UH Manoa Native Hawaiian law center receives $1.2 million to advance new programs

Federal grant supports student and graduate fellows in research, scholarship and community outreach

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Aug 2, 2006

HONOLULU — Dean Aviam Soifer of the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa recently announced the school‘s receipt of a federal grant of $1.2 million to continue the work of the Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law at the School of Law.

The Center, now in its second year, is using a portion of these funds to launch groundbreaking fellowship programs that support students and recent graduates in their research, scholarly writing, and discourse on Native Hawaiian law. The first-ever Post-Juris Doctor Research Fellowship Program, beginning this summer, enables recent law graduates to undertake cutting-edge research and to publish works through the Center for use by Native Hawaiian communities, scholars, and the public. The Center recently named Iokona Baker (‘06 JD), Leʻa Kanehe (‘01 JD, ‘98 BA) and Trisha Kehaulani Watson (‘03 JD, ‘99 BA) as the first Research Fellows. The Center also launched its inaugural Post-Juris Doctor Community Outreach Fellowship Program that supports Kelli Lee (‘06 JD) in developing outreach programs for Native Hawaiian youth and community members. The Center‘s fellowships are the only ones of their kind.

"The Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law is breaking new ground in promoting legal research and scholarship, as well as by providing outreach and a forum for intensive examination of legal issues affecting Native Hawaiians," commented Soifer. "We are very grateful, and proud of its vital ramifications for Hawaiʻi and for the world far beyond our shores."

The Center was established at the School of Law in 2005 under a federal grant administered by the U.S. Department of Education. The Center focuses on education, research, community outreach, and the preservation of invaluable historical, legal, and traditional and customary materials.

In its first year, under the direction of Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie (‘76 JD), the Center worked closely with Soifer and the Center‘s advisory board to undertake wide-ranging programs to educate law students and the greater Hawaiʻi community on issues. The Center‘s Student Fellowship Program provided six law students (Cherise Agua-Andrews, Amita Aung-Thwin, Scott Hovey, Brengyei Katosang, Lance Larson and Kaʻanoʻi Walk) with stipends to work on legal issues at Native Hawaiian organizations. The Center also is offering new courses at the School of Law on both Native Hawaiian and Native American law, and it will organize and host a number of conferences and events during the next academic year designed to deepen broad understanding of Native Hawaiian legal issues.

According to MacKenzie, "As part of our responsibility to the Native Hawaiian community and to future generations, the Center seeks to support Native Hawaiian law students as they pursue leadership roles and to serve as an educational resource—for both Native Hawaiians and the broader public—that is far-reaching and long-lasting."

The Center recently hired Susan Serrano (‘98 JD) as the Director of Educational Development and expects to hire additional faculty to teach and to lead community outreach efforts. The Center recently produced the first guide to Native Hawaiian legal materials, now available at the School of Law library.

Soifer added, "The School of Law very much appreciates the efforts of our entire congressional delegation, and particularly Senator Inouye, in securing and defending the funding for this vitally important initiative."

For more information, visit: http://www.hawaii.edu/law