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Department of English


Marianne “Bela” Conley-Ramsay

Instructor, English; Program Coordinator, TESOL Certificate, Teaching English as a Secondary Language (TESOL)

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Bela Conley-Ramsay’s interest in teaching ESL began while she was attending Hawaii Preparatory Academy. She began teaching English and Hawaiian culture to visiting Japanese high school and junior college students. In 1992, after earning her MA from University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Ms. Conley-Ramsay taught at Cannon’s Business College and Hawaiʻi Pacific University, both in Honolulu. Ms. Conley-Ramsay returned home to the Big Island where she began teaching in the Intensive English Program. She served as the Assistant Director for the IEP for two years. Along with most of her colleagues from the IEP, Ms. Conley-Ramsay moved to UH Hilo to begin a new program, the English Language Institute in 2001. While in both programs, Ms. Conley-Ramsay participated in the accreditation process. Accreditation remains an interest for her. She continues to participate in the accreditation process via committees and assessments activities. She teaches Freshman Composition to non- native speakers as well as directs and teaches in the TESOL certificate program.

Karla S. Hayashi

Interim Director, Kilohana: The Academic Success Center

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Karla Hayashi started her academic career with a B.A. in journalism, but decided to switch to English for her M.A. at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Ms. Hayashi teaches composition and specialty courses in writing, such as ENG 209 Writing for Business. She has also developed a new course, ENG 289 The Rhetoric of Food. As Director of Kilohana, the Academic Success Center, Ms. Hayashi supervises and facilitates tutoring and writing placement assessment. She is also actively engaged in assessment projects and participates in bridge programs aimed at making students' transition from high school to college smooth. She calls English her "first passion" and enjoys teaching English at UH Hilo.

Seri I. Luangphinith

Chair, Humanities Division; Professor, English, English Department

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Seri I. Luangphinith, professor of English, graduated from McKinley High School (1987) and is a product of the University of Hawai‘i system. She graduated with a B.A. in English and Political Science in 1992 from Mānoa; she went on to the University of Oregon for a Master’s and a Ph.D. in English. In 2001, she joined the faculty at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Hilo-born and Honolulu-raised, Seri takes pride in serving as a role model for what other local kids can aspire to be in the future. She has published two anthologies of Pacific-based writing (Making Waves, 2005; Kū Kilakila, 2006) which were funded by various grants, including one from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. She has also published numerous articles on the literature of Hawai‘i and the Pacific, the most recent–“Solitary Confinement: Rethinking the Social and Political Context of Local Literature in Hawai‘i”–in the Cambridge anthology History of Asian American Literature (2015).

Kirsten Mollegaard

Chair & Associate Professor, English, English Department

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Kirsten Møllegaard is currently Chair of the UH Hilo English Department. She did her undergraduate work in English and Anthropology at UH Hilo and her MA and PhD in English Studies at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She teaches courses in film, literature, graphic novels, and Gender & Women's Studies. Her research and publications focus on oral and visual narratives, and the representation of gender and social spatialities in film and literature. She serves as faculty advisor to the UH Hilo English Club and Hohonu, Journal of Academic Writing.

Mark T. Panek

Professor, English, English Department

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Mark Panek is English professor at UH Hilo where he specializes in teaching Modern Grammar & Usage, Creative Non-Fiction and Fiction Writing. A graduate from Colby College and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, he is an author with a lens focused on Hawaiʻi. Publishing Gaijin Yokozuna (2006) about a Hawaiian-born sumo wrestler, Big Happiness: The Life and Death of a Modern Hawaiian Warrior (2011), and Hawaiʻi (2013), Panek has a voice distinctly his own that lends itself to showing what Hawaiʻi really is. In 2008, he received the University of Hawaiʻi Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching and the Elliot Cades Award for Literature in 2013.

Lauri R. Sagle

Instructor, English, English Department

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An instructor for the department since 2004, Lauri is a Hilo girl who took the long way back home. She’s been a client advocate for survivors of domestic violence, a Legal Aid paralegal with family law as a focus, an anti-abuse and advocacy educator in local Hawaiʻi schools, and the editor of an alternative weekly based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She did her graduate work in American Studies at Washington State University and the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque. Her classes have included Eng 202: Literature of Human Rights; Eng 204: Introduction to Race and Gender in Film; Eng 206: Introduction to Popular Culture; Eng 205: Hawaiʻi on Screen; and Eng 323: Literature of Hawaiʻi, but she is now happily and exclusively focusing on English 100 as the current Director of Composition.

Susan Wackerbarth Oldfather

Instructor, English, English Department

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A Pacific Northwest transplant, Susan teaches composition, literature and writing classes, specializing in fiction. She has an M.A. in English from the University of Washington and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Before joining the English department at UH Hilo in 1997 she lived and worked in far-flung places, with full-time and freelance positions in book publishing, professional and technical writing and editing, including Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Washington and the Chamber of Mines in Johannesburg, South Africa. She taught at the University of Washington as a graduate TA, at Zululand University in KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, and then at the University of Alaska-Southeast in Juneau. Susan is currently working on her second novel, with a sideline in flash fiction.

Jennifer C. Wheat

Associate Professor, English, English Department

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Jennifer Wheat teaches a wide range of courses, from ancient world literature and myth, to modern and contemporary drama. She is also the UH Hilo English department’s specialist for American Literature. In addition to teaching survey courses in literature, she has developed special topics courses in Imagination, Captivity, Escape in 19th century American literature, American Women Writers, as well as a course on Activism in American Literature. Dr. Wheat has an M.A. in Classics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an M.A. in English and American Literature from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, and a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of California at Santa Cruz. She has published articles on literature, drama, and environmental issues.