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Writing History: Moana 'Ulu'ave, AIE'14

When entering the Ed School last fall, Moana Fololini 'Ulu’ave jokes that her first goal was just to finish.

Moana Uluave
When entering the Ed School last fall, Moana Fololini ‘Ulu’ave jokes that her first goal was just to finish. Having accomplished that – as well as her second goal of making connections with people – ‘Ulu’ave will return home to Salt Lake City, Utah to continue contemplating her third goal involving her Tongan-American heritage.

“My third goal was to learn how to create a writing center that would serve people in my community as well as document stories and myths and create a space that housed this oral history knowledge,” she says. “[But] I’ve added goals along the way and the writing center seems a little ways off. I need to do a few things in the meantime, maybe get a Ph.D. or write a novel or participate in the Pacific Islander Movements that are happening in the diaspora.”

Deeply committed to her Tongan-American community, ‘Ulu’ave says she wants to “get back to the people” and continue to write about their culture and history.

“All year Moana has moved and challenged us with her thoughtfulness, her unique perspectives, and her profound humanity,” says Lecturer Steve Seidel, faculty director of the Arts in Education Program. “It is wonderfully appropriate for her to receive this ‘intellectual contribution’ award, but an essential element of her contribution has been to remind all of us that intellectual life can never be separated from our interior and emotional life, our community life, and our ethics. As a brilliant writer and storyteller, she has also made magnificent contributions to our cultural life — which, of course, is also inseparable from our intellectual life. She also made us laugh a lot.”

Upon learning that she had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for Arts in Education, ‘Ulu’ave answered some questions about her time at the Ed School and beyond.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? A master’s degree to me is like acquiring another language and with that acquisition comes a lot of privileges especially since that degree has a big crimson H stamped on it. I get to take that throughout my career whether as an educator or academic or artist, functioning as a translator. Translators have responsibilities too. I have to make sure the information is accurate and that the correct messages are being conveyed between communities and within communities. Consequently, HGSE gave me more ways to speak with people about education and gives people a way to understand me as well.

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School? [Senior Lecturer] Karen Mapp. Before I came to HGSE, I researched the course catalog and planned out all my classes. Then the registrar office posted the updated catalog and the portraiture class that I wanted to take was not being taught this year and my whole schedule fell apart. I quickly drew up a new plan and was ready to execute it upon arrival. But I guess the universe had other plans for me. During the fall shopping period, I followed a group of my peers into Mapp’s class. I didn’t know who she was and frankly, I was just killing time. When she got up to give us a synopsis of the course, I realized how aligned the class was with my goals and social justice lens. I dropped all my classes and rearranged my schedule to ensure I could take her course. Taking her courses gave me the language to name the ideas and experiences I already had and being able to share that with people that don’t come from the same school of thought as I do.

How did you stay inspired throughout the year? I found friends and professors who supported my work. I also remembered the people at home and why I came here. I have to say that the dialogue outside of class was sometimes more robust than the ones happening inside the classroom. And I guess that’s true education when it can be applied outside the walls of class.

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program? Choose classes that feel right rather than look right on your resume.

What will you change in education and why? I don’t think I can change anything alone. I need the collective to be on this one. Some principles I’d like to see more of is community education, reciprocity, youth voices, and an educational system that values relational trust.

The number one, biggest surprise of the last year was … the family I found at HGSE.


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