URep Abroad interviewed Lindsay Kamakahi (she/her) about her experience as a Native Hawaiian and Chinese Global Strategist in International Education. Watch the video or read the full transcript below.
My name is Lindsay Kamakhi. I work at American Curriculum Partnerships; as their global strategist for South East and South Asia. I’m their program director and I also teach with them. I am part Native Hawaiian and Chinese.
How can universities better support AA/PI Students?
I just feel that I don’t see students as part of the mix and it’s because we assume that they know so much about their identities. Which I think a lot of us wrongly assume. I knew that I was Native Hawaiian at the very beginning. I lived in Hawaii. Everyone had names that sounded like mine. But once I moved, people didn’t really understand the complexities of, you know, of like scholarship processes for students that may not be as represented. It’s not that there are not career and university people in place, but a lot of it is the process of knowing. So if we can try to start earlier in making this process, I guess, an easier process or one that’s more equipped to handle the students, I think we can better make sure we are supporting the AAPIs students.
How does your identity influence your professional life?
My identity is very much, I think, tied into how I ended up in international education. I grew up in Hawaii and then moved to Arkansas, and I moved to Minnesota. And once I moved, I realized I was in the minority. My parents are both in education - higher education - and they always promoted the idea of travel. And I think that helped me to understand what a lot of the students are feeling and what a lot of expats are feeling when they’re the minority in other places. So I think being the minority so many times, I think it makes it quite easy to relate and to hold space and to be open with other people, just to make them more comfortable.
What advice do you have for new or aspiring IE professionals?
My advice that I have for someone in international education is to celebrate the differences and to collaborate with everyone. We all have different learned experiences. We all have different cultural dynamics that we’re coming from. And for people coming into the field, collaborate and get into as many groups as you can. So whether they’re Facebook groups or LinkedIn groups, the more you can grow your community, you can support each other and also get great ideas from each other. I find that the reason I am where I am today is because I had some amazing mentors along the way. Some I knew in person, some I’ve only known online.
What opportunities should IE explore to strengthen the intersection between global learning and diversity, equity, and inclusion?
If you make the group larger and you make the community more involved, it makes it a place where learning actually can happen. If you just give that space that people can honestly say what’s on their mind and honestly know that they’re being listened to, it really helps that inclusion because there’s a lot of issues that I can say very well I have no idea on. I can try to talk to other colleagues or talk to other people and see if there seems to be a recurring theme or how we can make it so that it’s less scary, and that we can have more impact on more people. So I think that’s how we can mix up some of those intercultural and global learnings and make it more about diversity and equity and inclusion.
What drew you to the IE education field?
Many of us are good at trying to relate things and trying to help out. And I think it is that helper mentality mindset that we may know things. We may have the experiences, but being able to put them together for other people to understand - I think that’s something that not everyone has the ability to. And I think that’s what I most enjoyed about the education field is that you can, as professionals and as part of your identity, try to use all of these working tools that you have to try to make it better and easier for people to know that we are here to have you at the table. We want you to be a part of everything we are doing.