CPIS alumni number in the hundreds, and today they are spread out across the globe contributing to their communities and working in a diverse range of professions. The center is proud of the success of its growing alumni base, and we are happy to bring you these stories in our Alumni Spotlight.
CPIS MA, 1994
Katerina “Kati” Teaiwa has been an important part of the long genealogy of people who have made CPIS and Pacific Islands Studies as a field of study into what it is today. She earned an MA at CPIS in 1994 and went on to complete a PhD at the Australian National University. After completing her PhD in Australia, Kati returned to CPIS as an Assistant Professor, where she made several major contributions. She was a driving force and co-convener of the “Culture Moves” conference in 2005 – a collaboration between CPIS, Pacific Studies at the Victoria University of Wellington, and Te Papa Tongarewa Museum. This was the first ever international conference on dance in Oceania that brought together choreographers, scholars, and performers of traditional, contemporary, and hip hop music and dance – and it was the first time CPIS ever held its annual conference overseas. Kati’s commitment to indigenous dance, music, and culture also resulted in the publication of “Indigenous Encounters: Reflections on Relations Between People in the Pacific.” As editor of this occasional paper, Kati mentored 18 students whose work was brought together into the first publication by CPIS’s publishing program composed entirely of student work. During Kati’s time as CPIS faculty, she also made notable contributions to rethinking the Pacific Islands Studies curriculum on the Mānoa campus, pushing for more rigorous interdisciplinary approaches and drawing students more actively into conversations about growing the curriculum. These efforts laid much of the groundwork for the PACS108: Introduction to Pacific Islands Studies course offered by CPIS today. Since her time at CPIS, Kati has accomplished a distinguished record of scholarly, creative, and community work, embracing transdisciplinary approaches to histories of phosphate mining in the central Pacific, the displacement of Banabans to Fiji, and more broadly on globalization, cultural policy and dance. She is author of Consuming Ocean Island: stories of people and phosphate from Banaba. She has fulfilled multiple terms as an executive officer of the Australian Association for Pacific Studies since 2012, having served as a former President and currently serving as Vice President of the association. Kati was selected by the students of CPIS as the Keynote Speaker and Featured Guest of the 6th annual student conference (3-4 May 2018).
CPIS MA, 2014
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner recently released a poem and short film titled “Anointed.” Produced by the Nuclear Legacy Project of Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL), the film Anointed explores the forgotten stories of Enewetak Atoll and Bikini Atoll (where the United States conducted 67 nuclear bomb tests after World War II) and of the immense concrete dome of leaking nuclear waste on Runit Island. Kathy was born in the Marshall Islands and raised in Hawai‘i. She has written a widely celebrated and deeply profound collection of poetry, which highlights issues around the environment and climate change as well as social injustices related to colonialism, migration, and racism. In 2014, Kathy was selected from more than 500 candidates to represent the voice of civil society and address the United Nations Climate Change Summit. After performing her piece “Dear Matafele Bingum” at the opening ceremony in New York, she received a standing ovation. Kathy’s work includes the first published book of poetry written by someone from the Marshall Islands, Iep Jāltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter (University of Arizona Press, 2017). She is also the cofounder of the environmental nonprofit organization Jo-Jikum, which supports Marshallese youth in taking action on climate change and environmental issues. In 2015, she was selected by Vogue Magazine as one of 13 Climate Warriors, and in 2017, she was named Impact Hero of the Year by Earth Company.
Joakim “Jojo” Peter, PhD
CPIS MA, 1994
Jojo Peter was named the Center for Pacific Islands Studies recipient of the School of Pacific and Asian Studies Distinguished Alumni Award for 2018. Jojo is from Etal, Mortlocks, in Chuuk State, Federated States of Micronesia. He earned the MA in Pacific Islands studies from UH Mānoa in 1994 and a second master’s degree in history in 1997. He worked as director of the College of Micronesia Chuuk Campus before returning to Hawai‘i in 2011 to pursue a doctorate in special education at UH Mānoa focusing on immigrant families of children with special needs. He completed the PhD in 2017. He has been very active in community work both in Chuuk and Hawai‘i. In Chuuk, he was head of Chuuk Disabled Persons Association and a founding member of the FSM Disability Council. In Hawai‘i, Jojo cofounded the COFA (Compact of Free Association) Community and Advocacy Network and serves as community advocacy manager for We Are Oceania, a collaborative project aimed at centralizing the support system for all Micronesian communities, families, and individuals in Hawaii. In 2017, Dr. Peter was nominated to the Hawai‘i Civil Rights Commission by Governor David Ige. He now works in a management position at Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL), where he is determined to bring more Pacific Islanders into leadership roles and to promote responsible educational endeavors in the Islands.
Senator J. Kalani English
CPIS MA, 1995
Senator J. Kalani English of the Hawai‘i State Legislature was selected as the recipient of the inaugural School of Pacific and Asian Studies Distinguished Graduate Award in Pacific Islands Studies in 2017. Kalani was raised by his grandparents in Hana, Maui, and attended Kamehameha Schools. He then studied at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan where he received a certificate from the Center for Public and Business Administration Education. Kalani went on to earn a BA in Pacific Islands studies at Hawai‘i Loa College (HPU) and an MA in Pacific Islands Studies at CPIS in 1995. Kalani has also been a degree fellow the East-West Center’s Institute of Culture & Communication. He is bilingual in English and Hawaiian and proficient in Mandarin. He worked as chief of staff for a state senator before entering politics himself as a two-term member on the Maui County Council. In November 2000, he was elected to the Hawaii State Senate to represent Senate District 7and has served there ever since. During his terms in the Senate, Kalani has served on numerous committees including Ways and Means; Human Services; Education; Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health; Water and Land; Transportation; Energy and Environment; Hawaiian Affairs; Tourism; and Intergovernmental Affairs. Kalani has also served as Senate Majority leader and vice chair of the Senate Committee on Tourism and International Affairs. Kalani has served the broader Pacific Islands region in various capacities. From 1993–1996, he was an adviser to the United Nations Permanent Mission of the Federated States of Micronesia. He is a former president of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures. Kalani has strong family connections to French Polynesia and travels there regularly.
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