Dreaming the Aloha


By Nikki Kahealani Chun, Senior Associate Director, Caltech

Diversity, Equity and Access Committee

Ke welina, e aloha mai kakou. To understand the roots of this blog entry is to know a little bit about me and my positionality. I am a Native Hawaiian woman who was the first in her family to go to college and to earn a master’s degree. I am a senior-level enrollment management leader whose cultural identity has become an integral part of my professional identity. No matter how far I have traveled from ku’u one hanau (Hawaiian for “the beloved sands of my birth,” a poetic term for one’s homeland), Hawai’i has stayed with me.

Our upcoming 2018 IDEA Institute’s theme is “Hold Fast to Dreams,” and I begin my blog with answering the question: What is my dream? Why does it matter in this work?

My dream and long-term professional goal is to establish a university whose primary mission is to serve students of Native Hawaiian ancestry. While pursuing my graduate degree and delving into research on Native American higher education issues, I began to envision a place for Native Hawaiians created in a similar model as Tribal Colleges and Universities. I see in my mind’s eye an institution where Native Hawaiian professionals and students are the majority, and together, we can hone in on the unique needs of our indigenous students.

The first time I spoke my dream aloud was at a College Horizons event at Colorado State University, and I found myself compelled to share my dream as I addressed about 100 students of native ancestry; they gave me the courage to shed my shyness about my dream. I realized that they were the reason for my dream, and so who better to confess this dream to?

To be completely honest, I have no idea how to make this dream come true. But I have committed to saying it aloud, and it was a central theme in my personal statement when I applied to my Ph.D. program in Higher Education Leadership. Not only do I seek to be an effective senior member of a higher education enrollment team; someday, I plan to lead a team of my own. Now that our IDEA Institute theme is “Holding Fast to Dreams,” I thought – why not? Why not share this dream with my colleagues? Who knows what can come of my willingness to share this dream?

So there we go. It’s officially out there in the blogosphere. And we want to know from you – what’s your dream?

3 Responses to "Dreaming the Aloha"
  1. Nikki –
    I have had the pleasure privilege to see you reach for the stars and grab them one by one since meeting you as an undergraduate student. I have seen you take your passion for lifting others higher through your work in higher education and see you bloom as a leader. I know that the “dream” that you have shared in this blog is something you will continue to work towards. I am certain many others who read this blog will be inspired by your words and vision to reach for their dreams and hopefully some will step up to say how can I help you Nikki. I gladly say here and now count me in Nikki to help you reach your dream!

  2. Thanks for this inspiring post — you’ve taken the first step towards making it a reality! I think that in today’s online world there are so many ways to get started rather than just the old brick-and-mortar model. I think of the Minerva/Keck model for example. It seems like finding a niche institute focus while leveraging industry or college partners and growing out from there might make sense. The HBCU model might also be inspiration — in terms of where there’s a will, there’s a way. As a former lawyer now in this field, I’m happy to help leverage my background in your endeavors. Best wishes in the new year!

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