Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sacramento State U. tracks recruitment and retention of Pacific Islanders, includes them with other Underrepresented Minorities

This week The State Hornet, Sacramento State University's student newspaper, published an article about the school's progress at retaining underrepresented minorities.  How do they define "underrepresented minority?" To quote the paper:

"Underrepresented minorities consist of African-Americans, 
Latinos, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans."

I was pleased to see Pacific Islanders included, given that U.S. Census data shows that Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are currently underrepresented, and have been for at least the past 20 years.

Digging deeper into the sources, I visited Sacramento State's website for their Office of Institutional Research.  (It was their data that the State Hornet was citing in its article on underrepresented minority retention.)  I was impressed! By visiting their website, you see the university's retention and graduation tracking for underrepresented minorities, as well as 1.) confirmation that they include Pacific Islanders as an underrepresented group, and 2.) even have tracking data specific to the retention and graduation of Pacific Islanders.  

You can see how it's done by visiting their website here


Friday, February 17, 2012

Pacific Islander American History: Oregon

In last week's post we mentioned the growing Marshallese community in Salem, Oregon, linking to articles in their local press.  While the influx of Marshallese immigrants to Oregon is a relatively new development, Pacific Islanders have called Oregon and other parts of the Pacific Northwest their home for over a century -- in fact, they were living in Oregon before Oregon became a state. 

As far back as the 1800s, Native Hawaiians have been immigrating to what is now Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.  Some returned to Hawaii, but others started families and made new lives for themselves in the western frontier.  To this day some parts of Oregon, like "Owyhee River" and "Kanaka Flat" still incorporate the use of the Hawaiian language (long ago "Owyhee" was a common spelling for "Hawaii" and "Hawaiian"). This reinforces a point we've made before: In addition to the fact that most Pacific Islander Americans are indigenous to land that is now the United States, we've been living in the continental US for well over a century. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pacific Islander America: Salem, Oregon

What are the three most commonly spoken second languages in the homes of public school kids living in Salem, Oregon? Spanish, Russian... and Marshallese.

In January of last year, we blogged about the growing Marshallese community in Northwest Arkansas. This January, a local paper in Salem, Oregon called attention to the same thing in their own community, noting that Marshallese is the third most commonly spoken second language. You can read that article here, which also links back to another article from a few years ago (also about the Marshallese in Oregon).  An updated article, which also mentions that approximately 22,000 Marshallese live in the 50 states, is available here.  That's nearly a third of the total population on the Marshall Islands. To draw a comparison, this would be like having 100 million Americans (a third of the US population) living in China or India.

If you want to learn more about the link between the Marshall Islands and the U.S., there are books, articles, and web resources out there. A quick primer on the Marshall Islands is available at the Department of State's website. Among other things, it notes the decades during which the Marshall Islands were administered by the USA as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. While the Marshall Islands is now a sovereign nation, it is in "free association" with the United States, so the Marshallese are able to travel or immigrate to the US with fewer restrictions than other sovereign nations.


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Pepper Spray and Higher Education

Mahalo to those of you who provided feedback about last week's post on the Pacific Islanders who were pepper sprayed by the police for performing the haka at a high school football game!  One of you made a good point: I failed to clearly state the connection between that incident and the PIA project's mission to expand higher education opportunities for Pacific Islander Americans. 

Half jokingly, I'd say that if you look at the video and read the articles, it appears that most of the chanters were teenagers or young adults, and it's hard for them to do their homework when they've got pepper spray burning their eyes. ;)

Sarcasm aside, here is the connection: While there's a difference between pepper spray and not being allowed to apply for underrepresented minority scholarships, the key is that these are negative things that could be avoided. This is a clear example that despite the fact that Pacific Islanders are an established and growing part of the American community, we remain misunderstood in ways that have negative consequences.   It's surprising that this happened at all, but it's even more shocking that this incident occurred in Utah, a state with one of the highest Pacific Islander concentrations in the nation.