EDEF Alumnus & UH Emeritus Regent
“To be honest, I did not think I was going to college at all…”
Bacarra, Ilocos Norte, Philippines (grew up in Kalihi)
- PhD, Education: Educational Foundations
I am the Sulong Aral Program Coordinator at Leeward Community College and the community/engagement coordinator at Kōkua Kalihi Valley.
Why did you decide to pursue a doctoral degree?
Reflecting on my life, I realize that I have always been in the field of education. While I was a student at Farrington High School, I took an early childhood education practicum; during my undergraduate years, I was a part-time teacher at Kalihi Waena Elementary School and a para-professional tutor at Kalani High School; and then I was a part-time teacher at Farrington High School. Despite working in the field of education, I had never thought of majoring in Education. However, when I was working on my master’s degree at Berkeley, I took part in a popular diverse education group comprised of Asian Pacific Islanders, working class, people of color, LGBT, and faith communities. This experience made apparent my desire to be formally in the field of education and to learn more intensely about pedagogy, ethics, and philosophies of education. It was a natural academic progression to end up in a PhD program.
How did you become interested in educational foundations?
I looked into different educational programs all over the United States, and I realize that I wanted to study the aspects of education that dealt with the politics of identity and indigeneity in relation to popular and liberatory education among underserved/underrepresented groups. I found no better place than Hawaiʻi and the Department of Educational Foundations. The program addresses questions that deal with the social, political, economic, and historical elements of education and intertwine with an analytical framework that questions structural inequality and systematic discrimination in our society. My research interests jibed with educational foundations, and I found my academic home!
How has the EDEF program helped you in the field of education?
It has helped me to articulate what I experienced but did not yet have the words and theories to describe. The program gave me a chance to innovate pedagogies based on my praxis in popular education in the community and created spaces where indigenous, immigrant, and diasporic discourses could challenge and push the field of education to include marginalized peoples in theory and praxis of education. Furthermore, this program helped give me the foundation to participate and craft policies during my tenure with the UH Board of Regents.
Briefly describe your road to graduate school.
To be honest, I did not think I was going to college at all—I was the first one to graduate from college in the U.S. in my family. I fell in love with academia and the intellectual and political spaces that if offered. My experience with popular education in the Bay Area of San Francisco and Berkeley led me to come home to do the same work in Hawaiʻi. Later, I met Gay Reed from EDEF, and her warm invitation convinced me that I needed to be in the same program.
The EDEF faculty was always accessible and supportive of my endeavors. It is the nurturing and mentoring relationship that I had with the faculty that made me confident in my academic interests. I owe a lot to Hannah Tavares, Xu Di, Gay Reed, Baoyen Cheng, and Eileen Tamura for always pushing me to do better and think more critically. The attention to detail, the trust to create something new, and the faith they had in me made the most difficult part of the PhD program the most enjoyable.
What are your future plans?
I plan on applying for teaching/research faculty positions at UH and other U.S. universities. My desire is to be part of the UH/COE ʻohana and teach/research in liberation pedagogy, philosophy of education, indigenous studies, ethics, and diasporic studies. In addition, I would like to run a program that recruits and retain underserved and underrepresented groups within the COE. My vision is to integrate the community into the university and create a ‘Center for Popular Education and Ancestral Wisdom.’ It will be a place where the wisdom of the community encounters the theories of education to create new pedagogies to promote one’s cultural wealth and sees education as always critical and conscious.