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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.

MA Application for Fall 2018

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
HWST 675 Huaka‘i Hele Heiau Hawai‘inuiākea: Study Abroad on Polynesian Temples

Mālama ‘Āina: Hawaiian Perspectives on Resource Management
HWST 650 Hawaiian Geography and Resource Management
HWST 651 ‘Āina Waiwai: Water, Food Sovereignty, and Ancestral Abundance
HWST 631 Pono Science: Ethical Implications of Science in Hawai‘i

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.

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