Native Hawaiian Interdisciplinary Health Program: Decolonizing Academic Space, Curriculum, and Instruction

Michael C. DeMattos


In Spring of 2012, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, John A. Burns School of Medicine, Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence, and the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work Baccalaureate Program partnered and created the Native Hawaiian Interdisciplinary Health program to address the dearth of Native Hawaiians in the helping professions. The program has three main objectives: (a) expose students to interdisciplinary experiences similar to what they would encounter in the “real world,” (b) introduce students to an inquiry-based learning model rooted in both the needs and strengths of the client system, and (c) help Native Hawaiian students recognize their Indigenous identity as valuable and crucial to the formation of their professional identity. While qualitative data reveal the program to be effective, it may be more valuable as a platform from which to explore academic decolonization and the Indigenization of academic space, curriculum, and instruction. Key to this effort is the rupturing of current colonial practices that inhibit the learning of both the Indigenous student and the [often] non-Indigenous instructor; confronting the positionality of the instructor as purveyor of white western hegemony; and creating new subjectivities for both instructors and students through reflective learning, engaged dialogue, and mentorship.


decolonizing social work; Indigenous social work; interdisciplinary education; Indigenous identity in helping professions

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