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U. aims to build top Pacific Islander program

The University of Utah recently announced its intent to build the top Pacific Islander program in the continental United States.
The University of Utah recently announced its intent to build the top Pacific Islander program in the continental United States.
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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah recently announced its intent to build the top Pacific Islander program in the continental United States.

As part of the initiative, the U. is in the process of hiring two new full-time faculty in Pacific Islander studies and recently created a new scholarship aimed at recruiting and retaining talented Pacific Islander students.

Utah has the largest number of Pacific Islanders in the continental U.S. per capita, and U.S. Census figures show the population increased by more than 60 percent between 2000 and 2010. Pacific Islanders have lived continuously in Utah since 1870.

“Because of Utah’s long history with Pacific Islanders and the strong network of professionals, community groups and associations within the Pacific Islander community, the U. is well positioned to strengthen these partnerships and build the top program in the continental United States,” Adrian Viliami Bell, assistant professor in the U.’s department of anthropology and co-director of the Pacific Islander studies initiative, said in a statement.

Despite their strong presence in the state, Pacific Islanders make up one of the smallest proportions of the U.’s full-time students despite the fact that Pacific Islander high school students are graduating at rates equal to that of other ethnic groups in Utah.

The initiative will take a three-pronged approach: collaborating and serving the state’s Pacific Islander community; increasing the diversity of the university’s faculty by hiring scholars whose expertise lies in the area of Pacific Islander studies; and providing scholarships and mentorship opportunities to students of Pacific Islander backgrounds.

“We are fortunate to have a large and dynamic community of Pacific Islanders in Utah who are interested in working with the university,” Matt Basso, U. associate professor in gender studies and history and co-director of the Pacific Islander studies initiative, said in the statement. “We want this program to be defined by a collaborative and reciprocal relationship with the local Pacific Islander community and driven by their desires.”

To learn more about the initiative or to donate to the Pacific Islander scholarship, contact pacificislander@utah.edu.