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The Master of Arts Degree in Hawaiian Studies builds on the BA program’s areas of concentration and features an interdisciplinary curriculum that draws from faculty strengths in indigenous knowledge as well as other academic fields. 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.

Program Student Learning Objectives

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 thought 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.


The following 15 credits of prerequisite coursework are required for applicants who are not Hawaiian Studies BA degree recipients from UH Mānoa. 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 the first year. Courses in directed research/reading (e.g. HWST 499/699) are not to be used to make up any prerequisite courses.

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. Students must receive a grade of B- or better in ALL courses counted toward their MA in Hawaiian Studies degree.

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

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.

lau 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 Huakaʻi Hele Heiau Hawaiʻinuiākea: Study Abroad on Polynesian Temples

Mālama ʻĀina: Hawaiian Perspectives on Resource Management

  • HWST 631 Pono Science: Ethical Implications of Science in Hawaiʻi
  • HWST 650 Hawaiian Geography and Resource Management
  • HWST 651 ʻĀina Waiwai: Water, Food Sovereignty, and Ancestral Abundance
  • HWST 652 Kānāwai Lawaiʻa: Hawaiʻi’s Ocean and Fisheries Laws

Moʻolelo ʻŌiwi: Native History and Literature

  • HWST 640 Mo‘olelo ‘Ōiwi: Historical Perspectives

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

HWST 700 (Plan A)

HWST 695 (Plan B)

Plan A Thesis

Plan A candidates take six credits of HWST 700 Thesis Research from their Plan A Committee Chairs 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 their committee
  • Successfully defend thesis in a private thesis defense with thesis committee
  • Public presentation on thesis research
  • Submit final approved thesis to Graduate Division and Hawaiian Studies program

Plan B non-Thesis

Plan B candidates take six credits of HWST 695 Practicum Research Plan B for 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 with project committee
  • Public presentation on project
  • Submit project documentation/artifact to Hawaiian Studies program

Admission Requirements

Admission to the Hawaiian Studies program is only for the fall semester. Students must meet the requirements set by Graduate Division.  In addition to the requirements of Graduate Division, prospective students must also submit the following application materials directly to the Hawaiian Studies department via the Graduate Application Supplemental Documents Upload site.  Letters of recommendation can be mailed or emailed (with signatures) by the deadline.

  • Hawaiian Studies Graduate Application Information Form.
  • Writing sample: a five to ten page research paper done for a class and for which the applicant received a grade and credit as an undergraduate (any course, any topic).  The paper must be a clean copy with no comments from professor.  In lieu of such a document, applicants may write an original essay five to ten pages in length as an overview that conveys the nature of the applicants’ undergraduate major field of study.
  • A two-page statement of intent describing the applicant’s proposed thesis topic and its basic relationship to the field of Hawaiian Studies.
  • Three current letters of recommendation from the applicant’s former professors of which at least one must be from either a Hawaiian Studies faculty member (not to include GTAs, lecturers or academic advisors) or from the Hawaiian Studies graduate chair after an interview (if applicant is unable to obtain a recommendation from a Hawaiian Studies faculty member).

For more information, please contact the graduate chair, Leilani Basham:

Note: Application materials are available on the department website or from the Native Hawaiian Student Services Office in KAMA 211.

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 Hawaiian Studies graduate chair of a Library and Information Science advisor.

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