“Oceania is vast, Oceania is expanding, Oceania is hospitable and generous, Oceania is us. We are the sea, we are the ocean.” – Epeli Hau’ofa
The Mana Program is built by these words written by Epeli Hau’ofa. Mana is dedicated to serving Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) students navigating their way through higher education. The ocean represents our diverse and connecting cultures as we all come together to share in struggles, experiences, and accomplishments within the college landscape. If you would like to learn more about how Mana came to be, keep reading.
Pacific Islander subgroups have been hiding under the all-encompassing Asian Pacific Islander (API) census data for decades. The 2000s saw a push to disaggregate that data to see how the diverse subgroups were performing when it came to academic performance. The results found that very few Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders were earning associate degrees and were transferring to four-year institutions (read more here). Thus, Mana was born to aid in filling the equity gap. The Mana Program first started at the College of San Mateo in 2012, spearheaded by Finausina Tovo, and has since spread to four other college campuses in California including, El Camino College, Chabot College, MiraCosta College, and Long Beach City College. Each program differs in terms of resources and how it is run, but all are dedicated to student development and supporting students so that they can achieve their academic goals.
The Mana Program has a very big emphasis on mentoring. All students are placed in mentoring families led by the head mentor and a peer mentor. These mentors are either staff, faculty, or community members that are experts in their fields who identify as NHPI. Peer mentors are composed of fellow students who went through the program and have since transferred to continue working towards their academic goals. Students have greatly benefited from these connections as it allows them to network with professionals as well as give them a built-in support system.
The Mana Program is dedicated to student development and community. While COVID-19 prevented us from connecting in person, it did not stop us from fostering virtual relationships, it helped the Mana program grow its reach. For example, this past April, in celebration of Earth Week, the Mana community was able to invite Craig-Santos Perez, a Chamorro poet, and professor at Univerity of Hawai’i at Manoa as well as the former President of Kiribati, Anote Tong to speak with students and the campus community about the importance of climate change in the Pacific. Students helped facilitate these events which contributed to their understanding of and development as student leaders. In addition, Mana attempts to provide students access to the outside community. Many students have been featured in both national and international academic conferences such as the Asain Pacific Americans in Higher Education (APAHE) conference and the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO) conference which featured undergraduate students for the first time in its history!
Looking to the Future
Mana is always looking to expand their reach and provide the latest and best resources and support for students. This upcoming year, the Mana community is looking to collaborate on a statewide event that links all programs. In addition, the individual programs are all are working diligently to provide new experiences and knowledge to their students. For example, Mana at MiraCosta College now offers a Pacific Island Dance and an Introduction to Pacific Studies course!
The Fall semester is fast approaching with the College of San Mateo starting August 15, MiraCosta College on August 23, and El Camino College on August 28, 2021. It is not too late to apply! Click the button below to join Mana and get started on your academic journey today!