Category Archives: Author Bios

Janilla Lucilla Augofie

Me modeling for a Hawaiian project for Cornish Arts College.

Talofa Lava, my name is Janilla Lucilla Augofie. I am double majoring in American Ethnic Studies and Medical Anthropology and Global Health at the University of Washington. I am Pacific Islander. My mother and my father come from a village in Samoa called Sapanoa. I was born and raised in Washington. I graduated from Federal Way High School and there I had my first experience being a part of a Pacific Islanders Club. I branched out and joined the boards of Pacific Islander communities and conferences like UPRISE, Poly Day, and RISE. These conferences and organizations had a huge impact on my passions in life. I was president of the Polynesian Student Alliance 2015-2016, and am currently the treasurer. I was a tutor in the Polynesian Outreach Program for high school students that lived in areas that showed low statistics in high school graduations.  I led a workshop in UPRISE a conference for Pacific Islander students teaching them about the importance of higher education while encouraging them to be proud of their culture through these systems. I have worked with many high schools throughout Washington for Poly Day. An annual event held by the University of Washington that also reaches out to high school students about the significance of education. I am also a part of a Research group called Research Family at the Burke Museum. At the Burke we decolonize institutions by reconnecting the objects back with their communities. This trip to Aotearoa means the world to me. It not only allows me to connect with the indigenous Maoris of Aotearoa, but also the intersecting history of my Pacific heritage and pasefika in general. I get to emerge myself into the experiences of Pacific Islanders in another country and the problems the Maori face in their lands. I get to make note of their sovereignty and successes with breaking through systems in society that weren’t built for the indigenous. I can take their successes back to America and start try and implement them in the systems that we have in society. This trip to New Zealand will and has opened my mind and broadened my horizons.

Aleila Alefaio

Kia ora! Talofa! Malo ni! My name is Aleila Melita Alefaio. I come from a family of Samoan and Tokelauan descent. I am a senior at the University of Washington studying Medical Anthropology & Global Health. 

I am currently president of the legacy group called Polynesian Student Alliance, which is an organization that serves to spread Polynesian culture awareness, voice the presence of an active and lively Pacific Islander community, and outreach and recruit Pacific Islander students for higher education. I am also part of a research group called Research Family made up of students of Oceanic background that uses their identities to connect with outside communities and decolonize cultural objects at the Burke Museum. I am a student researcher and assistant at Haborview Medical Center in the Global Health Department and Division of Medicine – Allergy & Infectious Disease Department. Much of my work involves intensive research and working with youth in the Pacific Islander community.

I grew up in an affluent predominantly Caucasian area and found myself struggling with my identity. There was a constant battle between embracing my own culture and assimilating to the American culture. I was fortunate to find an empowering group of Pacific Islanders at the UW who helped me find who I was.

This is my first study abroad trip — I found this trip to Aotearoa a perfect opportunity to learn more about my people, my brothers and sisters of Oceania, and myself. I also saw this trip as perfect opportunity to build a relationship between students at the University of Auckland and the University of Washington. With my field of study, leadership roles, and this trip to Aotearoa, I hope to project the voices of Pacific Islanders and empower future generations to reach for higher education while staying connected to the roots of our cultures.

Eunice Lee

Kia Ora!

My name is Eunice Lee. Growing up, my family moved to a new country every few years. I am a Korean American born in California. I have lived in New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, China, and the Philippines; and am currently majoring in Environmental Studies at the University of Washington.

My identity revolves around my upbringing, the culture and people of each country introduced new beliefs and perspectives that have shaped who I am. It has also influenced how I think and approach other people. Having experienced multiple countries seems to make it easier for me to connect with and understand different people. The combination of the difference experiences from each country has added layers to my identity.

My blogs will document some of my experiences here in New Zealand throughout the three weeks here. I lived in Christchurch from the ages of 4 to 8, so it has been thirteen years since I left the country. As a child, I saw New Zealand as a country with an abundance of grassland and nature. I’ve always felt a strong attachment to New Zealand and have felt intrigued and fascinated by Māori culture. I am extremely excited to be back and am looking forward to re-immersing myself into everything Aotearoa has to offer. Gaining insight and experiencing everything from a different perspective, I hope to learn in-depth about The Treaty of Waitangi, and how that impacts the Māori today in regards to land and the environment as it is a crucial element to Māori culture. As an Environmental Studies major, I am interested in laws and policies regarding land and water use. Moreover, by getting to talk to people and visiting different places, I aim to reflect on how colonization has shaped Māori identity and life.

David Carlson

A Washington boy through and through, I was born in Kirkland, Washington into a loving family of four that would shortly turn into five (my younger brother would be born 3 years later). Originally from Kent I moved to Puyallup with my family at the age of five and we’ve called that our home ever since. After graduating from Governor John R. Rogers High School in 2014, I moved to Seattle to enroll into the University of Washington, following my older brother and father before me. My original plan was to pursue a degree from the College of Engineering, but as time progressed I realized that just wasn’t what I wanted. After my freshman year I switched my intended major to business and haven’t looked back since. With the focuses of marketing and entrepreneurship, I believe that I have finally found fields that are both engaging and challenging for me.

Me feeding a kangaroo while in Sydney, Australia before the program started.

I can say with confidence that most of my fellow business majors wouldn’t be interested in a program like this, asking “Where’s the money in it?”, but that’s what makes me different. I strongly believe there is no better way to improve open-mindedness and prevent hate than with travel. Exposing one’s self to the world and its many cultures has a profound effect on any person, truly making them more tolerant and culturally-intelligent. Most of us can agree that in today’s world there are few people who need more cultural awareness than business people. It seems you can’t go a whole day without seeing news about a business doing something ignorant, and that’s where I hope I can make a difference. Throughout my college career, and throughout my life, I have tried to stay abreast on current and past social issues by taking courses and reading in my free time. When I saw this course on Sovereignty, Environment, and Representation in Aotearoa, I knew it was for me. This is just one more thing that can help me make the business world a better place. Whether we like it or not, businesses are here to stay and I hope that my experiences on this trip will help shape me into a future businessman that people will be proud of.

Birdie Harvey

My name is Alberta Harvey, but most people know me as Birdie. I am a proud member of the Yakama Nation with my family stemming from Whitefoot Canyon. I am a part of a large, loving family of mixed backgrounds. Born a Seattleite, with a deep admiration for the land, I will always call the Pacific Northwest home.

This September will be my second-year as a student at the University of Washington with goals to attain my Bachelors in Business Management/Human Resources from the Foster School of Business. I am enjoying being able to explore a wide range of discipline at the University as I am prepping myself for business school. Currently I am undecided on a specific career I would like to have post-graduation, but I am excited that my path is open for any opportunities that come my way.

In my free time, you’ll find me outside with a book in hand. I am very connected to my local native community on and off campus. I also tend to work with (native and non-native) urban youth in various programs across Seattle.

This trip to Aotearoa New Zealand is my first study aboard program. I have always desired to visit Oceania and have had a strong fascination with Maori Culture; I find Indigenous cultures endlessly intriguing. The second I heard about this trip through the American Indian Studies department I eagerly hopped on the opportunity. I aspire to learn how other indigenous people deal with the effects of colonization while implementing culture and environment revitalization. I want to learn about the similar and different perspectives on various issues, customs and ways of being. Having the privileged opportunity of exchanging knowledge and sharing experiences with the Maori peoples about Indigenous life is something I’m so honored to be a part of. I’m looking forward to sharing all my findings and experiences back home, with my campus and family communities.


Racquel West

Me looking out a window.

Hello, my name is Racquel and I am a student at the University of Washington. I am double majoring in History, with a concentration in Race, Gender, and Power, and Geography, with a concentration in Globalization, Health, and Development. I am currently a sophomore and will finish my undergraduate degrees by 2020. I hope to attend graduate school and receive a Ph.D. in Geography. In the future, I would like to be a social science researcher; I would enjoy being an ethnographer or working for the Smithsonian.  I will focus my career on working with marginalized communities and understanding the systematic processes that perpetuate oppression and inequality.

During spring quarter of my freshman year, I took a class on American Indian History since 1815. This was my introduction to indigenous studies and the concept of settler colonialism. Through this class, I learned the extent of colonialism, marginalization, and historical traumas that have led to our reality in modern-day America. Since this class, I have narrowed my interests to studying intergenerational, socio-economic, and intersectional issues regarding borders and how people utilize, describe themselves, and transition through these definitive, yet invisible spatial boundaries.

This is my first study abroad program. While I am in Aotearoa, I hope to learn as much as I can in regard to how the Maori peoples are currently working to overcome the obstacles that are restricting their rights and sovereignty. I am particularly interested in the current political climate and the attempts from the government and indigenous communities to reach a mutually beneficial, and fairer, interpretation of the different versions of the Treaty of Waitangi. Along with this, I want to see how the borders between these communities are becoming more, or less, prominent during this process. Lastly, I am interested in understanding how settler colonialism has embedded itself in the spatial interactions and landscape of New Zealand. While I have learned how America has dealt with the lasting impacts its own settler colonialism, it will be interesting to see how a different county, with different historical traumas, will work to move forward.

Dana Camin

Born and raised in Los Altos, California, I graduated in 2014 from Mountainview High School and will be a senior at the University of Oregon this fall. I am majoring in Environmental Studies and Geography with core focuses on Policy, Social Science, and Environment, Economy and Sustainability (EES). Additionally I am working towards minors in both Economics and Political Science. My studies at the University of Oregon have broadened my understanding of different perspectives associated with our world’s environment and resources from a social, economic, and political point of view. At the UO I am also a member of the Chi Omega sorority and get the chance to interact with a wide range of students, local nonprofit groups and kids to raise money and give back to the community. I recently became interested in political science to define and combat local issues and work with all types of communities to address specific problems that arise.

Me (left) and Nikki in front of a waterfall near Karekare, NZ


Earlier this summer I worked as an intern in the Santa Clara County, researching ways city and county governments can uphold and support the Paris Climate Accord. At the end of my 10-week internship I produced a report containing policy recommendations I made after collaboration with government officials and local communities. My other past projects focused on the communication and information disconnect between minority groups, large corporations and governments, so I am looking forward to interacting with the native Māori people throughout our trip.

This is my first studying abroad experience and the only time I have had the opportunity to travel outside of North America. I am looking forward to meeting and learning from the Māori people of New Zealand to explore how the environment influences native culture and practices. I am excited to study the Maori community’s history and traditions to add to my research and passion of addressing local and native issues that relate to the environment.

Matt Knutson

Hello! My name is Matt Knutson and I am going to be a senior at UW Seattle in the fall. I was born in Tacoma, WA and currently call Gig Harbor home while I’m not studying. Both of my parents attended UW and my younger sister just completed her freshman year there as well, so we are quite the Husky family! I am a psychology major and am also working on minors in ELS (Education, Learning, and Society) and diversity. I am also a volunteer for UW Dream Project, which works with high school students in the greater Seattle area to promote social justice and college access. During the 2017-2018 academic year, I will be a member of the 9/10th grade outreach program of the Dream Project, which specifically works with underclassmen. I am very excited to coordinate events and create material that will hopefully make a difference in student lives. After I complete my senior year, I plan to go to graduate school for Educational Psychology and would love to work as a school psychologist upon completion of that degree. I enjoy both playing and watching sports; I am a diehard Husky football fan and love the Seahawks and Mariners too. I also enjoy running and playing golf, especially with my dad, as it allows us to spend valuable time together while also doing something active and healthy. Both of my parents grew up in Bellingham, WA and many members of their family still reside there, so I consider the town my second home.

Photo of me at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.

In my studies of psychology and education, and through my time in Dream Project, I have developed a specific and unique way of viewing the world. I spend many of my days pondering social injustice and how it affects people, especially in the world of education. Many problems in the classroom stem from a lack of understanding between teacher and student, which can lead to countless negative outcomes for students who are left feeling marginalized and forgotten. I am passionate about fighting against this historical tendency, which is one of the main reasons I was so interested in this study abroad opportunity. I am so excited for the complete cultural immersion into Maori culture that will take up my next few weeks, and I cannot wait to incorporate what I learn abroad into my academic life at UW and into my future career!

Kamaka’ike Bruecher

Aloha mai kākou, o Kamaka‘ike koʻu inoa. Hello, my name is Kamaka‘ike. I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. I am of Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Hawaiian), Cantonese, and German heritage.

This fall quarter I will be beginning my third year at University of Washington, Seattle campus. I am currently working towards my Bachelor of Arts. My majors are Public Health and Medical Anthropology & Global Health. I am going into my second term as Vice President of External Affairs for the Polynesian Student Alliance on campus. I am currently employed as a student ambassador of Multicultural Outreach & Recruitment and a student assistant for Intellectual House. I am also a student researcher for the Research Family, a Pacific Islander research group based at the Burke Museum. Our work includes using our resources at the museum to educate our campus and each other about our cultures, as well as use our position in higher education to support our local Islander diasporas. It is important for us to help better museums’ treatment of heritage communities of the objects it houses as well as bring our communities in to maintain relationships to objects.

I am thankful to be a part of this study abroad experience because it connects back to the kind of work I hope to do within my own community. As Pacific Island cultures, the Māori community has many similarities to Hawaiians. Due to our common heritage, our cultures share many aspects and values. Our colonial experiences also have many parallels. It is important that communities share with and draw ideas from each other so we can best strengthen our respective efforts. During this journey I hope to learn more about Māori culture, environmental policies, and community efforts. My main passion is agricultural and environmental work, so I am looking forward to learning from my relations on this topic. I look forward to the adventures, lessons, experiences, and connections to come on this beautiful, vast indigenous land.

Holding my uncle’s
chicken in Kāne’ohe, O’ahu


Danni’s Bio

Kia Ora!

My name is Danni. I’ve been a University of Washington student at the Tacoma Campus for nearly a year. I’m headed into my senior year, working towards a degree in Communications and hopefully a bright future as a journalist. For as long as I can remember I’ve dreamed of becoming a journalist. I’ve always been interested in the power of writing and the media in controlling the perceptions, opinions, and subsequently, lives of individuals. From my perspective, much of Western media has taken advantage of its influence, systemically portraying minorities such as people of color, women, and certainly indigenous peoples in a negative light, thus solidifying the oppression they face every day of their lives. Throughout my adolescence my mother always told me that if you didn’t like the way something was, do your part in trying to change it. Her words combined with my love for writing became the main motivations behind my aspiration to do my part in challenging the mainstream media’s often misleading representations, and assist in producing progressive, truthful media content.

Danni and her cat, Jasmine.

Moreover, I come from an incredibly culturally diverse background, being a descendant of black, white, Native American, and Filipino genealogies. However, despite my diversified genetic makeup, I’ve spent the majority of my life confused about where I fit in. Ever since I can remember, I’ve attempted to redefine myself in order to fit into the arbitrary definitions of what it means to be a descendant of these various identities, however to this day I’ve yet to fully understand myself and the cultures of my ancestors. This was one of the greatest motivators in my choosing this study abroad exploration in Aoteroa. I’ve always been both inspired and internally jealous of the ability and resilience of indigenous peoples, such as the Maori, to not only revitalize their cultures from its attempted decimation, but also to know so wholly who they are. Not only has it inspired me to look deeper into my own ancestry and personal connection to indigeneity, but also to further understand the plight of these systemically ignored peoples.

Thus far, I’ve been so humbled by the experiences of this trip, and the strength of the Maori people in keeping their culture alive. I’m still unsure of where I fit in the world, or who I am. But in everything I do I’m attempting to piece together my own identity, just like the countless cultures across the world attempting to do the exact same thing. I’m curious for what else this study abroad exploration has to offer, but I can’t wait to find out!


Thanks so much,


Danni Derrickson