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UHMC Students May Have Another Degree Option if Ho'oulu Lāhui Approved

By HeatherLyn Gray
On April 11, 2012

The University of Hawai'i Maui College may begin granting Associate of Arts degrees in Hawaiian Studies to Spring 2013 graduates if the proposed program is approved by the Board of Regents at the end of this semester.

Work on the program proposal began in December 2011 when the Chief Academic Officers extended permission to all community colleges to plan a two-year degree in Hawaiian Studies following the approval of Windward Community College's initial "Authorization to Plan" request. The rare system-wide approval meant that for the first time an A.A. would be allowed in a specific discipline.

"When the door is open, you better follow through," said Kaleikoa Ka'eo.

According to the proposal, Ho'oulu Lāhui, the name given to the program, will provide for the study, practice and development of Hawaiian language, culture, history, politics and practice. By invoking the motto used by King Kālakaua to inspire his people to persevere and thrive amidst depopulation and social, economic and political strife, the proposed program is a means of acting upon system-wide strategic plans to acknowledge a historic negligence toward Hawaiian Studies and language. At the system-level, the University of Hawai'i is pushing to become the "best indigenous-serving university in the world"-establishing a two-year degree is just part of this initiative.

Instead of following the prescribed requirements of the traditional A.A degree offered at UHMC, the proposed Hawaiian Studies degree was designed with ease of transfer in mind. The degree would align more closely with the other campuses in the University of Hawai'i system and facilitate student transfer to any community college and be flexible enough to allow transfer into various four-year degree tracks, not just Hawaiian studies or language.

"The A.A. provides a foundation upon which students can study anything, and the groundwork in Hawaiian Studies gives you the breadth and depth to assist you in anything you choose to pursue," said Ki'ōpe Raymond. "We'd love it if people moved on to a B.A. in Hawaiian Studies or related fields, but those related fields are not restricted just to the humanities."

With all community colleges requiring the same core courses, students can start working on their degree at one campus and complete coursework at another without having to worry about whether earned credits would transfer or not.

UHMC student Adam Mahi'ai Dochin said, "I would like to see an A.A.-it would attract more Native Hawaiian students if a Hawaiian Studies degree is offered." Increasing the Native Hawaiian student enrollment is one of the objectives of the proposed program. A second objective builds upon that with the goal to increase the number of Native Hawaiian students who progress and graduate, or transfer to baccalaureate institutions.

A 2007 survey showed that over half of the 154 students polled had an interest in pursuing a degree in Hawaiian Studies.

"I anticipate that a lot of students are going to take it," said Kahele Dukelow. The proposal anticipates 60 students majoring in Hawaiian Studies at its initial offering, with an expected increase of 10 students each year.

A unanimous vote at the Feb.10 meeting of the UHMC Academic Senate approved the movement of the proposal from the campus level to the system level and should be voted on by the Board of Regents by May 2012.

Currently an Academic Subject Certificate is available in Hawaiian Studies that embeds itself into the A.A offered at UHMC. The Mānoa and Hilo campuses offer Bachelor of Arts degrees in Hawaiian Language and Hawaiian Studies respectively. Hilo also offers a Ph.D in Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization; a Mānoa doctorate program is also in the works.

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