The Pasifika Ambassadors Program is part of Transform’s Pacific Island Studies Initiative. Specifically designed for undergraduate students who have interests or commitment to Pacific Islander communities and PI studies, the program provides the unique opportunity to work and learn with Pacific Islands Studies professors, staff, and community leaders. Furthermore, the ambassadors take part of professional development workshops and hands-on experience with the goal of enriching their practical knowledge and skills. This, in turn, enhances their academic and social experiences at the U.
The 2020-2021 cohort of Pasifika Ambassadors are busy working on various projects. Learn more about them here:
Olivia Joylani Kavapalu
Joy is a junior studying Health, Society and Policy & International Studies with a certificate in Pacific Islands Studies. In addition to Joy’s involvement in the Pasifika Ambassador program, she currently serves as a member of the Council on Student Access and a College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Ambassador. Throughout her time at the U, Joy has also been actively involved with the Bennion Center, which encouraged her to pursue more equitable solutions to systemic problems including providing affordable health care, mitigating climate change, and promoting racial equity. Raised in the local, thriving Pacific Islander community, Joy is passionate about helping fellow underrepresented students access college and the various opportunities it provides. She is also particularly excited to engage with local residents to create community-based solutions to address various issues in Salt Lake. As a Pasifika Ambassador, Joy is working with University Neighborhood Partners.
Will is a sophomore here at the University of Utah studying Biology and Chemistry. Other than his involvement in the Pasifika Ambassadors Program he is also a board member of Pacific Islander Student Association, is an International student Ambassador as well as being part of the Greek community on campus and is a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. Community work is one of Will’s passions, he is a part time volunteer CNA at Primary Children’s Hospital and also volunteers weekly at Urban Center’s food bank in Salt Lake City who mostly caters the homeless. Will’s passions are largely driven by his interest to be a health care provider and to serve the underprivileged. Will also enjoys playing rugby, swimming and playing the ukulele. As a Pasifika Ambassador, Will is working with the Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition (UPIHC) and West Valley City Council.
Lehua Kono is currently a Junior at the University of Utah where she is double majoring in International Studies and Asian Studies with a minor in Sociology and a Pacific Islands Studies Certificate. Due to her interest in health disparities, Lehua is currently assisting a research project focusing on the amount images of People of Color used at the UofU Medical School in portraying various health conditions. Through the Pasifika Ambassadors Program, she has been able to connect with her Pacific Islander heritage and make more connections within the local community. On-campus, Lehua is the External Vice President of the Asian-American Student Association (AASA). Through her position, she is responsible for interacting and making connections with organizations on and off campus. After completing her Bachelors degrees she hopes to attend graduate school to focus on global health and research health disparities. As a Pasifika Ambassador, Lehua is working with Pasifika First Fridays.
To learn more about the Pacific Island Studies Initiative’s Pasifika Ambassadors Program, visit https://transform.utah.edu/pi-studies/pasifika-ambassadors/.