Welcoming our first full-time Pacific Islander instructor

By Cassie Ordonio

The Board of Trustees confirmed the full-time tenure track of Dr. David Palaita of the interdisciplinary studies department on June 9.

Palaita is the first Pacific Islander to hold a full-time position at City College after teaching as an adjunct professor for nine years.

“I was elated and just really happystunned,” said Palaita. “I know there were many more qualified candidates.”

Palaita is a first generation college graduate. After earning a Ph.D in ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley, the former McNair scholar continues to teach for the sake of college students’ higher education.

Professor david Palaita of the Interdisciplinary Studies department is the first Pacific Islander to be promoted to full-faculty at City College. (Photo by Cassie Ordonio/The Guardsman)
Professor david Palaita of the Interdisciplinary Studies department is the first Pacific Islander to be promoted to full-faculty at City College. (Photo by Cassie Ordonio/The Guardsman)

He began his career co-teaching Pacific Islands Studies courses at the University of Washington as an undergraduate in 2002. Later, he taught courses for the UC Berkeley Upward Bound program, Camp Unity and San Francisco county jails.

Palaita started teaching at City College in 2007. He gradually established the Bay Area’s first Critical Pacific Islands Studies program in 2013, which was later adopted by College of San Mateo as well.

His students are given the opportunity to be published in “Matamai,” a Pacific Studies anthology book series.

“When I came to City College, I didn’t have a concrete plan as to what I wanted to do in academia,” former student Terrilyn Woodfin said. “However, upon taking Introduction to Ethnic Studies with Dr. Palaita, the direction was clear to me. Now I have graduated from City College with a clear sense of how I will impact the community and the world.”

Palaita is also hoping to turn City College’s Critical Pacific Islands Studies certificate into an associate of arts degree. The proposal is currently under review with the college’s curriculum committee.

“This is a big deal for our community,” Palaita said. “If there is anyone that should be recognized, it should be the current and former instructors of City College who have worked tirelessly to support these efforts. I only hope I can live up to their expectations.”

According to Palaita, the program has already won approval from City College’s Academic Senate and the Office of Student Equity for more than $85,000 of state equity funding for the 2016-2017 school year.

“We’re glad that there’s a full time leader now that can move that department, and the broader goal is that we’re trying to reach for equity to move forward,” Interim Chancellor Susan Lamb said.

Interdisciplinary Studies Department Chair Lauren Muller echoes Chancellor Lamb’s excitement in having Palaita represent City College in the greater community and beyond.

“David Palaita’s hiring is a boon for the entire district,” Muller said.