Hawaiian Language Revitalization Movement Marks Milestone with First Two PhDs Awarded at UH Hilo Fall Commencement

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The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo will present two doctorates in Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization at fall commencement, to be held Saturday, December 18 at 9 a.m., at the New Gym. The honors go to Katarina Edmonds, a Maori educator from New Zealand, and Kauanoe Kamanā, the first of Native Hawaiian ancestry to receive the PhD awarded by UH Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language.

“The PhD is our highest academic honor and investing these two students with doctoral degrees is highly significant,” said UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney. “And as the first doctorate presented by the College of Hawaiian Language to a Native Hawaiian student, this event marks a major milestone in the history of UH Hilo and the island of Hawai‘i.”


Kamanā has over 30 years of personal and professional experience in Hawaiian language revitalization. She is a founding member of the non-profit `Aha Pūnana Leo, the leading language revitalization organization in the United States. She serves as the director of Ke Kula `O Nāwahīokalani’ōpu’u, the internationally renowned P-12 Hawaiian immersion laboratory school in Kea‘au, Hawai`i.

Kamanā’s dissertation is entitled “Mo‘oki‘ina Ho‘oponopono: Ke Ō O Ka ‘Ike Ku‘una Hawai‘i Ma Ke Kula ‘O Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu’u,” with a focus on traditional Hawaiian conflict resolution practices at the immersion school.

UH Hilo’s College of Hawaiian Language awarded its first PhD in December 2008 to Edmonds, who specializes in language proficiency assessment. She was unable to attend commencement ceremonies at conferment, and so will be honored along with Kamanā on December 18.

Edmonds first began teaching in a Maori immersion school in 1989, and established a program for the professional development of Maori medium education at the Language Institute and the School of Maori and Pacific Development at the University of Waikato. She also has served as a policy analyst and curriculum facilitator at the New Zealand Ministry of Education National Office. She currently holds a post-doctoral fellowship at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi.

Edmonds’s dissertation determined the reliability and validity of proficiency tests in writing.

Submitted by Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, Director Media Relations, University of Hawai`i at Hilo