Samoa: Pacific Communities and Social Change

Faculty and Staff

Jackie Fa'asisila

Jackie Fa'asisila, Academic Director
Jackie Fa'asisila received both a BA in education and an MA in history from the University of Missouri. She first went to Samoa in 1972 as a Peace Corps Volunteer. In addition to her work as a teacher trainer, Ms. Fa'asisila has been associate Peace Corps director and cross-cultural training manager in Samoa, the Cook Islands, and Niue. She taught social science and educational studies at Primary Teachers' College and Secondary Teachers' College, respectively. She was also the orientation coordinator for Australian Volunteers International and UN Volunteers in Samoa and served as the language advisor/instructor for several SIT Study Abroad Samoa semesters before becoming the academic director. Ms. Fa'asisila resides in Apia with her family. She has been the academic director of the Samoa program since fall 1996.

Lecturers for this program typically include:

Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio (Hawaiian History)
Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio is a full professor at the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai'i and a scholar of Hawaiian nineteenth-century political and social history. He teaches classes in history, literature, law as culture, music, and indigenous research methodologies for and from indigenous peoples. His book, Dismembering Lahui, details the colonization of Hawai'i as a slow process that heavily depended on Hawaiians being converted to the rule of law. As an activist and advocate for Hawaiian self-determination, he has attended and organized protests and demonstrations that favor Hawaiian language immersion schools and land protection from military abuse and oppose American or other forms of imperialism. He tendered a submission to the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues at the UN calling for decolonization in Hawai'i. He thinks the Hawaiian sovereignty movement will ultimately produce a nation and government devoted to peace and disarmament, careful management of Hawai'i’s lands and waters, and protection of the cultural diversity that has defined Hawai'i as a place. He is also a composer and singer and has recorded Hawaiian music since 1975.

Fepuleai Dr. John Mayer, PhD (Samoan Language)
Dr. Mayer is an associate professor of Samoan as well as chair of the Department of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literature at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. He founded the Samoan language program at the University of Hawai'i in 1976. He was a Peace Corps volunteer and trainer in Samoa from 1970 to 1976. He holds two Samoan chiefly titles, Fepuleai from Savai'i and Lasei from Manono; an MA in ESL; and a PhD in linguistics. He is a charter member of the International Samoan Language Commission formed in 2000.

Terence Wesley-Smith, PhD (Social Change and Regional Issues in the Pacific)
Terence Wesley-Smith is director of the University of Hawai'i Manoa Center for Pacific Islands Studies, where he is also a professor. A political scientist with degrees from Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Hawai'i, he is editor of The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs. His recent journal articles have addressed conceptual issues associated with self-determination and "failed states" in Oceania. Dr. Wesley-Smith is co-editor (with Jon Goss) of Remaking Area Studies: Teaching and Learning Across Asia and the Pacific (University of Hawai'i Press 2010) and co-editor (with Edgar Porter) of China in Oceania: Reshaping the Pacific? (Berghahn Books 2010). He obtained his PhD from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa 1988.

Brian Alofaituli (Religion in Samoa)
Brian Alofaituli entered the MA program at the University of Hawai'i Manoa Center for Pacific Island Studies with a background that included environmental studies, Peace Corps experience in Jamaica, a master’s degree in intercultural studies from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, and experience as a director of Christian education in the Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa. His thesis “Language Development Curriculum within the Samoan Congregational Churches in the Diaspora” explores the potential role the Samoan Congregational Christian Churches can play as language and cultural educators in the diaspora. The thesis addresses the problem of language loss among Samoan youth and explores the Samoan language curriculum currently in use as well as ways this curriculum might be modified. Brian is currently a PhD student in Pacific history at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.

Gerard A. Finin, PhD (Economics and Development)
Gerard A. Finin is currently co-director of the East-West Center’s Pacific Island Development Program and has served as the center’s deputy director since 2004. He conducts research on contemporary social and economic issues in the Pacific islands region, with ongoing projects focusing on governance and globalization. He has a PhD in urban and regional planning and Southeast Asian studies from Cornell University. His related publications include One Year into Fiji's Fourth Coup; Artifacts and Afterthoughts of American Colonial Policy; Coups, Conflicts, and Crises: The New Pacific Way?; and Small is Viable: The Global Ebbs and Flows of a Pacific Atoll.

Joshua Cooper (Contemporary Pacific Issues)
Joshua Cooper has taught political science courses focused on nonviolence, ecology, human rights, and social justice at numerous higher education institutions in Hawai'i. He also teaches journalism courses focusing on media literacy. He has presented original research papers on the environment, women’s rights, and indigenous peoples’ rights at university symposiums, community forums, and global conferences around the world. He speaks regularly at the United Nations and various NGO assemblies in relation to human rights policymaking.

As a human rights advocate, he engages with global and regional mechanisms that work to ensure fundamental freedoms. He has attended the main human rights treaty bodies where he has spoken on issues related to civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and racial discrimination; women; torture; children; migrant workers; disabilities; and disappearances. He served on the UN sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, a commission that links human rights to climate change in Pacific and Asia states that face cultural extinction as environmental refugees. He also engages in human rights advocacy with Pacific Island governments such as Tuvalu to protect and promote human rights in the various treaty bodies.

Afamasaga Faamatala Toleafoa (Fa’asamoa, Globalization and Social Change)
Afamasaga was educated at Samoa College and holds a BA and postgraduate degrees in economics and marketing management from Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand. His career includes service as an economist at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Noumea and in the Pacific Forum Secretariat (Suva), 20 years in Samoa’s Foreign Service and five years in Parliament.

For the past 15 years, he has served as a freelance consultant on a range of issues including child protection and child rights, village governance, public sector reform and public policy, community development, and public sector remuneration. He is a regular media writer and commentator on public policy and currently a member of the Remuneration Tribunal, a board member of the Pacific Institute of Public Policy (Port Vila), Chairman of Samoa Farmers Inc., and a founding chairman of the Men Against Violence Advocacy Group.

Penelope Schoeffel (Women’s Issues, Education and Research Methodologies)
Dr. Schoeffel has a PhD in anthropology from the Australian National University. Her academic specialization is cultural transformation in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Samoa, a topic on which she has many academic publications. She has also collaborated with her husband, Lesasiolagi Dr. Malama Meleisea, on a number of publications on Samoan history, including Samoa’s Journey 1962–2012 Aspects of History (2012). She has taught anthropology and sociology at the University of the South Pacific, University of New South Wales, University of Auckland, and was visiting lecture at Thammasat University in Thailand and International University of Bangladesh. For the past 30 years she has also been a consultant for a number of international development agencies where her fields of specialization has been gender and social impact assessment. She currently lectures at the Center of Samoan Studies at the National University of Samoa.

Warren Jopling (Geology of Samoa)
Warren Jopling, a native of Sydney, Australia, has lived in Samoa since 1982. His education includes a two-year diploma in gemology with the Gemological Association of Australia and a BSc from the University of Sydney, with distinction, in geology and agricultural chemistry; he later studied geology in an honors year. His work experience includes practical oilfield experience in Canada; work with Pacific Petroleum Ltd., a Calgary-based company, drilling for gas reserves in the Peace River area of northern British Columbia; and oversight of well site geology of Australian Oil and Gas’s first exploratory well with rotary drilling in the Sydney Basin. He also conducted petroleum exploration in the Amazon Basin in Brazil for eight years. He has traveled extensively, including in Brazil, the Andean countries in South America, Central America, islands of the Caribbean, Europe, and West Africa.

Warren conducts educational tours for tourists, student groups, and the Samoan Tourist Authority. His tours emphasize Samoa’s natural history, culture, and ancient archaeological sites and have gained worldwide recognition. They are acclaimed in multiple South Pacific guidebooks in multiple languages. Warren Jopling and his tours have been part of SIT Samoa since the program’s beginning in the early 1990s.


Costs Dates



Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Apia

Language Study: Samoan

Prerequisites: None

View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)


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