University of Minnesota Duluth

Practicum in Hawaii

The UMD Department of Communication in cooperation with the International Education Office offers an opportunity for students to take a short-term, four-credit course in Hawaii during J-term and May term each year. The content of the class focuses on Hawaiian history, culture and current life in Hawaii. We spend many of our days and evenings with Hawaiian friends and other locals learning of and enjoying their cultural ways. This is not the Mai Tai, grass skirt, lei bestowing, beach lounging, Pearl Harbor version of Hawaii sold by the tour industry. It is much different, much better and in the end much more bittersweet. It cannot really be described. Only lived and fondly remembered.

The Hawaii course is open to all students. It counts as an upper division Communication course at both UMD and UMTC. It may also fulfill requirements for some other majors or minors (such as requirements regarding upper division courses from outside of the college your major is in or requirements for course sequences outside of the major).

The exact itinerary varies from year to year but it will be much like previous offerings of the course, described below. The first three nights will likely be spent on Oahu’s Kaneohe Bay at Camp Kokokahi. While on Oahu we will visit significant spiritual sites, the Bishop Museum, and may get in some ocean time. One primary goal for these three days is producing strong group bonds.

The following are links to where we may stay and some of the things we usually will see and do:

We then normally depart Oahu for five nights on Kauai, the Garden Isle. On Kauai we will likely stay at the Plantation Hale. It is a short walk from there to the ocean and the Coconut Beach Market Place. Its central location allows day trips to important Hawaiian sites. While on Kauai we will spend time with Hawaiian's dedicated to preserving their land against development and working to preserve their culture. Local friends will spend time with us and help you experience the aloha, humor and music of these islands. We will also visit some beautiful areas few tourists have ever sees and have experiences no tourist would ever have.

Check these out:

We will then travel on to the Big Island and the old plantation community of Pahala. To most this would look like a sleepy little town with nothing particularly attractive about it and certainly nothing to do. This is good as it keeps the tourists away. This is the place which becomes most students’ favorite spot for the entire trip. We will stay at the Pahala Plantation facilities. In and around Pahala we will see many sacred sites, visit black and green sand beaches (swim with sea turtles if you like), visit a Hawaiian friend's coffee farm and roast coffee, and visit Ka Lae or South Point (the southern most point in the U.S. and perhaps the first landing point of the first Hawaiians). We will also travel to a Kilauea Volcano where you will walk through a lava tube, see the huge crater, visit steam vents, walk in another rain forest, and - - - if conditions are right - - - see the lava flow. . One of the most popular contemporary Hawaiian bands on the islands, Ka'u, will play for us and the community one evening. Locals will prepare feasts for us and friends will join us for a local style party to celebrate. But every evening we will be visited by local friends to play music, sing, “talk story” and laugh—a lot. The people you will meet here will truly change the way you look at your world.

After our time in Pahala, we will depart for our last three island days to Hilo where we will stay at Uncle Billy’s Hotel. We will visit a rainforest, several waterfalls and a natural thermal spring. More Hawaiian friends will meet us in Hilo and spend the days and evenings with us, explaining still more about the Hawaiian culture and situations facing Hawaiians - - - taking you deeper into the culture.

Program Fee and Items Covered by the Fee: $4350 (approximate) covers RT air fare from Minneapolis, inter-island airfare between three islands (Oahu, Kauai, Hawaii), housing, meals, ground transportation (rental cars), entry fees, and four UM credits for the course (no additional tuition charged).

Michael Sunnafrank (the instructor) and Donna Sunnafrank have been leading the trip for 15 years. Donna considers Hawaii her home, having developed close ties to the people and culture of Hawaii during her middle and high school years at Leilehua High School. Michael has been involved with Hawaii and Hawaiian peoples for five decades. He has been involved in workshops at the East-West Center on Oahu focused on cultural issues involving the Hawaiian community and has lectured on these topics at the University of Hawaii. Michael is the former Director of International Education at UMD and is currently a UMD Professor and Chair of the Communication Department. Michael and Donna have led this trip every year since 1999.

Ryan Goei has recently begun leading the trip independently. Ryan has a decade of experience teaching intercultural communication and working with students from cultures across the globe in multiple student groups at UMD. Ryan began his involvement with the Hawaii program and love of Hawaiian culture two years ago. Ryan has been a UMD Associate Professor of Communication since 2003 and currently serves as the Director of the University Honors program at UMD.

Be warned that if you sign up for this class it may well change your life, as it has for many alumni of the class—some of whom currently call Hawaii home.

If you are interested in this opportunity, please contact Michael Sunnafrank at or Ryan Goei at and when you do please indicate which term you are interested in attending (J-term, May or either). As you can imagine, this is a very popular course so contact the instructor early. The course normally fills eight to nine months before departure.

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