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COE doctoral student selected for national Indigenous education fellowship | University of Hawaiʻi System News – UH System Current News



Brigitte Ululani Russo teaches eighth grade science at Waiʻanae Intermediate School, her curriculum for haumāna (students) merge modern science and Indigenous knowledge together. It’s that approach that has helped her capture national attention. Russo, who is working on her PhD in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education Department of Curriculum Studies (EDCS), is one of six scholars from across the country recently selected to participate in an inaugural education fellowship at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Russo will participate in the first cohort of We The Peoples Before Education Fellows, part of a four-day event for program First Peoples Fund featuring immersive performances, workshops, film screenings, cooking demonstrations, in-depth discussions and more.
“This fellowship gives me the opportunity to build my skillset on lesson planning and network with other Indigenous educators across Turtle Island,” said Russo.
Founded in 1995, First Peoples Fund honors and supports native artists, culture bearers and educators through the We The Peoples Before festival as well as other financial, mentoring and networking resources. As part of their responsibilities, the fellows will develop curricula for the 25th anniversary celebration of Native Cultural Expression and Sovereignty that will take place February 3–6, 2022.
“Kumu Ululani is a passionate and committed kumu who works in the Waiʻanae community to empower students through Aloha ʻĀina [love of the land],” said EDCS Specialist Eōmailani Kukahiko. “I nominated Ululani for this award because of the way she is able to intersect science curriculum with ʻike kupuna (ancestral knowledge). Additionally, her work with 808 Urban creates opportunities for youth to tell their moʻolelo (story) of place through a lens of modernity.
As part of the selection criteria, We The Peoples Before Education Fellows are required to have been a secondary education classroom teacher within the last three years and/or to be currently in an out-of-school creative high school youth development program. In addition to developing a series of lesson plans and serving as key advisors for the project, the fellows will lead workshops for local educators and students. Each fellow will receive $10,000 during the 10-month fellowship.
In 2018, Russo was awarded the “Outstanding Graduate Student Poster Presentation” by the Hawaiʻi Conservation Alliance at its annual conference for her paper on Waiʻanae Intermediate School’s place-based, culturally responsive STEM learning activities. The same year, she was also selected to attend the National Geographic National Summer Institute Teton Science Schools in Jackson, Wyoming.
This effort is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Becoming a Native Hawaiian Place of Learning (PDF) and Enhancing Student Success (PDF), two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.
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