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The Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities Appoints Aiko Yamashiro as its New Executive Director

HONOLULU, HAWAI‘I—The Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities (HCH) is proud to announce the selection of Aiko Yamashiro as its new executive director. She officially began her new role on January 1, 2019. 

“Aiko brings an impressive set of talents and deep passion to HCH,” says Board Chair, Mitch Yamasaki. “We are confident that she will invigorate our organization’s rich history and spark new energy to our well-respected work of gathering diverse communitiesacross Hawai‘i.” 

HCH is a non-profit organization formed in 1972 that serves all areas of the public humanities, through its own council-conducted programs and in collaboration with community partners.. Its mission is to connect people with ideas that broaden perspectives, enrich lives, and strengthen communities. 

“I am honored to join HCH and continue its important legacy as a convener for all people of Hawai‘i,” says Aiko. “The humanities is a focus and celebration of what makes us human—and more relevantly, what makes us human in Hawai‘i. I’m thrilled to be able to continue our work of creating space for dialogue, connection, and exploration of all the things that matter to us as people living in this ‘āina and this world.” 

In addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations of HCH, Aiko plans to work with HCH staff to strengthen the Hawai‘i place-based aspect of its History Day and Try Think programs, extend grantmaking and collaboration opportunities with neighbor islands and continue to secure federal and local funds and educational resources to nurture and support the brilliance happening in local communities. 

Aiko has advanced humanities in Hawai‘i for the past two decades through her work as an artist, teacher, editor, and community organizer. Encouraging thoughtful conversation is her niche. She has created and led a wide range of humanities events—from poetry workshops on peace and aloha ‘āina, to homemade Spam dinners and conversations about community health in historical context—that cultivate courage, creativity, and community building. 

Previously, Aiko served on the Board of Directors of Hawai‘i People’s Fund, as a peacebuilder with Women’s Voices, Women Speak, and as a co-founder and co-organizer of Nā Hua Ea, a community arts workshop series and annual concert. Aiko was most recently an editorial assistant for the Center for Biographical Research, in which she focused on oral history projects, Hawaiʻi and Pacific life writing, and life writing for social change. 

She is completing her doctorate degree in English from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, where she also taught and developed undergraduate courses focused on Hawai‘i literature, spoken word, and creative writing and community engagement. She says that growing up in Kāne‘ohe, O‘ahu with her local Okinawan and Japanese family taught her humility, hard work, and the importance of intergenerational support.

Aiko succeeds Bob Buss, who retired as executive director in December 2018 after serving with HCH for 35 years. HCH deeply appreciates Bob’s commitment to the organization, his foundational work of successfully building HCH’s public and education programming, and his grace and generosity in passing on his legacy. 

About Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities

Founded in 1972, the Hawaiʻi Council for the Humanities is a 501(c)3 non-profit affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities and is Hawai‘i’s only non-profit community organization solely dedicated to promoting all areas of the public humanities. Beginning as a grantmaking organization, HCH now conducts K–12 teacher workshops, community discussions, and special partnerships to advance the public humanities in Hawai‘i. Our two signature programs are Hawai‘i History Day for K–12 audiences and Motheread/Fatheread®, a parent-child literacy, discussion, and family empowerment program HCH has been running in prisons for more than twenty years. For more information on HCH events, grants, and programs, please visit: https://hihumanities.org