparations for “Culture Night” with the Cook Islands Club at Brigham Young University–Hawaiʻi and “We are Sāmoa” by the Kahuku Pasifika Club at Kahuku High School.

The UH Mānoa Center for Pacific Islands Studies (CPIS) sponsored the closing reception. The HELP Symposium was sponsored by UH Hilo’s Pacific Islander Student Center and Pacific Islands Studies Certificate and supported by CPIS; UH Mānoa’s Office for Student Equity, Excellence, and Diversity (SEED); and Friends of Operation Manong. The symposium was a wonderful opportunity for CPIS students to connect with their peers in Hilo, discuss research and receive feedback on their work, and strengthen Pacific Islander communities and networks in Hawaiʻi.

This article by Katherine Higgins, Center for Pacific Islands Studies, originally appeared in the January-May 2014 issue of “Pacific News from Mānoa,” the newsletter of the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai’i.

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