University of Utah granted $1M for Pacific Islands Studies Program

Mar 29, 2022, 4:51 PM
University of Utah...
FILE PHOTO: Campus of the University of Utah. Photo credit: Jordan Allred, Deseret News.

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah received a $1 million grant from the Mellon Foundation. The School for Cultural and Social Transformation, known as Transform, will use the grant to support its Pacific Islands Studies Program. 

The U. said it would use the grant to expand the program with a graduate certificate, new faculty members, and a Center for Pasifika and Indigenous Knowledges.

“In a word, we’re overjoyed,” said Kathryn Bond Stockton, dean of the School for Cultural and Social Transformation. “This tremendous ongoing support from the Mellon Foundation will allow PI Studies faculty, staff, and community members to realize collective visions for how Indigenous knowledges will shape and enrich all who embrace them.”

The University of Utah and the Pacific Islander community

The university said it is in a unique position to support the Pacific Islander community, citing the size of the community in Utah. Salt Lake City has the highest proportion of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders of all U.S. cities, according to the Utah Department of Health.

“It is an immense privilege to be at an institution where none of us– students, faculty or staff –is the only Pacific Islander,” said Maile Arvin, co-principal investigator and director of Pacific Islands Studies.

“When we don’t have to prove to others that we exist or that the issues impacting our communities are not marginal, we have so much more space to pursue what interests us. The success of our program lies in the mutual support and relationships we continue to grow across our campus, our local communities, and our international networks,” Arvin said.

How the Mellon grant helped before

A Mellon grant helped move the PI Studies initiative forward in 2018, according to the school. 

The university said it hired five new faculty members that focus on PI Studies since beginning the initiative. It also developed an official interdisciplinary PI Studies Certificate that is available to students of any major according to the school.

Students outside of the program also have had the chance to engage in PI Studies in other ways.

A five-day intensive summer program, the Pasifika Scholars Bridge Program, is aimed at first-year and transfer students. The program sprouted the Pasifika Scholars Institute, which is a webinar series that runs through the school year.

What’s coming next

“We are excited to continue to offer Pacific Islands-focused programming for our students and PI communities near and far,” said Arvin. “One new venture will be producing a podcast that can highlight cutting-edge research and activism led by Pacific Islanders and other Indigenous peoples.”

Transform said it will use the next three years to build:

  • A graduate certificate; which the school said will help prepare students entering doctoral programs with a PI Studies focus.
  • A Center for Pasifika and Indigenous Knowledges; which the school said is the “next logical step” to organizing the PI Studies staff and students.
  • An International Network of Trans-Indigenous Scholars; which seeks to bring connection between PI and Native people.

“We warmly thank the Mellon Foundation for funding the meaningful work we’re extending with brand new plans,” Stockton said. “To be blessed with large and vital PI communities here—and expert faculty and staff to guide such communal exchange—is to be so grateful for a funding Foundation as eager as we are to deepen these ties.”

Related: BYU takes home National Landscaping Championship title




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University of Utah granted $1M for Pacific Islands Studies Program