UH Hilo English department hosts international conference; students present their research papers

The conference, “Narratives of Place in Literature, Film, and Folklore,” covered important areas in English studies both nationally and internationally.

Group of UH Hilo student presenters stand for group shot in front of lava fireplace.
UH Hilo student presenters. Courtesy photos, more below, click to enlarge.

By Susan Enright.

The Department of English at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo recently designed and hosted a conference for national and international scholars while also providing UH Hilo English majors with an applied learning opportunity to present their research papers.

The conference, “Narratives of Place in Literature, Film, and Folklore,” covered important areas in English studies both nationally and internationally. The UH Hilo Conference Center assisted in designing the conference website and in organizing the practical details for the conference venue at Kilauea Military Camp on Hawai‘i Island.

The conference took place March 3-4, 2016. There were 23 participants in total from Europe and the United States. Nine were UH Hilo English majors: Zoe Banfield, Maia Furer, Samantha Howell, Quinn Hamamoto, Kim Leolani Kalama, Hannah Lipman, Everett McKee, Ariel Moniz, and Kylee Sullivan.

Two UH Hilo English faculty members also participated in the conference: instructor Susan Wackerbarth and lecturer Alicia Takaoka. They both presented a reading; Wackerbarth read a section on her upcoming novel, and Takaoka described her work on making web maps of storied places in Hawai‘i.

The conference papers— presented by local, national and international scholars and the UH Hilo students—addressed a wide range of topics in film, literature, and folklore.

Kirsten Møllegaard
Kirsten Møllegaard

Kirsten Møllegaard, chair and associate professor of English, organized the program and coached the UH Hilo students in the process of preparing for the conference. The students submitted their abstracts online, received feedback, peer review, and practiced their oral presentations.

“The student papers were well researched, had theoretical depth, and offered critical analysis on topics ranging from family history and the political history of Hawai‘i to storied places on distant shores,” says Møllegaard.

For example, Hamamoto presented research on her grandmother’s internment experience during World War II in a paper entitled, “Not So Different: Comparing the Japanese-American Internment Event with the Holocaust.”

Kalama’s paper, “Tradition, Christianity and Law: The Kānaka Maoli Path to Silence,” drew on extensive archival research on the historical contexts of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Moniz presented a paper, which she had originally written for a literature class on the celtic revival, “Death and Visions of the Afterlife in the Celtic Realm.”

Group photo of students and faculty advisors at conference, standing in from of building at Kilauea Military Camp.
UH Hilo faculty with students who presented on the second day of the conference. Click to enlarge photos.

Møllegaard says other student papers examined place in relation to specific narrative traditions and under the influences of colonialism, gender and political oppression, and human rights violations.

Møllegaard explains that like the papers presented by the national and international scholars, each UH Hilo student presentation contributed a unique perspective to the conference’s overall theme of narratives of place. The students received feedback and suggestions for further research from the visiting scholars, and during Q&A they engaged in meaningful discussions about the theoretical aspects of the topic.

Students seated in classroom setting doing a questions and answer session.
Q&A session

“This kind of applied learning experience is extremely valuable for the students as part of their academic journey,” she says.

Susan Wackerbarth, Kim Leoni Kalama and Hannah Lipman
(l-r) Susan Wackerbarth, Kim Leoni Kalama and Hannah Lipman attended the conference.

The visiting scholars were impressed by the caliber and quality of the English majors’ work. Møllegaard says one professor remarked, “Are these students really undergraduates? I would have thought they were advanced graduate students!”

The nine UH Hilo English majors’ participation in the conference was made possible by funding from the Howard and Yoneko Droste endowment and the UH Hilo Department of English.

About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.