by Susan K. Serrano Director of Educational Development

As we are poised to begin a new academic year, the Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law is pleased to announce Maoli Thursdays – a lunchtime forum and speaker series to be held on the first Thursday of every month. Maoli Thursdays will feature discussions on contemporary Native Hawaiian and other Pacific and Indigenous legal and justice issues. Speakers will include faculty, local attorneys, community members, and scholars who will discuss their recent work, cases and activities. Maoli Thursdays will also provide opportunities for students to find out more about the Center’s courses, research and publications, job and volunteer opportunities, events and conferences, and careers in Native Hawaiian law.

On September 6, 2007, our first Maoli Thursday, “An Introduction to the Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law,” will inform new and returning students about the types of resources and opportunities the Center has to offer.

Maoli Thursdays is an important part of the Center’s effort to promote education, dialogue, and scholarship among law students and the community at large on Native Hawaiian law. Through Maoli Thursdays and other projects, we seek to empower Native Hawaiian and other students to learn about and impact issues of significance to the Native Hawaiian community, and to pursue and succeed in their legal careers.

Maoli Thursdays was an idea sparked by a conversation I had with Stephanie Wildman, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Social Justice and Public Service at the Santa Clara University School of Law. Our Center was in the midst of strategic planning, and as part of that process, I spoke with six directors of similar law school-based centers to obtain insights and suggestions for our program. During that process, I also spoke with Mary Louise Frampton, Director and Professor of Law of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at Boalt Hall School of Law, UC Berkeley, among others.

Both the Santa Clara and Boalt law centers hold “Social Justice Mondays,” which are regular speaker series that blend theory and practice in their focus on “contemporary social justice issues.” Both Centers bring social justice practitioners and educators to campus to describe their work and career paths. “Social justice faculty facilitate those sessions, spending an introductory few minutes reporting on their own work and enabling students to know them better. Many law school staff participate in these noon sessions, which again fosters an inclusive climate.” See Stephanie M. Wildman, Democracy and Social Justice: Founding Centers for Social Justice in Law Schools, 55 JOURNAL OF LEGAL EDUCATION 252 (2005). Many thanks to Stephanie Wildman for inspiring Maoli Thursdays. For additional insight into building successful law school-based centers and programs, and infusing social justice concerns into students’ legal education, please see her Democracy and Social Justice article (cited above).

Because our Center is the only academic institution of its kind based at Hawai‘i’s only law school, it is important for us to incorporate Native Hawaiian law and concerns into students’ legal education and to empower Hawaiian and other students to pursue careers in Native Hawaiian law. We hope that Maoli Thursdays will contribute to a greater awareness of Native Hawaiian law, culture, and history that can lead to increased justice for Hawaiians and among all of Hawai‘i’s people.