Saturday, January 16, 2016

New E-Booklet on Underrepresented Minority Scholarships and Fellowships for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders

Aloha mai kākou,

About half a decade ago, the Pacific Islander Access project formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation focused on increasing higher education access for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders ("Pacific Islanders").  For most of our time, especially in the beginning, our focus was on educating people about the exclusion of Pacific Islanders from underrepresented minority programs, and persuading those programs to change their policies. In our first three years, we persuaded 13 scholarships and fellowships to change their policies, which amounted to over $1.1 million in additional financial aide now available to Pacific Islanders. At that point, our sample of underrepresented minority programs suggested that inclusion of PIs -- once the exception -- appears to be becoming the norm. 

Seeing that evolution, we realized that our energy needed to shift as well, and focus equally on raising awareness among Pacific Islanders about the underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships that they are now eligible for.  The main product we wanted to produce to do this was a simple e-booklet. 

It is with pride and pleasure that we are announcing the publication of that booklet, which we are attaching to this post. It includes:

- A description of the Pacific Islander Access project,  
- Information on Underrepresented Minority Scholarships and Fellowships that are open to Pacific Islanders, 
- Information on those URMSFs that are still not open to PIs, and  
- Some suggestions for those PIs who want to contact the scholarships that still ignore the underrepresentation of PIs.

I want to thank the board and our volunteers who helped develop the booklet. It would not have been possible without them, especially Karin Karpin and Lorinda Riley. Please take a look and share your thoughts with us. And especially -- share the information with others! 

Click here to see the e-booklet: link

Mahalo nui loa,


Monday, September 08, 2014

P.I.A. project comments on Native Hawaiian self-governance rule making

Aloha Readers!

It's been a while since our last post, which announced that I was taking a break after a successful year of persuading over a dozen underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships to allow Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders to apply.

We've been talking to a number of people and organizations as we determine our next steps. We hope to have more to share in the near future.

In the meantime, I wanted to share how we weighed in on an important potential action by the federal government. First some background:

 Native Hawaiians are the indigenous people of Hawaii. They are the only major indigenous groups (the others being American Indians and Alaska Natives) that lack a government to government relationship with the United States. Worse yet, there isn't even a process by which Native Hawaiians can enter into a government to government relationship, if that's what they want. Even more troubling, this lack of a clear federal policy leaves Native Hawaiian serving programs under constant legal and political attacks.

The Obama Administration recently announced that it is considering ending this inequity through the federal rule making process. Native Hawaiians and and non-Hawaiians have given passionate comments on both sides of the issue. The P.I.A. project thought that it was important enough for us to  weigh in on our reasons for strongly supporting ending this disparity, protecting existing rights and resources, and paving the way for greater self-determination in a manner consistent with existing law.

For those interested, here is a link to our comment: link

Malama Pono,


Saturday, February 08, 2014

CEO taking blogging sabbatical as P.I.A. project considers next steps

Much has changed since the Pacific Islander Access project was incorporated in November of 2010.  After turning our blog into a one-stop-shop for information on Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander underrepresentation in higher education, we completed a national study which demonstrated that most underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships were misclassifying Pacific Islanders (thereby inadvertently excluding an underrepresented minority group from applying to underrepresented minority programs).

From there we split our efforts in two: first and foremost, educating the scholarships and fellowships that were misclassifying Pacific Islanders, and encouraging them to open their programs up.  Secondly, we maintained this blog as a place to find news and commentary about America's growing Pacific Islander community.

On the first measure, we are proud to have made wonderful progress.  The P.I.A. project persuaded thirteen scholarships and fellowships to change or clarify their policies towards Pacific Islanders. In total, these programs provide an average of over $1.1 million in financial aid each year, and now Pacific Islanders have equal access to those funds.

Another way to look at our impact is to assess the percentage of programs that still misclassify Pacific Islanders. In 2012, our research indicated that 56 percent of underrepresented minority programs excluded Pacific Islanders from applying. Today that number is just 30 percent, or less than one in three.  

Inclusion is now the norm, with 54 percent of the scholarships and fellowships recognizing that all Pacific Islanders are underrepresented, and another 16 percent recognizing that some groups (such as Native Hawaiians or Samoans) are underrepresented. 70 percent -- nearly three in four programs -- are either all the way there or part of the way there. It should have been this way all along, but until this last year, exclusion was the norm.

Our second area of focus (sharing news and commentary) had a less direct impact, but we're proud of what we've done there as well. Since incorporating in 2010 we've published roughly 150 blog posts, created special web pages for our target population (underrepresented minority programs considering correcting the way they classify Pacific Islanders), and even published a column in the biggest and most influential higher education publication in the nation. We made it easier than ever for underrepresented minority programs to make the right decision about including Pacific Islanders, and we came up with simple and straightforward ways for Pacific Islander parents and students to share data to support their arguments for inclusion. Those are big changes.

It's undeniable that during my three years as CEO and President of the P.I.A. project, my life has changed as well.  When we first incorporated, Lorinda and I were newlyweds living in Washington, DC. Since then we completed our graduate degrees, became parents, worked in a few different places, and brought a number of wonderful students and professionals into our work with this important nonprofit.  One of our interns became our Vice President, graduated from GWU, and is now on her way to becoming a medical doctor. Another founding board member also earned his bachelors, masters, and is now a Naval Officer working in DC. Both of them have stayed with our organization  the whole way through, and it's been inspiring to see them develop.

This winter Lorinda and I fulfilled a long-sought goal by bringing our two-year-old son back to Hawaii, where we now live full time.  Our family is getting bigger, and my day job has too: I'm now the director of a multifaceted and fast-paced advocacy department serving Native Hawaiians.  My responsibilities at home and at work has becoming increasingly consuming.  These have been wonderful changes, but they've left little time to run an all-volunteer nonprofit with the dual responsibilities of CEO and President of the Board.

After talking it over with my family and our board, I've decided to take a self-imposed "blogging sabbatical" as our little all-volunteer nonprofit considers our next steps. I believe there's still much more work to be done, but I also think that it's time for me to step back as CEO and refocus on my responsibilities as a board member.  After taking the time we need to decide the P.I.A. project's next steps, I expect that we'll start the appropriate search; whether that means hiring a new CEO or joining forces with another organization that serves Pacific Islanders.

What does that mean for you, our readers? Far fewer blog posts, for the time being, and a new direction in 2014.  We'll continue to do our outreach work (though at a slower pace), and maintain our pages with all the facts necessary to understand why Pacific Islanders should be eligible for underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships.

And for our most supportive readers and allies, it means that we hope you'll send us your suggestions and ideas about where we should go next. Do you know of a like minded organization that we should reach out to? An aspiring community leader who we should consider for our next CEO? Do you have a topic that relates to our mission that you'd like to write about on our blog? Let us know.

And lastly, mahalo nui loa to all of you who have shown such tremendous support for the Pacific Islander Access project over the past three years.  I'm especially grateful to our all-volunteer board, to our past interns, and to everyone who's shared positive feedback as we struggled along the winding road toward progress. It's been an incredible honor to have the chance and ability to make a difference through this little nonprofit. And the best is yet to come.