UH Hilo graduate accepted to Oxford

Oxford is the next step for Evan Matsuyama in his ambition to earn a master of arts in history and eventually a doctor of philosophy.

By Kara Nelson.

Evan Matsuyama holds up his acceptance letter from Oxford. He's wearing a suit and tie.
Evan Matsuyama with his acceptance letter from Oxford.

A University of Hawai‘i at Hilo graduate with a passion for history has been accepted to the prestigious University of Oxford, England.

It’s been an interesting journey.

A Big Island boy from Kailua-Kona, Evan Matsuyama graduated with honors from Kealakehe High School in 2011. He then attended the United States Air Force Academy, but was injured during training. He took classes at Kapiolani Community College while he recovered.

Transferring to Hawai‘i Community College (UH Center-West Hawai‘i), he graduated with honors with an associate in arts degree.

One more transfer, this time to UH Hilo in the spring of 2013, and a star is born.

During his time at the university, Matsuyama earned a 4.0 grade point average, was selected student speaker for Fall 2014 Commencement, and graduated with a bachelor of arts in history. He also was president of the History Club and a history writing tutor during his senior year. He belongs to Phi Alpha Theta, the U.S. National Honor Society.

And now Oxford is the next step in his ambition to earn a master of arts in history and eventually a doctor of philosophy.

About her former student, Kerri Inglis, associate professor and chair of the history department at UH Hilo, says, “Evan is a very good student, very focused in his pursuits and conscientious in all his work. He was always very thorough, thoughtful, and committed to his research and writing. But perhaps most importantly, he is always striving to improve in all areas of academia, always reading more, looking for more insights and applications of that knowledge.”

Becoming an expert on the 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Evan Matsuyama in the field with two men in period military uniforms, jeeps in background. One man holds rifle.
Evan Matsuyama in the field.

Matsuyama’s grandfather was in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a World War II unit comprised of Japanese Americans from Hawai‘i that became the most decorated in U.S. history for its size and length of service.

“My grandfather was in the 442nd and lost his left arm fighting in France,” says Matsuyama. “Because of my family connections to the 442nd, I have been asked to do a number of speeches at 442nd reunions and other events, which sparked my interest in the veteran’s legacy.”

Matsuyama’s senior research paper was entitled, “American Samurai – An Inheritance of Honor: A Historical and Cultural Analysis of the Japanese American Warriors of World War II.”

Inglis explains, “Evan focused on the connections between local and global history for his history degree, within the contexts of U.S., East-Asian, (and) Hawaiian history. His senior thesis focused on the history of the 442nd/100th battalion from Hawaiʻi and the West Coast of the U.S. who served during World War II. His family history connects him directly to this important piece of world history and Hawaiʻi’s history.”

Rather than kicking back after graduating from UH Hilo, Matsuyama has shown his passion for history by continuing to do productive work before his classes at Oxford begin in October.

Building on the work of his senior thesis paper, Matsuyama is currently working on the Camp’US (pronounced “campus”) project in France.

He explains, “Camp’US is a multinational project dedicated to preserving the military heritage of the Vosges region of France, primarily the history of the liberation of the City of Bruyères by the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Currently, I am working on translating documents, web pages, and other materials from French to English for the international aspect of the project.”

Drawing on his studies at UH Hilo, Matsuyama also is a historical consultant on the project.

The best and brightest

Inglis says, “We in the department are of course very excited for Evan and this opportunity to pursue a graduate degree in history, and very proud of his accomplishment. He is the second student from our UH Hilo history program to go on to Oxford University in the past five years (the first being La‘akea Yoshida). We work very hard in our department to prepare our students for whatever path they desire to follow — and we trust that we have prepared Evan well for this next adventure.”

Matsuyama says, “I chose to apply to Oxford because I wanted to study with the best and brightest and (have) the challenge of studying at a truly elite academic institution.”

He was accepted to other institutions, including UH Mānoa and Washington State University, but says he was “pleasantly surprised” when he was accepted to Oxford, based on the competitive application process.

Inglis has high hopes for her former student.

“We have the greatest confidence in Evan’s abilities and in his potential to make a valuable contribution to the graduate program at Oxford, to academia in general, and to his home community as well,” she says. “We know that he will represent UH Hilo very well.”


About the author of this story: Kara Nelson is a senior at UH Hilo double majoring in English and Communication. She is an intern in the Office of the Chancellor.