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Tuesday, November 7, 2000


UH Center for
Pacific Islands Studies to
celebrate 50th anniversary

By Suzanne Tswei

The Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, which is the only academic program in the country focusing on the Pacific islands, celebrates its 50th anniversary next week.

The celebrations will include free performances by dancers, artists and poets from the Oceania Dance Theater of Fiji's University of the South Pacific and a four-day conference to examine the future of Pacific islands studies.

The free performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at Bakken auditorium, Mid-Pacific Institute. A free poetry reading to launch a CD and book of poetry will be held at 7 p.m., Nov. 16 at Church of the Crossroads, 1212 University Ave.

At the conference, experts from the Pacific, the United States and Europe will discuss the region's issues. Representatives are expected from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Guam, American Samoa, New Zealand, Hawaii and Australia.

The conference, "Honoring the Past, Creating the Future" scheduled for Nov. 14-18 at the Imin Conference Center, is open to the public. Cost is $25; free to students. Call 956-7700 for more information.

The center was established following World War II, after the United States acquired the bulk of administrative responsibilities for Micronesia, center director Robert Kiste said. The administrative offices for Micronesia were set up at Fort Ruger in the early 1950s, and experts in Hawaii were tapped to help with planning and administration.

"Hawaii was called upon to help with difference programs for Micronesia. Calls for help often came to the university ... for economic assessment, appraisal of the education system, the political situation and a number of other things," Kiste said.

The chairman of the university's anthropology department, Leonard Mason, was working in Micronesia after the war and became the center's first director, Kiste said.

The center's second director, Norman Meller, a political scientist, helped to design the constitution for Micronesia.

The center began as a seminar for a handful of faculty and students concentrating on the Pacific. Today the faculty numbers three dozen, specializing in the history, language, economics, politics, science, culture and art of the Pacific islands, Kiste said. In all, including science faculty and researchers who conduct work in the Pacific Islands, the university has about 200 experts on the region, he said.

"UH has the largest aggregate of faculty that are Pacific islands specialists in the world. We are by far the largest. This is an area that UH is unsurpassed," Kiste said.

The center also publishes the "foremost contemporary journal" on the region, Kiste said. The twice-a-year publication is the only journal in the world that focuses on the Pacific Islands' current events, he said.

In addition, the center also helps train seventh-grade teachers for the state Department of Education to teach Pacific islands studies in the public schools.

Ka Leo O Hawaii
University of Hawaii

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