Samoa: Pacific Communities and Social Change
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Faculty and Staff
Jackie Fa'asisila, Academic Director
Jackie Fa'asisila received both a B.A. in Education and an MA in History from the University of Missouri. She first went to Samoa in 1972 as a Peace Corps Volunteer. In addition to her work as a teacher trainer, Ms. Fa'asisila has been Associate Peace Corps Director and cross-cultural Training Manager in Samoa, the Cook Islands, and Niue. She taught social science and educational studies at Primary Teachers' College and Secondary Teachers' College, respectively. She was also the Orientation Coordinator for Australian Volunteers International and UN Volunteers in Samoa, and served as the Language Advisor/Instructor for several SIT Study Abroad Samoa semesters before becoming the director. Ms. Fa'asisila resides in Apia with her family. She has been the Academic Director of the Samoa Program since Fall 1996.
Acacia Cochise, Academic Assistant
A native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Acacia Cochise graduated from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA in 2008 with a BA in English literature and American studies. She participated in the SIT Samoa program in fall 2007 and has returned to assist with the program. She taught analytical reading and writing skills at a community college in Newark, NJ before heading to New Zealand where she obtained a master’s of indigenous studies with distinction at the University of Otago. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Pacific studies at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand and doing field work in Samoa. She has traveled widely in England, Italy, France, and Greece and has visited American Samoa, Fiji, and Argentina. Acacia also enjoys reading and writing and has a passion for community service projects and volunteering with schools around the world.
Lecturers for this program typically include:
Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio (Hawaiian History)
Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio is a full professor at the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai'i and scholar of Hawaiian nineteenth-century political and social history. He has taught and taken classes in history, literature, law as culture, music as historical texts, and research methodologies for and from indigenous peoples. He is the author of Dismembering Lahui, which details the colonization of Hawai'i as a slow process that heavily depended on Hawaiians being converted to the rule of law. He has also been a constant activist and advocate for Hawaiian self-determination. He has attended and organized protests and demonstrations in favor of Hawaiian language immersion schools, land protection from military abuse, and in opposition to imperialism, including American imperialism. He submitted an intervention at the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues at the UN calling for decolonization in Hawai'i. He thinks the Hawaiian sovereignty movement will ultimately produce a nation and government devoted to peace and disarmament, careful management of Hawaii’s lands and waters, and protective of the cultural diversity that has defined Hawai'i as a place. He is also a composer and singer; he has been a Hawaiian music recording artist since 1975.
Terry Hunt, PhD (Prehistory and Archaeology – Polynesian Origins)
Terry Hunt holds a BA from the University of Hawai'i (1976), an MA from the University of Auckland (First Class Honors, 1980), and a PhD from the University of Washington (1989). Dr. Hunt joined the University of Hawai'i faculty in 1988. He has current affiliations with the Bishop Museum, the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, and the Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation Biology Program at the University of Hawaii. He has conducted archaeological fieldwork and related research in Hawai'i, Samoa, Fiji, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea. His research focuses on the archaeological history of the Pacific Islands. He believes that the ability to explain the processes of history and cultural change must rest on a solid substantive foundation. He sees his primary goal as building accurate, reliable, and valid case histories (e.g., islands) where particular research problems are best addressed. His archaeological field schools in Fiji (1999–2003) and on Rapa Nui (2001–present) have addressed population history, social interaction, and evolutionary divergence, as well as the evolution of cultural elaboration.
Fepuleai Dr. John Mayer, PhD (Samoan Language)
Dr. Mayer is an associate professor of Samoan as well as chair of the Department of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literature at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer and Trainer in Samoa from 1970–1976. He holds two chiefly titles, Fepuleai from Savaii and Lasei from Manono. Dr. Mayer founded the Samoan language program at the University of Hawai'i in 1976. He holds an MA in ESL and a PhD in linguistics. He is a charter member of the International Samoan Language Commission, which was formed in 2000.
Lynette Cruz, PhD (Sovereignty and Social Issues in Hawai'i)
Lynette Cruz is a professor of anthropology at Hawai'i Pacific University (HPY). In 2011, she assumed the position of Kupuna-in-Residence (scholar-in-residence) in which she focuses on Hawaiian culture, history, and protocol. In 2010, she was awarded an excellence in teaching award and named Teacher of the Year by HPU students and faculty. She holds a PhD from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Her dissertation was on the concept of Hawaiian nationalism within the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. She is currently writing a book on the state of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement for University of Hawai'i Press. She is a social justice activist and community organizer, as well as president of a Hawaiian civic club, one of 60 members of the Association of Hawaii Civic Clubs, which build on the life and work of Hawaii's last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. She also coordinates the Hawaiian Independence Action Alliance, an organization that delivers short, pointed messages to counteract government or military activity that appears to disenfranchise the people. Since 2003, Dr. Cruz has hosted a one-hour television program on public access television entitled "Issues That Matter".
Terence Wesley-Smith, PhD (Social Change & Regional Issues in the Pacific)
Terence Wesley-Smith is director of the University of Hawai'i Manoa Center for Pacific Islands Studies, where he is also a professor. A political scientist with degrees from Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Hawai'i, he is editor of The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs. His recent journal articles have addressed conceptual issues associated with self-determination and "failed states" in Oceania. Dr. Wesley-Smith is co-editor (with Jon Goss) of Remaking Area Studies: Teaching and Learning Across Asia and the Pacific (University of Hawaii Press 2010) and co-editor (with Edgar Porter) of China in Oceania: Reshaping the Pacific? (Berghahn Books 2010). He obtained his PhD from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa 1988.
Brian Alofaituli (Religion in Samoa)
Brian Alofaituli entered the MA program at the University of Hawai'i Manoa Center for Pacific Island Studies with a background that included environmental studies, Peace Corps experience in Jamaica, a master’s degree in intercultural studies from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, and experience as a director of Christian education in the Congregational Christian Church of American Sāmoa. His thesis “Language Development Curriculum within the Samoan Congregational Churches in the Diaspora” explores the potential role the Samoan Congregational Christian Churches can play as language and cultural educators in the diaspora. The thesis addresses the problem of language loss among Samoan youth and explores the Samoan language curriculum currently in use, as well as ways this curriculum might be modified. Brian is currently a PhD student in Pacific history at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.
Gerard A. Finin, PhD (Economics and Development)
Gerard A. Finin is currently co-director of the East West Center’s Pacific Island Development Program and has served as the center’s deputy director since 2004. He conducts research on contemporary social and economic issues in the Pacific islands region, with ongoing projects focusing on governance and globalization. He has a PhD in urban and regional planning and Southeast Asian Studies from Cornell University. His related publications include: One Year into Fiji's Fourth Coup; Artifacts and Afterthoughts of American Colonial Policy; Coups, Conflicts, and Crises: The New Pacific Way?; Small is Viable: The Global Ebbs and Flows of a Pacific Atoll.
Joshua Cooper (Contemporary Pacific Issues)
Joshua Cooper has taught political science courses focused on nonviolence, ecology, human rights, and social justice at numerous higher education institutions in Hawai'i. He also teaches journalism courses focusing on media literacy. He has presented original research papers on the environment, women’s rights, and indigenous peoples’ rights at university symposiums, community forums, and global conferences around the world. He speaks regularly at the United Nations and various NGO assemblies in relation to human rights policymaking.
As a human rights advocate, he engages with global and regional mechanisms that work toward ensuring fundamental freedoms. He has attended the main human rights treaty bodies where he has spoken on issues related to civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and racial discrimination; women; torture; children; migrant workers; disabilities; and disappearances. He served on the UN sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights; the commission linked human rights to climate change in relation to Pacific and Asia states coping with drastic conditions such as cultural extinction to environmental refugees. He also engages in human rights advocacy with Pacific Island governments such as Tuvalu to protect and promote human rights in the various treaty bodies.
Warren Jopling (Samoa)
Warren Jopling, a native of Sydney, Australia, has lived in Samoa for the past 28 years. His education includes a two-year diploma in gemology with the Gemological Association of Australia and a B.Sc from the University of Sydney with distinctions in geology and agricultural chemistry; he later studied geology in an honors year. His work experience includes practical oilfield experience in Canada; work with Pacific Petroleum Ltd, a Calgary-based company, drilling for gas reserves in the Peace River area of northern British Columbia, and overseeing well site geology of Australian Oil and Gas’ first exploratory well with rotary drilling in the Sydney Basin. He also conducted petroleum exploration in the Amazon Basin in Brazil for eight years. He has traveled extensively, including in Brazil, the Andean countries in South America, Central America, islands of the Caribbean, Europe, and West Africa.
His guides in Samoa have gained worldwide recognition and are acclaimed in multiple South Pacific guidebooks in multiple languages. His tours emphasize Samoa’s natural history, culture, and ancient archaeological sites. Warren Jopling and his tours have been part of SIT Samoa since the program’s beginning in the early 1990s.
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