Samoan Product Designer, Pou Dimitrijevich | Advocating for Pacific Islander representation in tech and design

“I remind myself that my presence in tech is empowerment on it’s own. If you are a Pacific Islander in the tech industry, remember that visibility and representation sometimes is the best thing we can do for our community.”

First generation college graduate and Product Designer, Pou Dimitrijevich, talks about handling perceptions of identity, culture shock in college and her experience as a Samoan woman in Silicon Valley. She hopes to eventually bring design and tech spaces to her hometown of Salelologa, Savai’i. 

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Alina Fa'aola | Mentoring Pacific Islander Students Through the Oakland Pacific Islander Network

Alina Fa’aola, born and raised in Los Angeles and of Samoan and Mexican descent, talks about her academic journey and her passion for cultivating leaders in a new program, Oakland Pacific Islander Network. Through this initiative, she hopes to help young Pacific Islander students in Oakland develop their leadership skills.

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Samoan MBChB, Mosana Evagelia | Raising Pasifika Health Awareness in Aotearoa

Samoan MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) at the University of Otago, Mosana Evagelia, shares her experience pursuing a medical degree and her insight on the health disparities for Māori and Pasifika communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. She hopes to educate health professionals on the importance of cultural competency and raise Pasifika health awareness in her community.

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Tongan scientist, Dr. Afa K. Palu, PhD | “Modern science illuminates the intelligence of our ancestors”

Dr. Afa Palu shares some highlights of his educational and scientific work: his leading research on Pacific Islander U.S. high school dropouts, the creation of an education radio talk show and his extensive research on the health benefits of the noni (Morinda citrifolia L.), a plant native to the Pacific and elsewhere. He hopes to see more Pacific Islander students embracing the academic challenge of pursuing college and recognizing the multitude of pathways to higher education.

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Fijian PhD, Dr. Sereana Naepi | Researching Pasifika Women in Higher Education

Raised in Aotearoa New Zealand and currently living in British Columbia to finish her PhD, Sereana Naepi talks about her journey through academia, her research findings on the experiences of Pasifika women in academia in the face of sexism and racism, and her thoughts on the designation “Asian Pacific Islander.” Soon returning to Aotearoa to work with young Pacific academics, she hopes to inspire more Pasifika scholars to pursue leadership positions in order to enable meaningful community-oriented change in higher education.

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South Pacific Islander Organization: 501c3 dedicated to Pacific Islander diversity and inclusion

South Pacific Islander Organization, a nonprofit led by Pacific Islanders and allies for Pacific Islanders, was recently granted 501(c)(3) status. The nonprofit is ready to launch its first Pacific Islander diversity and inclusion programs: an e-mentorship program, scholarships and directory of international educational resources for Pacific Islanders. Contribute to community change and find ways to get involved.

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First-Generation Tongan Law Student, Jullian Sekona | Breaking Pacific Islander Stereotypes

First-generation law student, Jullian Sekona, shares her experience as the only Tongan at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. Currently employed at Barulich Dugoni and Suttmann Law Group, Inc. in San Mateo, she hopes to see more Pacific scholars pursuing law degrees in order to provide more resources and representation for their community.

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Black and Samoan First-Generation Stanford Alumna, Teyonna Jarman | “Stay Rooted in Culture”

Teyonna Jarman talks about her multicultural identity and her experience as a first-generation college student. Now a Stanford alumna with a B.S. in Product Design, she plans on pursuing opportunities at the intersection of tech, entertainment and education. She hopes to see more students embracing and feeling empowered by their multicultural identities.

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First-Generation Kānaka Maoli Stanford Student, Jaysha Kuuipoaloha Alonzo-Estrada | Using Community Resources as a Tool for Academic Empowerment

First-generation Native Hawaiian Stanford student, Jaysha Kuuipoaloha Alonz-Estrada, talks about changing majors, following her path and utilizing community resources in high school and in college (4-H, College Horizons, Leland Scholars Program, Muwekma Tah-Ruk) to empower her throughout her academic career.

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Director of Mana at College of San Mateo, Finausina T. Tovo | Validating Oceania Student Voices in Higher Education

Finausina Tovo talks about her transition from student-athlete to scholar, the importance of giving Pacific Islanders a voice in higher education and the Mana program’s effect on Pacific scholars. Using her research in California Community Colleges, she hopes to empower more students to pursue all their educational options and demand community at their school.

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Tongan PhD in Developmental Studies, Faka'iloatonga Taumoefolau | “Remember that college isn’t the only means to a fulfilling life”

Tongan PhD candidate, Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau, shares his academic path throughout the South Pacific, motivations for pursuing graduate degrees and advice for students pursuing higher education.

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Fijian entrepreneur with M.A. in Gerontology, Ana Jones | Launching an app that connects elders with caregivers

Community-minded Fijian entrepreneur, Ana Jones, talks about her transition from the British to the U.S. education system, how she serendipitously fell into her professional field and how she is working to improve the lives of elders through her business, Phlex65. She hopes to see more Pacific scholars using their degrees to solve community problems.

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Tongan-American valuation analyst, Daniel Tonga: “Take advantage of local resources”

Daniel Tonga grew up in Kansas City with his Tongan-Hawaiian father and Puerto Rican mother. After going on his mission in Utah, he forged strong community ties and a desire to finish his college degree. He recently graduated from University of Utah in May 2019. He drew much motivation and inspiration to pursue higher education from his grandfather - a true trailblazer - who migrated from Tonga at age 16 to pursue his degree in Electrical Engineering at BYU and eventually worked at Ford, Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin. Daniel showcases grit and determination as he worked nearly full-time while finishing up his degree. He aims to pursue a career mixing finance and entrepreneurship.

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UCLA’s Pacific Islands' Student Association (PISA) | Addressing Pacific Islander Educational Disparities in Los Angeles

UCLA’s PISA is one of the nation’s leading Pacific Islander (PI) higher education student groups. Since 1986, PISA has been fighting against Pacific Islander stereotypes, strengthening its community, and going out into the Los Angeles area to empower high school students to pursue higher education. With Pacific Islander college graduation rates below the national average and with Pacific Islander scholars representing less than 1% across all University of California (UC) institutions, PISA is working to improve those statistics through their impactful community programming. Karla Blessing Sāvaliolefilemū Thomas, president of UCLA’s PISA and Pacific Islander community leader, talks about the group’s history, programs, and the importance of PI representation in higher education.

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Tongan EdD Student and Gates Millennium Scholar, Anita Kiteau-Tuiaki | Conducting Research on the First-Year Experience of Pacific Islander College Students

Raised by her maternal grandparents in Tonga, Anita shares her experience transitioning to school in the U.S., drawing motivation to pursue higher education from her elders, and receiving the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship to fund her college and graduate degrees. Now in her last year of her EdD program at Northcentral University, she looks forward to sharing her research on the first-year college experience of Pacific Islanders in order to find ways to increase their college graduation rates.

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I-Kiribati and Tuvaluan PhD, Dr. Buriata Eti Tofinga | “Be daring and strategic in pursuing a graduate degree”

Of I-Kiribati and Tuvaluan descent, Buriata Eti Tofinga grew up in Bikenibeu, a small village on the island of Tarawa in Kiribati. After completing her undergraduate degree at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, she pursued a Masters degree at University of Sydney and a PhD from the University of the South Pacific. She now lives in Kuala Lumpur and works as a Lecturer at Monash University where she teaches and conducts research in the field of management and entrepreneurship. She hopes to see more Pacific Islander scholars pursuing careers in academia, because Pacific Islander representation in leadership matters.

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