Mr. Evile Feleti, an instructor with the Samoan Studies Institute (SSI) at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC), recently returned from Hawaii, where he participated in “Teaching Oceania: An International Workshop to Address Gaps in Undergraduate Resources for Instructors of Pacific Island Studies,” co-sponsored by the UH Manoa Center for Pacific Island Studies (CPIS), Kapiolani Community College (KCC) and Brigham Young University-Hawaii (BYU). During the workshop, Mr. Feleti collaborated with peers from across the Pacific region to produce interdisciplinary curriculum units for undergraduate courses in Pacific Studies focused on five areas where appropriate-level resources are sometimes hard to identify.
As an academic discipline relatively new to many American colleges and universities, Pacific Studies instructors can have difficulty finding appropriate teaching materials. Often a mix of scholarly sources and popular media, course literature and visual resources rarely come with teaching guides or intended learning outcomes. In response to this challenge, the Teaching Oceania participants worked to develop teaching modules on five themes: Islands and Islanders; Colonialism and Decolonization; Nuclear Testing/Militarism; Gender; and Arts and Literature of Oceania. The resulting modules will comprise a forthcoming “epub” or “iBook,” in other words a digital publication that instructors or anyone can easily access online.
CPIS Director Dr. Terence Wesley-Smith welcomed the workshop participants on the first day at KCC, followed by a traditional welcoming provided by KCC Pacific Studies employees. Over the next two days, the collaborators began assembling their individual topic summaries prepared prior to the Hawaii meeting to formulate the contents of the iBook. “We spent many hours working in groups to discuss, negotiate and carefully analyze each member’s perspectives on the selected topics,” recalled Mr. Feleti. “We also worked on solidifying Student Learning Outcomes for our chapters, as well as drafting introduction and conclusion sections.
Pacific Studies authorities working alongside Mr. Feleti included Dr. Delihna Ehmes M. (Chair of the Social Science Division at the College of Micronesia); Dr. Tevita Ka’ili (Chair of International Cultural Studies and World Languages at BYU Hawaii); Dr. James Viernes (Assistant Professor of Chamorro and History at Guam University); Dr. Greg Dvorag (Associate Professor of Pacific and Asian cultural studies and History in Tokyo at Hitotsubashi University); and Dr. Teresia Teaiwa (Senior Lecturer and Postgraduate Coordinator in the Pacific Studies Program in Va’aomanū Pasifika at Victoria University at Wellington).
Mr. Feleti, who in addition to serving as SSI department chairman, also teaches Pacific History (HIS 162) as an adjunct faculty for the Social Science Department, said his developing the latter course from the best possible resources stimulated his interest in the Teaching Oceania project. “For my own professional development, I wanted to become familiar with the most current teaching methodologies in this area,” he explained. He has high enthusiasm for the usefulness of the digital publication that will result from the project. “In due time, we will use the iBook in our Pacific History courses here at ASCC,” he said. “Currently, the iBook is in its final editing phases. We actually have one more month to finalize our chapters before they wrap up the project.”
“It’s been an ongoing struggle to establish the Pacific as a realm study in and of itself, and one big challenge with Pacific Studies today is finding the ‘corrective voices’ to literature and histories of the Pacific that only reflect the Eurocentric perspective,” said SSI Director Mrs. Okenaisa Fauolo-Manila. “Another challenge is being as comprehensive and inclusive as possible of all Pacific islands, which is why I like the thematic approach being taken by the Teaching Oceania iBook.”
Mr. Feleti thanked the SSI for their support of his trip to participate in Teaching Oceania, and especially to his colleagues in the Institute for covering his classes during his time in Hawaii. More information on courses focusing on Samoa and the Pacific can be found in the ASCC catalog, available for viewing online at: www.amsamoa.edu.