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Humans of the U: T. Melanie Puka Bean

There are two parts to the research process that I really enjoy. The first is I really like learning about all sorts of stuff, but especially people. I also really enjoy building and maintaining relationships. Those two things are really, at their core, what research is. As a researcher, I get to live out my dream of learning lots every day and being in a community with people I really enjoy.

I was drawn to this position at the U because the folks in the Pacific Islands Studies Program are doing things that are really rare to find in any ethnic studies program, but especially one that focuses on the Pacific and its people. The people I work with operate in a way that prioritizes the things I value in the research process. Because this program prioritizes relationships both at the university and beyond, we get to dream about Pacific futures in ways that many other folks don’t get to. This really was my dream job. I’m still sometimes pinching myself just to be like, is this real? Do I really get to do this every day? That doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, but this is an awesome position to have immediately following my Ph.D. completion.

I am really excited about the work we are doing to establish a Center for Pasifika and Indigenous Knowledges. This will be a place for students and faculty to engage in research and learning with each other, to build community networks globally among students and researchers, and to engage in meaningful ways with our Indigenous communities here. We are working to understand more about what it means to grow the Pacific diaspora and to do it on land that is not our own. 

This semester, I’m teaching a class called Pacific Islander American Experiences and I’m really excited that my students seem to be engaged, curious and willing to learn about the Pacific. There seems to be a hunger for understanding the histories and relationships there.”

— T. Melanie Puka Bean, assistant professor, ethnic studies