Kūʻokoʻa ʻĀina Based Leadership Seeks to Cultivate Aloha ʻĀina Leaders


The Kūʻokoʻa ʻĀina Based Leadership graduate certificate is one of the newest programs at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies in partnership with a number of colleges and schools across the campus.

The main purpose of this graduate certificate is to cultivate aloha ʻāina leaders connected to and caring for Hawaiʻi’s ʻāina (land and resources) using interdisciplinary skills grounded in a strong foundation of ʻike kūpuna (ancestral knowledge). Kūʻokoʻa, meaning independence, refers to the ability of communities to kiaʻi (protect, care for and make decisions about) natural and cultural resources.

The Kūʻokoʻa Graduate Certificate offers a culturally grounded interdisciplinary approach to working on and with the land and natural resources, fostering collaborative decision-making, and enhancing community resilience in the face of climate change.

Kūʻokoʻa is an innovative learning program designed to serve a broad population of students – including practitioners, professionals, and individuals. The program will prepare students, alongside practitioners and professionals, to:

  • Address environmental, cultural, legal, and social aspects of aloha ʻāina, through collaborative research, teaching, and training;
  • Focus on interdisciplinary and holistic solutions to natural and cultural resource management, sustainability, and food security issues; and
  • Ground approaches in Hawaiian knowledge, methodologies, and practices while drawing on cutting-edge strategies and tools from around the world.

The Kūʻokoʻa Graduate Certificate program is open to all UH students who are already enrolled in a graduate program as well as community members who are seeking a professional degree. The certificate enhances collaborative decision-making regarding land and natural resources in Hawaiʻi by targeting professionals who work in environmental fields but who may not have Hawaiian cultural grounding or experience working with Hawaiʻi communities.

We all know that Hawaiʻi’s communities face compelling issues of natural and cultural resource management, sustainability, water justice and sovereignty, food security, and Native Hawaiian rights. Today, Hawaiʻi’s land and sea resources continue to decline under a centralized state management system challenged by underfunded and understaffed agencies, with little grounding in Hawaiian approaches to sustainability.

To prepare Hawaiʻi’s future leaders to address these issues, programs like the Kūʻokoʻa Graduate Certificate are important to instill critical thinking and practical applied skills grounded in traditional Hawaiian knowledge and practices that will aid in developing interdisciplinary and holistic solutions. This certificate program is based on research to identify existing professional development needs in sustainability, resilience, and natural resource management in Hawaiʻi.

The Kūʻokoʻa ʻĀina Based Leadership graduate certificate is a 16-credit program that includes: two required core courses (Resource Issues & Ethics in Hawaiʻi and Hawaiian Geography & Resource Management), two electives, one field course, and one capstone or culminating end-of-program project and hōʻike. We offer one-year, two-year, and three-year pathways depending on your needs and availability to take courses.

Applications are due Feb. 1, 2023 (prospective graduate students) and March 15 (current graduate students).

For more information email Malia Nobrega-Olivera at kuokoa@hawaii.edu or visit our website: manoa.hawaii.edu/kuokoa