The University of Utah Pacific Islands Studies Initiative’s mission is to create a vital academic ecosystem, wherein Pacific Islander faculty, staff, students and community can thrive personally, professionally, and emotionally.

Our vision is that the University of Utah will be the premiere academic institution for Pacific Islands scholarship.

At the center of the Pacific Islands Studies Initiative is a commitment to recruit and retain Pacific Islander students to the University of Utah through curricular pathways, mentoring, and career planning; encourage Pacific Islands students to engage in critical thought, particularly from an Indigenous Pacific perspective; challenge students to engage in scholarship and research that will create and cultivate knowledge; and assist students in maintaining strong connections to family, spirituality, and culture recruit and retain Pacific Islands studies faculty, and staff to the University of Utah through advocacy for faculty and staff development and advancement.

November 2016

Pacific Islander faculty and staff from across campus connected with community leaders at the U’s first Pacific Islander Symposium which celebrated the launch of the Pacific Islander initiative. The initiative will take a three-pronged approach: Collaborating and serving the state’s Pacific Islander community, increasing the diversity of the university’s faculty by hiring scholars whose expertise lies in the area of Pacific Islander studies and providing scholarships and mentorship opportunities to students of Pacific Islander backgrounds.

July 2017

Current Pacific Islander research at the U spans across campus, focusing on health, education, linguistics, cultural studies, social work and more. Drs. Maile Arvin (Gender Studies, History) and Hokulani Aikau (Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies) were hired as two new Pacific Islander studies faculty.

October 2018

The newly named Pacific Islands Studies initiative received a $600,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The three-year grant will be used to expand and promote an “academic ecosystem” at the U focused on three goals: recruiting and retaining students who are Pacific Islanders, advancing interdisciplinary and humanistic approaches to Pacific Islander research and teaching, and building meaningful relationships with Pacific Islander communities in the Salt Lake City area.

August 2019

Angela L. Robinson (Wito clan of Chuuk, Micronesia) joined the University of Utah in August of 2019 as the inaugural Pasifika Post-Doctoral Fellow, part of the Pacific Islands Studies Initiative through the Mellon Foundation. She brings with her a newly-obtained doctorate degree in Gender Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles.

August 2020

Starting in the Fall 2020 Semester, the University of Utah is offering an Interdisciplinary Certificate in Pacific Islands (PI) Studies. The certificate is open to all majors and coursework will explore the geography, history culture, politics and contemporary concerns of the Indigenous Pacific and the global Pacific Islander diaspora.