The University of Utah Pacific Islander Studies Initiative has three goals: to make the University of Utah the nation’s leader in Pacific Islander Studies through innovative transdisciplinary research and the creation of a cutting-edge academic program; to catalyze student and faculty diversity efforts at the University; and to collaborate with the historically under-served Pacific Island community in Utah – as well as Pacific Islanders in other parts of the American West and in the Pacific Islands – to address health and education disparities and other social justice issues.

Per-capita, Utah has the largest number of Pacific Islanders in the continental United States. The community continues to grow at a rapid rate, with U.S. Census figures showing the population increasing by more than sixty percent between 2000 and 2010 alone. Utah also has the continental U.S.’s most historically significant Pacific Island community. Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint have been active in the Pacific Islands since 1844, and Pacific Islanders have lived in Utah continuously since the late 1870s. This Utah community, initially comprised primarily of Native Hawaiians, now includes Tongans, Samoans, Fijians, Tahitians, Maori, Cook Islanders, Guamanian/Chamorro peoples, and people of virtually every other Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian heritage. Part of a diaspora, members of the community travel frequently between the American West and the Pacific and are tightly linked to other Pacific Islanders through shared traditions, religions, family practices, and business connections.

The Pacific Island Student Association, the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs, the Office of Equity and Diversity, and the University’s Pacific Island Faculty and Staff, along with their numerous allies, are very excited about the prospect of building a Pacific Island Studies program to support student recruitment, retention, and graduation efforts, as well as to serve the broader community. A network of Pacific Islanders who serve in key student support roles across campus including in the admissions office, the Diversity Scholars Program, the Communication Department, the Eccles School of Business, and Architecture are eager to help put in place a systematic Pacific Islander student success plan for every college in the University. We look forward to working with new Pacific Islander Studies faculty who are hired in the coming years to achieve these goals.

To learn more about Utah’s Pacific Island Community see: