About Our Staff

Above all, our staff is here to serve the student. Our first priority is to ensure that the program provides an outstanding experience to every single student. This includes everything from academic advising to extracurricular activities. We're dedicated in what we do.

Here are a few introductions from our full-time staff and student assistants. We hope this gives you a better idea of who we are as individuals, but more importantly, who we are as a team.


Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez, Ph.D.

Vernadette Gonzalez

Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez, Director of the Honors Program, is Associate Professor of American Studies and also currently serves as Chair of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Council at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa. She earned her Bachelor’s degree at Princeton University in English Language and Literature (with certificates in Theater and Dance and African American Studies) and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies (with a Designated Emphasis on Women, Gender and Sexuality) from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Gonzalez has been teaching at the University of Hawai‘i since 2006. Her research and teaching are focused on studies of tourism and militarism, transnational cultural studies, feminist theory, postcolonial studies, Asian American cultural and literary studies, American empire and globalization studies with a focus on Asia and the Pacific.

Dr. Gonzalez has published scholarly articles on tourism and militarism in Hawai‘i and the Philippines, Asian American popular culture and the politics of hospitality. Her published articles and book chapters can be found in several collections, including Transnational Crossroads (U. Nebraska, 2012); Militarized Currents (U. Minnesota Press, 2010); Alien Encounters: Asian Americans in Popular Culture (Duke UP, 2007) and AsianAmerica.Net (Routledge, 2004), as well as in journals such as The Global South (2009) and Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies (Summer 2007).

Her book, Securing Paradise: Tourism and Militarism in Hawai‘i and the Philippines (Duke, 2013) examines the modern military and touristic ideologies, cultures, and technologies of mobility and surveillance in the Philippines and Hawai‘i. It illustrates how the roots and routes of the US military are foundational to tourist itineraries, as well as how modern tourism is central to the mission of unilateral American militarism.

She is currently at work on several research projects. The first is a fleshly and intimate genealogy of imperial geopolitics and desire through the life story of Isabel Rosario Cooper, a mixed-race Filipina vaudeville and film actress who was an erstwhile mistress of General Douglas as well as a Hollywood aspirant. The second is a genealogy of empire, gendered labor and hospitality in Hawai‘i, mapped out through material culture such as quilts, lei, and other souvenirs. She is also hoping to launch a collaborative digital oral history mapping of the anti-eviction movement in 1970s Hawai‘i.

Email: vvg@hawaii.edu

Honors Advisor

Kiana Shiroma

Kiana Shiroma

Kiana Shiroma was born and raised on Oahu. She earned her BA and MA in Speech Communication and is currently in the PhD program for Educational Administration at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Kiana loves spending time with her family and watching movies. She has two black Labrador Retrievers named Mili and Lani who are almost 100 pounds each!

Email: kianak@hawaii.edu

Educational Specialist

Jennifer Custodio

Jenn Custodio

"Aloha everyone! I'm Jenn and I'm from California. I received my B.A. in History from CSU Long Beach and I'm proud to say that in 2011 I earned my MA from UH Manoa in American Studies."

Little known but true: "I enjoy spending time with friends and family, especially with my two dogs, Toby and Rocky. I love going to Disneyland because it's the happiest place on earth!"

Email: jfc7@hawaii.edu

Student Assistant

James “Kimo” Wyatt

James "Kimo" Wyatt

Kimo has returned to school to double major in Hawaiian Studies and Hawaiian Language with the goal of earning a Master’s in Education.  He wants to combine this education with his background in Botany and teach science in the Hawaiian Immersion school system.  Kimo is also a student in the Honors Program.

Little known fact?  “I’ve spent most my working life as a farmer, but I still don’t like to eat my vegetables.”

Multimedia Designer

Arlen McCluskey

Arlen McCluskey

Arlen McCluskey grew up in a sleepy little town in Alaska called Skagway. He now lives in Honolulu, where he works for UH Manoa at the Honors Program. In 2011, Arlen earned a Master's in Communication from UH Manoa. His BA in Communication was also from UH Manoa.

Favorite pastimes? "I love hiking, travelling, playing the uke, photography, and cycling... If only I could do those all at once!"

Email: amcclusk@hawaii.edu

Student Assistant

Ronelyn Ganir

Ronelyn Ganir

Ronelyn Ganir, from Kahalui, Maui, is a student assistant in the Honors Program office. She is a pre-nursing major, and aspires to pursue a career in nursing. An avid lover of music, graphic design, and just kickin' it with her friends, she still makes time for reading too.

Little known fact? "I was originally a lefty, but now I'm right-handed. Only... every now and then, though, my left hand totally tries to take over!"

Student Assistant

Christie Obatake

Christie Obatake

Christie Obatake is a student assistant in the Honors Program office.  She was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii and is currently pursuing a BS in electrical engineering.  She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, listening to music, and watching Japanese dramas.

Little known fact? "My favorite color has always been yellow because it's so bright and cheerful!"

Mānoa Peer Advisor

Andrea Hidano

Andrea Hidano

Andrea Hidano is a Manoa Peer Advisor in the Honors Program.  She is currently working on receiving her BA in English and Economics, and plans to continue her education in the field of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.    

Favorite Pastimes? "I love arts and crafts, especially baking and making jewelry.  I also love traveling and visiting new places!"