UW News

August 10, 2020

Rick Bonus documents Pacific Islander students building community against odds at the UW in book

In his latest book, Rick Bonus, University of Washington professor and chair of the Department of American Ethnic Studies, discusses how Pacific Islander students at the UW used the ocean as a metaphor to create community for themselves and change their university. “The Ocean in the School: Pacific Islander Students Transforming their University” was published by Duke University Press in February.

Rick Bonus

The book tells of Pacific Islander students and their allies as they “struggle to transform a university they believed did not value their presence” despite campus promotion of diversity and student success programs. Bonus interviewed dozens of students he taught and advised at the UW between 2004 and 2018 about their experiences.

“(T)hese students did not often find their education to be meaningful, leading some to leave the university. As these students note, they weren’t failing school, school was failing them.”

Bonus shows how the students used the ocean as a metaphor “to foster community and to transform the university into a space that valued meaningfulness, respect, and critical thinking.”

Reviewing the book, Pedro Noguera of the University of California Los Angeles said: “Bonus has provided us with important insights into what it might take to transform colleges and universities so that those who have been historically underserved can thrive in higher education. For educators and others who seek to ensure that access to academia is available to marginalized and disadvantaged students, this book will be an eye-opener.”

To learn more, contact Bonus at rbonus@uw.edu.