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24 Marshallese Students Earn Master’s in Education from UH

PACMED’s third graduating cohort from the Republic of Marshall Islands (Photo credit: Wilmer Joel/Marshall Islands Journal)

Twenty-four students from the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) earned their master’s in education this summer through the PACMED (Pacific Master in Education) program in the College of Education at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. The new graduates are the third cohort from the RMI since 2017. PACMED supports Pacific Island educators in solving problems by providing a place-based, culturally responsive curriculum in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).

PACMED Director Deborah Zuercher, PACMED Operations Director Ivy Yeung, instructors and UH Mānoa Vice Provost for Academic Excellence Laura Lyons attended the graduation ceremony on July 29 at the University of South Pacific.

“Like the coconut tree, this third PACMED RMI cohort swayed in strong winds but was not broken,” said Zuercher. “They endured the strong winds of Covid, online teaching and learning, medical emergencies, health challenges and the loss of beloved family members.”

Bridging Traditional Wisdom with 21st Century Tools

The PACMED master’s degree in the Department of Curriculum Studies is a five-semester, 30-credit leadership program designed for Pacific Island educators and community leaders. Courses are delivered in a live online classroom using Zoom and Google Classroom Suite so participants are equipped to share these distance learning technologies in their Pacific regions.

Place-based Indigenous scholars partner with online instructors to ensure that the curriculum is relevant, engaging and culturally sustaining. PACMED strives to bridge precious traditional Pasifika wisdom with 21st century technology, knowledge, and skills.

Topics have included marine science, food security, organic gardening, climate change, computer applications, robotics, design engineering, ethnomathematics, and traditional cultural practices, such as weaving, fishing, canoe building, and navigation.

Expanded Access of Digital Courses

Since 2017, PACMED’s digital delivery of courses has expanded access to include more than 250 graduate students from across the Hawaiian Islands, American Sāmoa, RMI, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.

In 2019, the program graduated its first cohort of 17 Marshallese students. In 2022, there were 23 master’s degree graduates from RMI in PACMED’s second cohort.

Zuercher said, “There are now a total of 64 PACMED Marshallese master’s degree recipients to serve as beacons of light and hope in the Republic of Marshall Islands. We call them, ‘Agents of Change’ and are excited to see the positive difference they will make in their families, communities and nation.”

Over half of those who earned their PACMED degrees were either promoted or changed positions as a result of their new educational qualifications.

“PACMED is an outstanding model of how we can work together to meet educational needs in the Pacific,” said UH President David Lassner, who visited the Republic of Marshall Islands this past spring to meet with PACMED candidates and its public school system leadership.

A new cohort of 18 educators from RMI is currently enrolled to begin the program this fall. At the July 2023 graduation ceremony, leaders in RMI requested access to a UH Mānoa doctoral degree program and noted their desire to hire more place-based Marshallese instructors/consultants.

For more information about PACMED, go to the College of Education website.

PACMED RMI 3 Cohort, place-based instructors and the public school commissioners.

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