Native Hawaiian Interdisciplinary Health Program: Decolonizing Academic Space, Curriculum, and Instruction


  • Michael C. DeMattos University of Hawaiʻi at MānoaMyron B. Thompson School of Social Work



decolonizing social work, Indigenous social work, interdisciplinary education, Indigenous identity in helping professions


In Spring of 2012, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, John A. Burns School of Medicine, Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence, and the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work Baccalaureate Program partnered and created the Native Hawaiian Interdisciplinary Health program to address the dearth of Native Hawaiians in the helping professions. The program has three main objectives: (a) expose students to interdisciplinary experiences similar to what they would encounter in the “real world,” (b) introduce students to an inquiry-based learning model rooted in both the needs and strengths of the client system, and (c) help Native Hawaiian students recognize their Indigenous identity as valuable and crucial to the formation of their professional identity. While qualitative data reveal the program to be effective, it may be more valuable as a platform from which to explore academic decolonization and the Indigenization of academic space, curriculum, and instruction. Key to this effort is the rupturing of current colonial practices that inhibit the learning of both the Indigenous student and the [often] non-Indigenous instructor; confronting the positionality of the instructor as purveyor of white western hegemony; and creating new subjectivities for both instructors and students through reflective learning, engaged dialogue, and mentorship.

Author Biography

Michael C. DeMattos, University of Hawaiʻi at MānoaMyron B. Thompson School of Social Work

Mr. Michael C. DeMattos is the BSW Program Chair at the Myron B. Thomson School of Social Work, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.  A social worker for more than 25 years, much of his work at the school focuses on administrative leadership, organizational change, program development, and strategic planning.  Mr. DeMattos and colleagues are currently spearheading the launch of a BSW Distance Education option at the Baccalaureate level designed to reach underserved Kānaka Maoli and minority populations living in rural Oʻahu and the Neighbor Islands.