Monday, May 2, 2016

Connecting students with the history of Hawai‘i

Douglas Askman, Ph.D., volunteers as a docent at ‘Iolani Palace, where he brings students on field trips.

Hawai'i Pacific University Associate Professor of History Douglas Askman, Ph.D., takes students on field trips near the downtown Honolulu campus. These students are often surprised learning how many key events unfolded in their neighborhood.

"HPU is at the perfect geographic center for teaching the history of Hawai‘i," Askman said. "We are at the core of Hawai‘i's historic district, right here. Many key events associated with the Hawaiian monarchy happened a few blocks from here.”

As part of the Living History of Hawai‘i class, Askman brings students to several historic areas in downtown Honolulu. These places are in walking distance of HPU, including ‘Iolani Palace, where Askman volunteers as a docent.

At the palace, students receive a unique educational experience with Askman. "I can connect the material from the class into the tour."

Lessons and lectures take on a different light, as students walk through the building, learning its place in the history of Hawai‘i.

"I think there is a difference between hearing about something, even seeing pictures of something, and being in the place where it happened."

History always fascinated Askman. After graduating from Pearl City High School, Askman went to the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa and majored in History. For his Master of Arts degree and doctorate, Askman attended the University of California, Los Angeles.

"All the degrees are in history. I was one of those people who went in from high school knowing that I wanted to major in history," Askman said. "I did have a dilemma about what I was going to do, but I didn't have a dilemma in what I was going to major in."

Askman originally returned to Hawai‘i from California to work on his doctoral dissertation. He realized that he needed other things to do than writing.

Back in high school, Askman had visited ‘Iolani Palace every six months. The palace was already a special place for him.

"I always had this dream of being a docent but never thought it would amount to anything," Askman said. "I was focused on the dissertation, but there had to be something else. That's when I decided to become a palace docent. So that was the fulfillment of all those years of going every six months to the palace."

After receiving his Ph.D., Askman began teaching history at HPU in 2002 and continued volunteering at the palace.

Askman also learned of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I. The order serves as a civic and cultural institution to work for the perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture. One of Askman’s former students serves in the order and helped him connect with the group.

In 2011, Askman was awarded the title of Honorary Mamo in the Royal Order, recognizing his work in protecting and perpetuating Hawaiian culture and history. On behalf of the order, he participates in events and makes presentations.

"I've given the tribute to King Kamehameha V for a number of years and present on topics that are of interest to the organization, related to the Hawaiian monarchy."

Later this year, Askman will take part in a formal ceremony officially recognizing his elevation to the title of Honorary Ali'i in the Royal Order.

As with his experiences at ‘Iolani Palace, the research he does for presentations for the Royal Order also find their way into his teaching, which gives Askman a strong sense of gratification. The work outside of HPU happily intersects with teaching students the history of Hawai‘i.

"I try to leverage all my connections into the classroom,” Askman said. "When you bring both together, you reinforce the education."

As part of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Askman presents a birthday tribute to King Kamehameha V, in the Hawai‘i Supreme Court courtroom.

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