UH Hilo Quintessential University Citizen: Malu Dudoit, emerging Hawaiian leader

Malu Dudoit, UH Hilo alumnus, is an outstanding example of an emerging Hawaiian leader through his contributions in advancing leadership development, community engagement, and Hawaiian culture and language.

By Susan Enright.
This post is part of a series on Quintessential University Citizens at UH Hilo. The honorees were chosen by members of the Chancellor’s Executive Council and others during the first months after Chancellor Bonnie Irwin’s arrival at the university in July 2019.

Malu Dudoit

Dane “Malu” Dudoit, who graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo in 2016 with a bachelor of arts in Hawaiian studies, says there were times during his undergraduate studies when he thought completing his degree program seemed almost impossible. But he persevered.

“It was in these times that resources around campus such as Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center at UH Hilo and I Ola Hāloa Hawaiʻi Lifestyles Program at Hawaiʻi Community College encouraged me to successfully complete my undergraduate journey,” he says.

The resourcefulness worked. Dudoit is now building a career on the campus of his alma mater, working two positions, both student-centered. “I just want to give back to my community the same way they have provided for me,” he says.

The work is meaningful with a big part of it bridging the two campuses of UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College. He’s a community engagement facilitator supporting the academic development of Native Hawaiian students through community engagement and culture-based experiences. And he’s a lecturer in Hawaiian studies focusing on indigenous leadership and environmental kinship curricula through the medium of hula—this teaching includes place-based and culture-based curricula to help students build relationships with the land and native plants of Hawaiʻi.

Gail Makuakāne-Lundin, director of Kīpuka and director of the UH System Office of Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao, says, “Malu is an outstanding example of an emerging Hawaiian leader through his contributions in advancing the leadership development, community engagement, and Hawaiian culture and language goals and objectives of our campus and UH System Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao plans.” Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao is an initiative with the strategic goal to indigenize the entire 10-campus UH System and serve the diverse local and Native Hawaiian communities.

It is for this broad-based student-centered work, coupled with his genuine caring for students’ success, that Dudoit has been recognized as a Quintessential University Citizen by the UH Hilo Chancellor’s Executive Council. Kathleen Baumgardner, the campus strategic planning project manager and a member of the Chancellor’s Executive Council, emphasizes that, notably in his peer mentor work, Dudoit is friendly and excited to make a difference in people’s lives.

Student-centered support through cultural protocols

In one of his positions, Dudoit is employed through the Title III Mōkaulele Project, a peer mentoring program under the chancellor’s offices of UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College. Makuakāne-Lundin serves as project director and Dudoit is the project’s community engagement facilitator serving both campuses with “bridging activities” to engage faculty, staff and students as one community through Native Hawaiian cultural practices and protocols.

“I service both UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College campus communities through cultural activities and experiences, normalizing the practice of ʻaha/kīpaepae [welcoming] protocols, and supporting Native Hawaiian student academic success,” Dudoit explains in an email.

A project he is continuing this year is the Community of Hei, developed with Yolisa Duley, an instructor of sociology. Hei is the ancient Hawaiian method of communicating and recounting stories by creating string figures, known as hei. Dudoit says in the course they “teach about traditional Hawaiian string figures and the mele/moʻolelo that is chanted while creating the figure—the main mission of the project is to promote campus health and wellness through the revitalization and practice of hei.”

Malu and unidetified woman doing hei (string figures).
Malu Dudoit creates hei at a welcoming event for visiting dignitaries in 2018. Photo by Maria Andaya/Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center.

Dudoit also takes a lead role in Wahi Pana O Hilo, interactive educational tours of Hilo, hosted by the Mōkaulele program utilizing kaʻao, or Hawaiian mythology, of Hilo as a way to introduce new faculty and staff into the island environment. Held each year, especially for new members of the UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College communities as part of orientation events, Wahi Pana O Hilo typically has about 200 participants and organizers joining in throughout a day’s activities. The groups include administrators, faculty, staff, students, and their guests.

Dudoit also is working toward normalizing kīpaepae or welcoming protocols, through Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao. Two of Dudoit’s mentors in this realm are Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani, a renowned cultural practitioner, and Taupōuri Tangarō, director of Hawaiian culture and protocols engagement at Hawaiʻi Community College, a professor of Hawaiian studies, and also head of the I Ola Hāloa Center for Hawaiʻi Life Styles.

“Our practice of kīpaepae originates from the I Ola Hāloa, Hawaiʻi Lifestyles Program at the Hawaiʻi Community College,” Dudoit explains. “The vision of Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani and Taupōuri Tangarō is to re-introduce the cultural practice and significance of ceremony into normal campus functions, that no matter which department we work in, it is through ceremony we are able to come together for the same reason and purpose.”

Malu Dudoit dancing hula.
Malu Dudoit performs at kīpaepae for visiting dignitaries in 2018. Photo by Maria Andaya/Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center.

“Kīpaepae,” Dudoit adds, “is our indigenous way to welcome visitors into our space at UH Hilo or Hawaiʻi Community College; to acknowledge the successes of our students, faculty, and staff; and to honor ourselves, the many kūpuna (ancestors) who brought us here, and those who come after us.”

Teaching Hawaiʻi’s future leaders

Dudoit also is a part-time lecturer at UH Hilo’s Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, where he teaches two courses: Indigenous Leadership Through Hula (HWST 194) and Papa Meakanu/Hawaiian Ethnobotany (HWST 211).

The leadership course, housed under Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani, was developed in 2018 through a collaboration between Dudoit, Makuakāne-Lundin, and Tangarō. The course is cross-listed under the departments of kinesiology and exercise sciences, sociology, and performing arts. Dudoit has served as the primary instructor of the course for the past two years.

“Through each course, I pull from my own training in hula and experiences with our native landscapes, oceans, forests, and fauna/flora to help our students develop deeper relationships to our ʻāina through the medium of hula and place-based/culture-based curriculum,” he explains.

Story by Susan Enright, 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.

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