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Political Science Alumni Newsletter Vol. 3

University of Hawai'i, Manoa

Welcome to our third Alumni Newsletter!

The first UH Political Science alumni event was a great success.  Over 50 people attended the event held at the Fresh Cafe, November 13, 2014.  Professors Neal Milner and Colin Moore did a wonderful Hawaii election review and the event allowed alumni to meet each other and reconnect with the Department faculty. We hope this will be the first of many such alumni events. Stay tuned!

Alumni and faculty listen to Professors Milner and Moore

Professors Halbert, Milner and Moore

From left to right, Prof. Kathy Ferguson, Prof. Mike Shapiro, alumni Sam Opondo and Prof. Jon Goldberg-Hiller. 

Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Takaaze (BA 2007; MA 2009)

Melissa Takaaze is a consultant specializing in governmental and community affairs. She graduated with a B.A.  (2007) and M.A. (2009) from the Political Science department. Her interest in the politics began in high school after watching The War Room, a documentary about the 1993 Presidential campaign. Takaaze knew immediately that she wanted to be part of the political process, so two weeks after high school graduation, she flew to Washington, D.C., for a Senatorial internship. Federal level internships and the UH Manoa Legislative Internship program (2006) were valuable experiences because they provided first-hand, multi-level perspectives into the political process at the federal and state levels.

In 2009, Takaaze began working with Capitol Consultants of Hawaii, a government relations firm, and her knowledge of the Hawaii legislative process quickly grew as she attended hearings and became familiarized with the multitude of social, economic, and political issues affecting the state. These issues piqued her interest in social enterprise and she was selected as a Social Enterprise Fellow with New Sector Alliance in San Francisco.

As part of the fellowship, she was placed with a non-profit organization to assist with capacity building and growth. Working with the Richmond District YMCA, Takaaze researched and developed a strategic growth framework focused on community outreach and marketing, with the goal of expanding programs while keeping costs minimal. She received mentorship and training from consultants at Booz & Company, the Bridgespan Group, and Charles River Associates.

With public and private sector experience, Takaaze started MK Pacific Consulting, LLC, a government affairs consulting company, in 2013. She is immensely grateful to the fantastic Political Science faculty and staff for their academic support and dedication to their students and alumni.

Alumni Spotlight: Sam Okoth Opondo (PhD 2012)

Sam Okoth Opondo graduated from the UH Political Science department in 2012 and is currently an Assistant Professor in Comparative Politics and Africana Studies at Vassar College N.Y. His work focuses on the mediation of estrangement in colonial and postcolonial societies as well as the often-overlooked amateur diplomacies of everyday life in African cities. He is currently spending his sabbatical working on his book manuscript back at UH. 

Undergraduate Student Spotlight: Joshua Nam

Joshua Nam is a senior double majoring in Political Science and Korean through the Korean Language Flagship Program here at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is also currently a student Ambassador for the College of Social Sciences, a program that serves as a bridge between the student body and the larger community by promoting events and student engagement opportunities. He also had the privilege to serve as the President for the Hanwoori club, a RIO on campus. The mission of Hanwoori club was to bring together the diverse students of the College to be an active body that learns about Korean culture and language to promote interaction between students of all backgrounds.
After spending a year studying abroad at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea, he returned to UH and served as an intern in the Office of Senator Mazie Hirono in Washington D.C. during the Spring semester of 2014. This internship enabled him to have a first-hand learning experience of the whole legislative process in our nation’s capital. He had the chance to witness how policy legislated in D.C. impacted the very distant state of Hawaii. His most memorable experiences while working in Senator Hirono’s office was being able to work with all the great staff members and having day-to-day interactions with Hawaii constituents. 
He enjoys learning the Korean language, and about Korean culture and history, as well as Korean political and economical development. As a heritage learner, one of his goals is improving his Korean language skills to those of a native speaker.

Graduate Student Spotlight: John Maus

John Maus came to UH for a doctorate in political theory. With professors such as Michael Shapiro, Kathy Ferguson, Nevzat Soguk, and Sankaran Krishna, the Department of Political Science at UH is unique because it advocates engaging many theories and thinkers traditionally considered beyond the scope of political philosophy, and so, as he observed, his work at UH would probably not have been possible to accomplish at any other university. Besides this, the presence of the sovereignty movement, thankfully never so far from view in Hawai’i, was quite educational for me. As John noted, "Seeing the real movement of a nation against the state that refuses to recognize them set me straight on many of the preconceptions I had about doing politics before coming to Hawai’i. All and all, I have nothing but gratitude for UH, which welcomed and encouraged me at every step. And I can’t imagine there is a more beautiful college campus anywhere in world." As for future plans, he will probably be busy with his other vocation in music for a while, but eventually, hopes to use his Ph.D to teach somewhere. Regardless of what he ends up doing, he notes, "I suppose the only thing I ever really need to remember are the words of Gabby Pahinui: 'whatever you do—fishing, surfing, singing—if you do your best and you’re kind to people, then they’ll remember you.'"

Faculty Spotlight: Colin Moore

Colin Moore joined the department in 2011 as a specialist in American politics and public policy.  He received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University where his dissertation won the American Political Science Association’s Burnham Award for the best dissertation in politics and history.  Prior to joining the political science faculty at UH, Colin was a research fellow at Yale University’s Center for the Study of American Politics and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Colin’s research combines history and political science to study how the structure of the American political system has shaped U.S. social policies and the American administrative state.  His book manuscript examines the acquisition and governance of American overseas colonies after the Spanish-American War.  Other recent research explores the development and evolution of the Veterans Health Administration as a single-payer government-run health care system and the role of anti-slavery petitions in shaping the political mobilization of American women.  

Colin’s work has appeared in several journals and edited volumes, including Perspectives on Politics and the American Political Science Review.  He also serves as the political analyst for Hawaii News Now (KGMB/KHNL), the largest television news network in Hawai‘i, and is a frequent guest on PBS Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Public Radio.  

What we read this fall:

The Department held a roundtable colloquium to discuss the important recent book by T. Piketty, a colloquium that brought together faculty from the political science and economics department. 

Alumni Publication Spotlight: Alvin Lim (PhD 2011)

Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim recently completed a 3-year contract at the American University of Nigeria. He joined AUN in the fall of 2011, after he graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. During his time at AUN, he successfully pitched his book proposal to Routledge, and Cambodia and the Politics of Aesthetics was published in 2013. It is the published version of his dissertation Desiring Cambodia, and its chapters each focus on a different aspect of Cambodian politics: its political economy of development; critical pedagogy; its deep history of violence; its politics of literature; and the politics of memory of the Khmer Rouge genocide. To transform his dissertation into a book, Alvin had to jettison the literature review and add a new chapter on precarity and cinematic politics. He will continue the focus on cinematic politics in his second book which he is currently working on.

Apart from his work on his next book, Alvin's other research projects extend a key line of inquiry he pursued in Cambodia and the Politics of Aesthetics, which is the investigation of the various impacts of neoliberalization. He has expanded his field of investigation from just Cambodia to other countries in Southeast Asia as well as West Africa. In 2013 and 2014 he published the following papers: “Cambodia Rising: Neoliberal Violence and Development,” in JATI: Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, “Lines of Flight: The New Ph.D. as Migrant,” in Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, “Hybridity as Heterochrony,” in World Futures: The Journal of New Paradigm Research, and “The Pedagogical Subject of Neoliberal Development,” in East-West Affairs. 2015 promises to be a busier year for his research and writing.
Would you like to be featured in our alumni spotlight?  Do you have an event or other information that you would like to share?  Send us an email: or
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License2015 Department of Political Science, University of Hawaii at Manoa

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