Tips for Graduate Students

The current graduate students would like to welcome incoming students. Here are some tips that might make your transition to UH go more smoothly. These notes are not meant to represent or replace official university or department policy.

Sections of this page

Anthropology at UHM
Setting Up An Office
Jobs and Waivers
Residency and Tuition
Unclassified Status
First Week of Classes
MA and PhD Degrees
Paper Worth Saving
University Services

The University of Hawai'i System

The University of Hawai'i system has three baccalaureate campuses and six community college campuses. The baccalaureate campuses are: 1) UH Manoa located at the base of Manoa valley that extends into the humid mountains, 2) UH West O'ahu in Pearl City (near Pearl Harbor), and 3) UH Hilo on the "Big Island" of Hawai'i. The Manoa campus is a research university with about 18,000 students. About one-third of the students are in graduate school. Waikiki is a 15-minute bus ride from the campus.

About Anthropology at UH

Many anthropology students select UH because of its focus on Asia and the Pacific. The university offers an impressive variety of languages, library collections and courses on that region of the world, particularly in comparison to many mainland universities. But the real selling point of learning Anthropology here is the culture of Hawai'i, which has an amazing diversity of ethnic groups, 50 according to one account. Caucasians ("haoles") are a minority in this society which has Filipinos, Japanese, Hawaiians, Chinese, Koreans, Puerto Ricans, and Samoans among its population. Here you are likely to be surrounded by students and residents from the region you are studying. You are not just studying a culture, you are living in it. Also each summer students go to Pacific islands, Southeast Asia, China and Japan to do archaeology digs, take intensive language courses, do fieldwork, and go to conferences. That kind of activity it catching. Students also appreciate the collegial and yet independent "culture" of the Anthropology Department. Students are not pitted against each other for grants, professors' favors, or just to graduate. And there is freedom to devise your own field of study whether the subject is monks in Burma or ceramic analysis in Fiji. There are about 75 graduate students, including 30 doing MA degrees and 45 doing PhDs. The graduates are divided fairly equally by sex with a few more males in the MA program and more females in the PhD program. The first MA degree was given in 1930 on Dental Morphology and the Pathology of Prehistoric Guam. The first PhD degree was given in 1967 on The Structure of Tongan Dance.

Important People

Department Chair Christine Yano and Graduate Chair Andrew Arno are key people for grad students as they grapple with requirements and planning their college careers. Marti Kerton, the Student Services Specialist, and Elaine Nakahashi, the Department Secretary, are competent and essential department employees who will guide you through the nuts and bolts of the program. Ms. Kerton is your main resource when it comes to understanding university rules and establishing your advisory committee. Ms. Nakahashi handles the front office where the copy machine, telephone, and electric typewriter are found.

Setting Up An Office

Student Offices and Grad Lounge -- The Anthropology Department is located on the third floor of Saunders Hall (formerly named Porteus Halll and Social Sciences Building), and is next to the administrative building called the Queen Lili'uokalani Center for Student Services. Our department is lucky to have both offices for grad students and a Special Events Room (lounge) for anthropology students and faculty. Student offices hold about five students each and are equipped with desks, bookshelves, and filing cabinets. Classified graduate students are eligible for desks if they expect to use the offices at least 10 hours a week. As there are more students in the Department than desks available, students should put their names on the waiting list by emailing It generally takes about a year for students to get a desk, but the Anthropology Graduate Reading Library provides study space for students without offices in return for minimal volunteer commitments. The lounge has a microwave, refrigerator, student mail boxes and couches. A mini-recycling center is located in the lounge and grads take turns recycling.

E-Mail -- New students set up e-mail accounts in Keller Hall soon after arriving. On e-mail, students receive important notices about visiting lecturers, scholarships, news developments in Asia and the Pacific, and department matters. Some professors have used e-mail for take-home tests and as a way for students to give each other feedback on class assignments. The Anthropology Department has three lists serves -- one for faculty, staff, graduate students and anthropologists outside the department; one for grad students and one for undergraduate students. The grad list has enabled students to debate among themselves on relevant issues such as proposed changes in degree requirements.

Computer Labs -- The UH ITS Office has four computer labs on campus for student, faculty and staff use. In our department, we have a room with a computer and printer for Anthropology grads only. Grad students, who have access to this room at all times, pay a small amount for the paper and toner. Our College maintains five computer labs for any student taking a social sciences course. You are required to sign up for an account. There are two PC computer labs in Saunders Hall. The lab on the third floor has about 20 computers, a slide and print scanner. It is open six days a week at various hours. There is a comparable PC computer lab on the sixth floor. There are also three mac labs in Crawford Hall.

Copying and Office Equipment -- The Anthropology Department provides some office equipment for grads -- electric typewriter, a telephone, slide projectors, tape recorders and a photocopier (five cents per copy).

Anthropology Graduate Reading Library -- The Department has its own library of anthropology books, which is managed by students on a volunteer basis. Copies of dissertations and thesis papers are kept here.

Jobs and Waivers

Graduate Assistant Positions -- In Anthropology, there are usually eight Teaching Assistant positions. The advertisement is posted on our website so be sure to check the deadlines. The Department normally sends a reminder in February and September for applications but you should be mindful of these deadlines. Appointments are for two years for MA students and three years for PhD students. TA positions are 20 hours a week, and work generally consists of helping with two classes (e.g., grading papers, getting movies, advising students, and possibly teaching a class or two). Pay for a half-time TA starts at $1246.50 a month with health benefits and a tuition waiver. Because it is pretty hard to live on that in Hawaii, students often supplement it with loans. Generally, only second year students are considered for these jobs, which are competitive, often with six students applying for one position.

Other Jobs at UH -- Many students have found jobs at UH outside the Department. The Student Employment Office has job listings for both on-campus and off-campus positions. The pay varies with Research Assistants getting a bit more than TAs. Some jobs in other departments come with tuition waivers while others do not. Students have landed excellent jobs editing department newsletters, working for UH Press (the university publisher), and doing computer work. Jobs outside the university can be attractive such as one for a tour guide for whale watching tours. The main employer in the state is the tourism industry, now that sugar and pineapple production have been greatly reduced. Many people living in Hawai'i work two jobs to keep afloat, while students often survive on loans, scholarships and part-time jobs. Archaeology grad students often get part-time employment in contract archaeology to make ends meet.

Achievement Scholarships (formerly called Tuition Waivers) -- Tuition waivers and partial tuition waivers may become available for incoming students during their second semester. Continuing students will continue to be eligible for these "Achievement Scholarships". These scholarships are also very competitive. Students apply for these usually in March. Waivers and other scholarship deadlines come during the most hectic time of the school year and students should take care not to miss these crucial dates.

Residency for Tuition Purposes

Students who qualify on the first day of school as state residents, having lived here one year, pay less than half the tuition. Many students find these requirement confusing because it has to do with your "intent" to change your residency to Hawaii, to work here and pay taxes. Right now UH is suffering from major budget cutbacks, so residency has become more difficult to prove. And knowing whether you qualify is not simple, so read on.

Qualification starts with the day you arrive in Hawaii. You must document that you intended to make Hawaii your home. Supporting documents include: application to register to vote, application for a business license, rental or lease agreement, opening a bank account, filing of resident personal income tax, driver's license, and Hawaii ID (optional). Having a job in Hawaii (outside the university!) and paying taxes are extremely important. A tax clearance certificate is required. Persons who come to Hawaii to work in their own businesses can obtain a Business License (general excise tax license) for $20 at the State Department of Taxation, 830 Punchbowl (near Queen St.). The number is 587-4242 (often busy) and office hours are M-F, 7:45-4:30.

UH recommends that you keep a file of these documents which are submitted once you have been here a full 12 months. For more information on rules, see the UH Catalog. Also the Residency Officer is located in the ground floor of Queen Lili'uokalani Center for Student Services and has both the condensed regulations and the complete "rules and regulations."

Unclassified Graduates

UH allows students to enter as Post-BA Unclassified Graduates on shorter notice and with less paperwork than regular Classified Graduates. For "non-traditional" students who are returning to school after several years or students who majored in something else, this is an excellent way to become acquainted with the Anthropology Department and prove your ability. Unclassified grads are not part of the Department but can take Anthropology classes, meet professors and then apply by the once-a-year deadline. If accepted, most credits can go toward your MA degree with permission from the Department and Graduate Division.

The First Week of Classes

How much should you take? -- What is your personal stress level? Some students prefer nine credits (three classes); others can handle 12 credits (four classes) or more. A full-time graduate student takes eight credits or more. The 600/700 level seminar classes require you to read a book a week and write a paper, so students try to balance these with less demanding courses. Generally, it is wise to go easy on credit hours your first semester until you get a feel for what you can handle.

What should you take? -- Anthropology classes that are 300 and above count for your graduate degree. If you have been out of Anthropology for many years or have a degree in another field, you probably should not take 600/700 classes the first semester because it takes some time to learn the jargon and concepts. Also some classes should precede others, although this might not be clear from the titles. For instance, "Sex and Gender" is a 300 level class that should be taken before "Women and Culture" which is a 600 class. "History of Anthropology" (490) is an excellent background class in the discipline's founding "parents" and theories. It is good to take this before "Ethnology" (601), a core course on theory. Ask other grads about which classes they recommend taking together. Students are required to take two "core" courses which are considered quite demanding. These are usually taken later in the student's college career and not in the same semester if possible.

Visiting other classes -- There is lots of movement the first week of class. Students "surf" the offerings before deciding what they will keep or drop. It is highly recommended that students visit all the classes that are of interest to them. Students get to meet the professors, see the syllabus and get a feel for the class. This helps grads make decisions on what to take later on. Also, if a grad needs to drop a class that first week, he or she will have alternatives in mind, which makes adding and dropping much easier. One student lamented taking a 600-level theory class the first semester but did not realize the error until three weeks into the semester when it was too late to switch to another course. While most of your classes will be in the Anthropology Department, it is valuable to visit classes in related fields and get to know the wider faculty. You will need outside members on your MA and PhD committees and this is a good time to meet them.

Dropping credits -- If you go from 12 to nine credits (from four to three classes), you will lose 20 percent of the cost for that one class. You get an 80% refund which drops to a 40% refund in a short time. For non-residents, that is a loss of more than $240 if you drop only one class on the first day of school! This is particularly a problem for new students who have trouble judging how many classes they can handle and tend to start with a heavy load. Grads should pay close attention to the "refund" section of the gray Schedule of Classes and consider starting with fewer courses and adding more during the first week of school to avoid this penalty. 12 credits and above are the same price.

Getting a "W" on your record -- If you drop a class about a week after the beginning of the term, you will get a W (withdraw) on your record forever. One W will not hurt, but a string might prompt questions from future universities and employers. So pay close attention to this deadline. Appeals are possible if the class only meets once a week.

Auditing -- Formally audited classes cost the same as regular classes and appear on your transcript. If you informally audit a class, you get the teacher's permission to attend classes but generally you do not write papers or take tests. If you have a tuition waiver, you can formally audit without additional cost.

Incompletes -- If you really cannot finish the requirements for a class, you can take an incomplete ("I"). Taking an incomplete has good and bad points. Often students have good intentions to do the paper soon after the end of the semester, but it gets pushed to the next semester when they are very busy. But taking an incomplete can be an alternative to turning in low quality work and hurting your Grade Point Average. It's not always possible, but grad students shoot for a 4.0 GPA.

MA Degree

Picking Thesis (Plan A) or 3 Papers (Plan B) -- You can either write a thesis (80-100 pages) or three papers (about 30 pages each). Your advisor and resource books (some are listed below) will give you some guidance on this major decision. The general wisdom is that a thesis takes longer to finish, but it is more of a statement about your research interests and ability. Those planning to do a "terminal" (ending there) MA degree, consider the thesis to be a document they can show to future employers. But the vast majority of students do three papers. Often these are written in classes or during a 699 Directed Reading/Research course, in which students meet individually with a professor for variable credit. One of the three papers must be a research proposal so most students write it during the Research Methods class. Also, several students, particularly archaeology majors, get these papers published. (One of the books below recommends that students publish at least one paper before finishing the PhD.)

If you are an MA student, you are assigned a temporary advisor when you arrive. You should select your own three-member committee and organize a meeting by the end of your first year. You will meet with your committee members again (you arrange it) when you "defend" your three papers or thesis at the end of your MA program. (See the "Degree Program" section of this webpage for more details.)

How Does It Work? -- For most grads, all course work (30 credits) is completed during the MA process. (Students with Anthropology MAs from other schools have different requirements for course work during their PhD program.) It often takes about two-and-a-half to three years to finish the MA, but students must plan carefully to fulfill requirements because the desired classes are not given every semester. Also it takes additional time to take classes to complete "deficiencies." The deficiencies are introductory classes (100-200 level) in the four subfields -- archaeology, physical anthropology, linguistics and cultural anthropology. Students with BAs or MAs in other fields will probably have to complete some of these deficiencies. You can "test out" of introduction to linguistics and cultural anthropology through "unit mastery" classes that require you to take several tests until you pass them all. To save time, some students take deficiency classes at community colleges her or on the mainland.

Cultural students who plan to do fieldwork in a foreign country will need to take language. Many students decide to put it off until their second year or later to get through the MA degree faster. Language classes and deficiency credits do not count toward your degree. In addition to Anthropology classes, students usually take valuable classes in other disciplines such as History, Ethnic Studies, Geography, Education, Sociology, Religion and Asian Studies. Many students will audit these classes to get the information without the extra workload.

PhD Degree

When the student applies for the PhD, the MA committee gives a recommendation for approval or not. The faculty members, who had the student in classes, give written assessments of the student's course work to determine acceptance into the PhD program. The PhD student then concentrates on writing a research proposal, studying for comprehensive exams and applying for grants in preparation for field work. The student compiles five bibliography lists on five topics "broadly relevant" to the students' research interest, but not too narrowly focused. The student selects five committee members to match the topics. Three of these members must come from the Anthropology Department. In the comprehensive exams, the student takes five written tests on these topics lasting three hours each over the course of two weeks. Then the student orally defends the answers before the committee. After this, the other students often throw a celebration party with refreshments and leis.

If the student has successfull applied for grants, he or she goes into the field in the country of choice, and does research for a year or more. The student returns (or hides out somewhere) to write the dissertation, which often takes another year. Once the dissertation is completed, it is then discussed in a public talk in the Department (optional) and defended before the five-member committee. In the best of all possible worlds, it would take about three years to get the PhD. But of course, students run into road blocks like not getting grants, having to work to earn a living, and having to pick a new research site because of political turmoil at the old one. The average time it takes to finish a MA and PhD in Anthropology in the U.S. is about eight years. But UH students have found some clever ways to reduce that time such as maxing credit cards to pay for fieldwork, rather than waiting for grants.

Pieces of Paper Worth Saving

The Anthropology MA Checklist -- This is a form that you will revise over and over as you fulfill the 30 credits needed for the MA. It contains blanks for all the requirements. When you meet with your committee, this form is a helpful summary of your progress and plans. You must take two courses each in the subjects of Area, Method and Theory, and you are required to take two core classes. Some of these classes can be taken in other departments with permission. You also must take 18 credits in 600 level classes or above.

List of Courses Categorized by Area, Method and Theory -- This list categorizes Anthropology classes by Area, Method and Theory. It includes classes that are 300 and above, which count as graduate classes.

Anthropology Graduate Program -- This five-page document includes the requirements for the MA and PhD programs and is a valuable reference sheet.

Anthropology Course Descriptions -- The department produces colorful booklets each semester listing the classes offered. These are valuable when you want to refer back to a class you took previously. The descriptions are also posted online.

Anthropology Graduate Students List -- The department makes a list of all graduates containing addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail.

Anthropology Professors and TA Office Hours List -- This list contains professor's, lecturer's TA's and staff's office hours, telephone numbers and e-mail address.

University of Hawai'i at Manoa Catalog -- This is basically the rule book of the university, which is used as a reference text for making decisions. It contains information on residency rules, department requirements, campus organizations and also lists all the classes the department has given in the past. Students can request that a class listed here be given again.

UH Faculty and Staff Directory -- Faculty Staff Directories are no longer printed so you if you need to contact anyone in the UH system, you will need to look it up online at

University Services

Campus Center -- This all-purpose building houses the social life of UH, comparable to a student union at other universities. Here students can obtain an UH ID card, buy a bus pass, movie passes, tickets for sports, music and film events. The large ballroom here has been the venue for notable speakers such as Angela Davis. Food Services include Subway, Jamba Juice, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Yummies, and Corner Market Cafe. A student lounge for naps and video games in a noisy recreation room. There's also a Farmer's Market on the first floor which sells fresh produce every Friday. The Bookstore is also located here.

Bookstore -- Aside from the usual textbooks, the Bookstore stocks cards, art and stationery supplies, books on Hawai'i culture, clothes with school emblems, computers and a pretty impressive new collection of computer "how to" books. All purchases are tax free. Most students order non-textbooks through the web. The Bookstore will also order books for you without extra charge, if you want to avoid mailing charges and aren't in a hurry. The Bookstore sells the New York Times daily. Used textbooks are pretty pricey, but it's a sellers market because the only other place to find used textbooks is at the Rainbow Bookstore, about 10 minutes walk away, where the selection is slim. Unfortunately, there is no organized system of purchasing used books from other students. Most PhD students order used books for comps on the web.

Libraries -- Hamilton Library has the main collection and features the Hawaiian and Pacific Collection (5th floor), the Asian Collection (4th floor), microfilm, and the largest number of copying machines on campus (7 cents a page if you have a copy card or 10 cents a page without a copy card). Sinclair, the other library, has journals before 1970, music books, reserve books, and Wong Audiovisual Center. Sinclair also houses the largest student computer lab with about 70 Mac and PC computers, called the CLIC lab. Despite recent cutbacks in subscription journals, the Hamilton library collection, particularly on Pacific and Asia, is pretty impressive. And there are a variety of ways you can get books. Graduate students can check out books for the semester, put a recall on books already checked out, and get books through inter-library loan at no charge. Hamilton Library has a number of computerized journal indexes such as Expanded Academic Index, Uncover and ERIC.

Wong Audiovisual Center -- Located in Sinclair Library, this center is well stocked with old and new videos. They have a particularly good library of Southeast Asian documentaries. Also students can check out recent films and CDs for four days without charge.

Food -- UH has three places to chow down -- the fancy new Paradise Palms Cafe with artificial palm trees, the Campus Center Cafe, and Manoa Gardens which features beer in addition to karaoke and bands on selected Friday nights. BA-Le Sandwich Shop serves Vietanmese food which includes plate lunchs, salads, soups and desserts. There are also kiosks and carts around campus which sells food and drinks. Dormitory students must buy food plans from Marriott and the price is steep. Off campus, about a 10 minute walk away, there is a cluster of shops serving Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Greek and Indian food, plus banks, bars, a supermarket, health food store, and several lei outlets.

School of Pacific and Asian Studies (SPAS) -- SPAS administers a variety of programs for students studying Asia and the Pacific. There are individual centers for Chinese Studies, Japanese Studies, Korean Studies, Pacific Islands Studies, Philippine Studies, South Asian Studies & Southeast Asian Studies plus a Buddhist studies program. Language labs offer help in many Asian and Pacific languages. Also bulletin boards inform students of a wealth of lectures, performances, study abroad programs, scholarships and even some jobs. Southeast Asian Studies has a weekly brown bag lunch lecture series. Hawaiian Studies, which has expanded greatly in the past few years particularly in language offerings, is located in a new center on nearby Dole Street.

East-West Center -- Established in 1960 to foster cultural exchange, this non-profit center gives scholarships to 100 students from the U.S., Asia and Pacific to study at UH. A number of Anthropology graduates have received these scholarships which fund much of their education. One requirement, however, is that students live in dormitories and no pets are allowed. The Center is located on the edge of the UH campus. Although the Center's budget was greatly reduced in the past few years, it offers valuable resources such as visiting scholars, a quality art gallery, graduate student conferences, a small bookstore with its own publications, and a peaceful Japanese garden with pond.

Graduate Student Organization (GSO) -- All classified graduates are members of this chartered student organization. Among other services, GSO provides one-time travel funds for graduate students who are invited to give papers at conferences. The funds awarded are a maximum of $750, depending on the distance traveled.

Career Services -- The advertisement for this center asks, "Can Your Resume Survive a Screening?" In addition to editing resumes and applications to universities, this office also helps students improve their "first impression" at job interviews by providing practice sessions that can be videotaped. Along the same lines, the Anthropology Department has a class in Professional Development which gives students practical experience in searching for grants, preparing a conference presentation, and writing a curriculum vitae.

Learning Assistance Center -- This center gives workshops on time management, writing research papers and taking exams. This is particularly useful for "non-traditional" students who have been away from academics for a while. The English Department provides writing workshops to assist individuals on a one to one basis with their writing through half-hour writing workshops.

Women's Center -- This center has lunch-time speakers, a small but good women's library and a comfortable lounge for taking a break away from school life.

Kokua Program (Disability Access Services) -- Several students have remarked on this supportive program which provides note-taking, academic advice, test accommodations, and other services for persons with disabilities.

Counseling and Student Development -- Individual therapeutic counseling is provided at this office in addition to a wide variety of group sessions. The center offers groups for relationships, stress and relaxation, non-traditional students, first generation college students, adult children of dysfunctional and alcoholic families, persons recovering from sexual abuse, academic motivation, creativity, and separate groups for men and women on gender issues.


It is always good to get some perspective on your graduate career, especially when you are immersed in the daily grind. Here are some books that have helped other students take the long view. Other books deal with writing dissertations, applying for grants and fieldwork. Sage Publications (2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320, has some excellent books on qualitative research methods, academic theory, and grant writing.

Getting What You Came For by Robert Peters. (This is a favorite of many grad students.)

The Professional Stranger by Michael Agar.

Designing Qualitative Research by Catherine Marshall and Gretchen Rossman. (Thousands of copies of this have sold.)

Proposals that Work: A Guide for Planning Dissertations and Grant Proposals by Lawrence Locke, Waneen Wyrick Spirduso, and Stephen Silverman.

How to Prepare a Research Proposal: Guidelines for Funding and Dissertations in the Social and Behavioral Sciences by David Krathwohl.

Stalking Employment in the Nation's Capital: A Guide for Anthropologists, produced by The Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists. (This book provides insight into the rather new field of applied and development Anthropology.)

Postmodernism and the Social Sciences by Robert Hollinger.

For further, more informal advice for graduate students and junior scholars, see also "The Other Graduate Handbook," written by Dr. Alison Rautman, who has given us permission to share it on our website.