The ʻAha Haumāna Native Hawaiian Student Symposium and Conference helped students to better translate their undergraduate experiences and degrees into actual careers.
By Susan Enright.
An annual student conference to promote Native Hawaiian leadership, community engagement, language and cultural parity was recently held at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.
This year’s theme at the ʻAha Haumāna Native Hawaiian Student Symposium and Conference was “Career Pathways” to help students to better translate their undergraduate experiences and degrees into actual careers. There were about 80 students from UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College who attended.
“By inviting [presenters] predominantly UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College alumni with diverse backgrounds, we aimed to exemplify that one’s major and degree does not necessarily limit one’s career options,” says Kalei Baricuatro, leadership development facilitator at the the Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center.
Since its first year in 2016, the ʻAha is coordinated and sponsored by the Mōkaulele Program (a cooperative program funded by a U.S. Department of Education Title III Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions grant awarded to UH Hilo and Hawai‘i CC under the chancellors’ offices of both institutions) and the Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center. This year, organizers broadened the collaboration by also working with the I Ola Hāloa Center for Hawaiʻi Life Styles program at Hawaiʻi CC to coordinate the event and reach more students.
“One of the Title III grant activities is building capacity through leadership development,” explains Gail Makuakāne-Lundin, executive assistant to the chancellor at UH Hilo. “The intent is to increase Native Hawaiian students participating in leadership development opportunities of which the ʻAha is one of the annual opportunities. These activities have a direct link to increasing student leadership development skills and engagement.”
Baricuatro, who serves as facilitator of the Mōkaulele program, says this year’s event, held on Sept. 15, was a full day starting with a kīpaepae ceremony to orient and welcome students into the space of learning for the day. Peer mentors and staff members from the hosting departments beckoned in participants with pahu (drumming), pū (blowing of conch shells), and hula, to start the day with a cultural foundation.
Breakout sessions were held on topics that included general information on graduate school, skills, and careers, to more specific topics on popular career paths for Native Hawaiians.
“We brought in UH Hilo and Hawai‘i CC alum who majored in and are working in social work, business, STEM fields, and education,” says Baricuatro.
A panel during lunch featured UH Hilo alumni who are currently working across different disciplines.
“They spoke broadly to participants about the role of cultural identity in academia, motivation for success as Native Hawaiians in their fields, and the applicability of skills developed in college in any career field,” explains Baricuatro.
Afternoon workshops featured practical topics:
- Waihoʻoluʻu: The Natural Dyeing Process, A Parallel for Student Resiliency
- Curating a Collection: Building a portfolio through critical thinking and design making
- Personal Conservation Practices: Awareness and Personal Aloha ʻĀina Advocacy through Composting
- Wahi Pana o Hilo: A Journey to Celebrated Places of Hilo for Academic Success
- Kōkō Pūʻalu: Securing Connections through the Creation of Kōkō Pūʻalu (carrying net for water bottles)
“Overall, it was a great learning and networking opportunity,” Baricuatro says.
Susan Enright is a public information specialist in the Office of the Chancellor. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.