Erin Kahunawaikaʻala Wright
Associate Professor, Educational Administration, College of Education
Kahunawai is Kanaka ʻŌiwi Hawaiʻi (Native Hawaiian) from Kalihi, Oʻahu raised on the land that has fostered her mother’s family for the last five generations. Currently, she serves as an associate professor of Educational Administration in the College of Education at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Previously, she served as the Director of Native Hawaiian Student Services at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, an award-winning program designed to support all Native Hawaiians interested in pursuing higher education in ways that are culturally-grounded and lāhui-minded. Her scholarship focuses on Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander identities in higher education and the ways these identities inform educational environments and kuleana lāhui (native nation-building).
Collaboration is a priority so much of her work in higher education reflects this value. She has co-edited and contributed to several kinds of publications.Her most recent collaborations include: the first special issue of Hūlili: Multidisciplinary Research on Hawaiian Well-being titled “No Ka Pono o Ka Lāhui: Critical, participatory, and/or activist with and for Hawaiian communities and nation” (2019) co-edited, with Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua; a chapter titled “Engaging Indigenous Students” in Student Engagement in Higher Education (3rd Edition) (Quaye, Harper, & Pendakur, 2020) co-authored with Heather J. Shotton (Wichita/Kiowa); and co-authored a journal article, with Nicole Alia Salis Reyes, titled “Embodying Haumea: Women scholars cultivating Kānaka independence/ts in the academy” in the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education (2020). Finally, she has a chapter titled “Weaving Fine Baskets of Resilience: Resilient Mothering in the Academy as Kānaka Nation Building” in the forthcoming book Indigenous Motherhood in the Academy (Minthorn, Nelson, & Shotton, Rutgers University Press).
She also utilizes her knowledge and skills to conduct external educational program evaluations as an independent as well as co-consultant. Examples of institutions she’s partnered with include Miramar College (San Diego, CA), Windward Community College, University of Hawaiʻi Maui College, Kapiʻolani Community College, and Queen’s Medical Center.
As a way to contribute to her community while continuing to learn from it, she also engages in service. After serving two terms on the governing board for Hālau Kū Māna Public Charter School, she now serves on their non-profit board, Papa Kū Māna. She also serves on the board for Hawaiʻi People’s Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting communities to address root causes of social inequality in Hawaiʻi by providing seed funding to grassroots, community-based organizations.