The MA in Pacific Islands Studies is the only program of its kind in the United States. It is intended for students of the region wishing to transcend established disciplinary boundaries and explore innovative approaches to learning about key issues in the Pacific Islands region. As well as course work, the MA program includes two options, thesis and MA portfolio. The first option requires a scholarly, research-based thesis on a Pacific-related topic. Normally this is the preferred option for those planning to enter a doctoral program in the humanities, social sciences, or interdisciplinary studies. Those opting for the MA portfolio demonstrate proficiency in a specialty area within the field of Pacific Islands studies by developing a research-based product that may combine creative work with scholarly analysis. Some recent graduates have pursued doctoral or professional degrees in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Hawai‘i, and on the US continent; others are employed in a wide variety of fields, including education, social work, publishing, as well as library and museum work.
On entry, or before graduation, students are required to have a second-year level of competence in an Indigenous language of the Pacific, or a pidgin/creole language such as Tok Pisin, Solomons Pijin, or Bislama. The language should be related to the student’s research interests. Competence in an administrative language of the Pacific such as Spanish, French, German, or Japanese may be used to satisfy the requirement, provided this is not the student’s first language, and there is a demonstrated connection with research activities. Language competence is demonstrated by successful completion of appropriate course work or through an examination conducted by a suitably qualified individual.
All MA students are required to complete a minimum of 30 credits of course work, which must include three core seminars: Learning Oceania (PACS 601), Re/Presenting Oceania (PACS 602), and Researching Oceania (PACS 603). The core seminars introduce students to key issues of learning and research in the field of Pacific studies. The seminars are taught in sequence, with PACS 601 and PACS 602 offered in the fall and PACS 603 in the spring. In addition, students take at least two focus courses (6 credits) and three elective courses (9 credits) directly related to their research or specialty interests. Focus and elective courses are selected in consultation with a faculty adviser to form an integrated program of study that strengthens a student’s general knowledge of the region, while providing a particular concentration of interests.
Students in both the thesis and MA portfolio plans choose a three-person faculty committee to supervise their work and to evaluate the final product or products. The MA committee must review and approve a comprehensive thesis or portfolio proposal (usually produced as part of the requirements for PACS 603) before the student embarks on the MA thesis or on major components of the portfolio.
All students must pass the MA Written Examination, which provides an opportunity to demonstrate understanding of significant issues in the field of Pacific studies, as well as general knowledge of the region as a whole. Students normally sit the examination at the end of the third semester in the MA program. Successful performance on the examination advances the student to candidacy.
Students selecting the thesis option complete 6 credits of focus course work directly relevant to their research interests and produce a scholarly, research-based thesis on a Pacific-related topic. The thesis should demonstrate an ability to conduct independent research and represent a significant contribution to this interdisciplinary field of study. It should address a significant question, issue, or theme, and include a thorough review of relevant written and other resources. Students are expected to cross established disciplinary boundaries and explore topics using multiple conceptual lenses. The thesis must include a substantial written component that is normally at least one hundred pages (or 30,000 words) in length.
Students pursuing the thesis option satisfy credit requirements as follows:
|Core seminars (PACS 601, 602, 603)||09 credits|
|Focus courses||06 credits|
|Elective courses||09 credits|
|Thesis credits (PACS 700)||06 credits|
At least 15 credit hours of this course work must be in courses numbered 600 and above (excluding PACS 700). Normally, only 3 credits of Directed Reading and Research (PACS 699) can be used to satisfy the focus requirement.
MA Portfolio Requirements
Students selecting this option identify and explore a Pacific-related specialty area. Expertise in the specialized subject matter is demonstrated through an integrated program of study that includes 6 credits of focus course work directly relevant to the specialty area; an essay or research report of at least 25 pages in length (approximately 8,000 words) that explores a central aspect of the specialty area; and a substantial performance, multimedia, artistic, or written product directly related to the specialty area. This component of the portfolio will normally complement the essay or research report described above, and can be combined with it to form a single product of at least 50 pages in length (approximately 16,000 words).
Students pursuing the portfolio option satisfy credits requirements as follows:
|Core seminars (PACS 601, 602, 603)||09 credits|
|Focus courses||06 credits|
|Elective courses||09 credits|
|MA projects (PACS 695)||06 credits|
At least 18 credit hours of course work must be in courses numbered 600 and above (excluding PACS 695). Normally, only 3 credits of Directed Reading and Research (PACS 699) can be used to satisfy the focus requirement. Students earn 6 credits of Master’s Project (PACS 695) for their work on the MA portfolio.
Performance, Creative Writing, Artwork, and Multimedia Options
Innovative approaches to knowledge production are encouraged. MA projects (thesis or MA portfolio) must include a substantial analytical, text-based component, but can incorporate elements of performance (eg, dance, theater), creative writing (eg, fiction or poetry), artwork (eg, painting, photography), or multimedia (eg, video, audio, digital media). Students intending to include performance, creative writing, artwork, or multimedia components must satisfy the MA committee that they have or will acquire the appropriate proficiencies. The issue of proficiency should be addressed in the project proposal with reference to relevant course work, academic background, or prior experience. Performances must be supervised by members of the MA committee, fully rehearsed, and videotaped for submission, along with the written component, to the department and, in the case of theses, to UH Graduate Division.
All MA students form a three-person committee to supervise their work and evaluate the thesis or MA portfolio products. UH Graduate Division requires that committee members be UH Mānoa graduate faculty, although students can petition for exceptions to this rule. The chair and at least one other member should be members of the core or affiliate faculty of the Department of Pacific Islands Studies. Students normally form the committee toward the end of their first year in residence, or after they have prepared a comprehensive thesis or MA portfolio proposal.
How to apply to the MA Program
The admissions committee is looking for individuals with strong academic backgrounds, whose interests fit well with program requirements and emphases.
Applicants should have some knowledge of the geographical features, cultural characteristics, and history of the Pacific Islands region, as well as some familiarity with contemporary issues and concerns. Normally 12 credits (or the equivalent) of appropriate Pacific-related course work are expected to satisfy this requirement. In exceptional cases, a student may take prerequisites concurrently with courses meeting degree requirements.
How to apply:
Fill out the online application to the UH Graduate Division https://manoa.hawaii.edu/graduate/how-to-apply/. In addition to the materials required for the general application, applicants must submit the following items to the Graduate Application Supplemental Documents Upload Website https://documentupload.manoa.hawaii.edu/upload/#/login.
- Statement of objectives that addresses the applicant’s background and research interests and how those interests fit with program requirements and emphases.
- Writing sample. This might be a short term paper or thesis chapter and should demonstrate an ability to write clearly and knowledgeably about a Pacific-related topic.
- Three letters of recommendation from individuals familiar with the applicant’s undergraduate performance who can address questions of academic potential and readiness for graduate-level work.
Deadlines for applications:
Applications for the fall semester, along with supporting documents, must be received by 1 February. The deadline for the spring semester is 1 September.
The Certificate in Pacific Islands Studies is designed for students who are pursuing advanced degrees in other areas and whose course of study includes a substantial component of Pacific-related courses and research. The objective of the certificate is to provide recognition of this expertise and to encourage further study of the Pacific region.
A certificate student is required to have 18 credit hours in Pacific-related courses or 12 credit hours in Pacific-related courses and a Pacific-related thesis or dissertation. The courses must constitute a logically related program of study and are normally chosen from the list of preferred courses prepared by the Pacific Islands Studies faculty. Certificate students must take at least one of the MA core courses (PACS 601, PACS 602, PACS 603) and sit the MA Written Examination. The certificate is awarded on completion of the advanced degree in the primary field of study.
How to Apply
Students applying for the certificate must have previously been admitted to the Graduate Division in a primary field of study. Applications take the form of a letter to the Pacific Islands Studies graduate chair that outlines academic objectives, Pacific-related interests, and the proposed course of study in the primary field. Also, a current degree-seeking graduate student at UHM needs to submit a completed Concurrent Graduate Certificate Program Application Form and non-refundable application fee ($100) to the Office of Graduate Education.
After joining the certificate program, the certificate student is assigned a two-person advisory committee consisting of one member of the Pacific Islands Studies faculty (as appointed by the graduate chair in consultation with the student) and the student’s departmental adviser.