In Spring 2018, the UW launched a long overdue minor in Oceania and Pacific Islander Studies. This minor was the result of over 10 years of work by Pacific Islander students at UW; Professor Rick Bonus has been working with them every step of the way. American Indian Studies will be housing the minor, and the AIS department will be the administrator for students in the minor. Dr. Bonus, however, will be working as the interim director of the program during its first year. Bonus insists that it was students at UW that drew him into advocating for an Oceania and Pacific Islander Studies minor. As he explains it, “Their work is the American Ethnic Studies spirit in action. Students have shown us that advocacy comes from the bottom and not waiting for change.”
The minor will include courses in AIS, Anthropology, as well as Marine and Environmental Affairs. Several American Ethnic Studies courses will count toward the minor, including Hawaiian Literature, Filipino American History, and Asian American/Pacific Islander Literature. The minor was officially launched with a reception held at the Ethnic Cultural Center in February 2018. Bonus was in attendance, along with many other AES faculty and student leaders who helped to create a new platform for Pacific Islander students through the minor.
Bonus hopes that the minor will lay the groundwork to hire scholars trained in Pacific Islander Studies. Both Bonus and the students hope that Oceania and Pacific Islander Studies might become its own department someday, a department which would continue the work of representation, recognition, and visibility of Pacific Islander Studies at the University of Washington and beyond. Bonus is thrilled to celebrate the contributions of Pacific Islander students, both past and present, who led the movement to establish the minor: “We have to put the students front and center. They have fought for this and a lot of them are no longer here at the UW. We have to celebrate their love and insistence for changing the very place that misrecognizes them,” Bonus explains. “This is not the end of the story.”