Saturday, December 01, 2012

The P.I.A. project turns two!

Aloha!  Last month marked two years since the Pacific Islander Access project incorporated as a nonprofit.  On this occasion, I wanted to revisit why we were founded, and consider the progress we've made towards our goals.

Here are short summaries in those areas.

I also want to thank all of you for reading! And of course, to our all-volunteer board (Lorinda, Bryce, Karin), our past interns (Dusty and Karin), and all of our supporters.

The P.I.A. project

Why we were founded: The P.I.A. project was founded to be the vehicle for fixing a specific problem: Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in higher education, but they can't apply to most academic programs for underrepresented minorities. We want to raise awareness about this disconnect, and work with the leaders at underrepresented minority programs so this problem can be solved, one scholarship at a time.

Why does it matter: The exclusion of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders from underrepresented minority scholarships matters because education matters. Education is a path to prosperity, well-being, and opportunity. It's no coincidence that America's underrepresented minority groups also have the poorest health outcomes and the highest poverty rates. Pacific Islanders already have the challenges that are associated with being an underrepresented minority. Why should they also be excluded from the programs that were designed to help them?

Our Model: The P.I.A. project is something of an experiment. Can a nonprofit run entirely by volunteers, with a budget of a few hundred dollars a year, make a difference on a national scale if they focus their resources on solving a specific problem that holds back a community in need? We started as a small, focused, all-volunteer organization, and today that's still what we are.

Our Goals

1.) Make the facts about Pacific Islander underrepresentation available 

Done, and we're doing more!

That's what this blog, and all of the resources on this website are all about. We've developed a special section to help underrepresented minority programs learn about Pacific Islanders, a 101 for all of our readers, and weekly posts about America's growing Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander community.

2.) Raise awareness of the growing recognition of Pacific Islander underrepresentation

Done, and again, we're doing more!

Through this website, our readers have seen that between 2004 and 2012, the percentage of underrepresented minority programs that recognized Pacific Islanders increased from 21 to 28 percent.  More notably, they saw that since we started contacting those programs a few months ago, that percentage grew again from 28 to 32 percent.

We have a long ways to go, but it's clear that the momentum is on our side.

We've also shared information about universities that recognize that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented, including UCLA, USC, and others.

3.) Complete a national study on which underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships do or don't recognize Pacific Islander underrepresentation


This summer, we completed a national study to measure the extent to which underrepresented minority programs recognize that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented. Looking at 50 scholarships and fellowships, we found that only 28 percent of them recognize that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented -- despite over two decades of data confirming that they are.

That number should be 100 percent, but as we mentioned earlier, this was is an increase from 2004, where another national study found that only 21 percent recognized Pacific Islanders.

4.) Persuade underrepresented minority programs that don't recognize Pacific Islander underrepresentation to change their policies

Just getting started, but we're already getting things done!

After completing our national study, we started reaching out to the underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships that don't recognize Pacific Islander underrepresentation -- yet.  We introduced the P.I.A. project, shared the data, and asked that they change their policies.

So far, two of them already have: the HBCU Minority Scholarship and the Actuarial Diversity Scholarship.

We're still communicating with their peers, and we hope that more and more will follow their lead.

5.) Connect Pacific Islanders with the underrepresented minority programs that they can already apply to

We still have to get this done, but we have plans! 

After we've done more to increase Pacific Islander access to underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships, we want to transition towards a new goal: connecting Pacific Islander students with the scholarships and fellowships that already want to help them.

We will take a step in this direction in 2013, when we publish a list of the 50 scholarships and fellowships that were in our 2012 study.  We'll make sure that our youth and their parents know which underrepresented minority programs they can apply to.


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