The Ocean in the School

Pacific Islander Students Transforming Their University

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: Published: February 2020

Author: Rick Bonus

Asian American Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies, Pedagogy and Higher Education

In The Ocean in the School Rick Bonus tells the stories of Pacific Islander students as they and their allies struggled to transform a university they believed did not value their presence. Drawing on dozens of interviews with students he taught, advised, and mentored between 2004 and 2018 at the University of Washington, Bonus outlines how, despite the university's promotion of diversity and student success programs, these students often did not find their education to be meaningful, leading some to leave the university. As these students note, they weren't failing school; the school was failing them. Bonus shows how students employed the ocean as a metaphor as a way to foster community and to transform the university into a space that valued meaningfulness, respect, and critical thinking. In sharing these students' insights and experiences, Bonus opens up questions about measuring student success, the centrality of antiracism and social justice to structurally reshaping universities, and the purpose of higher education.


"Rick Bonus has provided us with important insights into what it might take to transform colleges and universities so that those who have been historically underserved can thrive in higher education. By placing the experiences of Pacific Islanders at the center of his analysis, Bonus brings incisive critique and profound authenticity to a subject that has bedeviled the efforts of educators for many years. For educators and others who seek to ensure that access to academia is available to marginalized and disadvantaged students, this book will be an eye-opener." — Pedro A. Noguera, coeditor of Race, Equity, and Education: Sixty Years from Brown

“In The Ocean in the School, Rick Bonus eloquently shows how indigenous and minority students mobilized against the colonialisms and racisms of higher education. With his focus on the Pacific Islander students of the University of Washington, he demonstrates how they forged a collective identity, protested administrative negligence, developed study groups, and conducted outreach programs. Clearly, Bonus brings much compassion, insight, and rigor to the interplay between Pacific Islander students, multiethnic coalitions, and public education. This book is thus essential reading for anybody who studies the decolonization of modern institutions.” — Keith L. Camacho, author of Sacred Men: Law, Torture, and Retribution in Guam

"Rick Bonus offers a comprehensive ethnographic work that examines challenges faced by Pacific Islanders (PI) and their allies at the University of Washington (UW), and their strategies to overcome these roadblocks. . . . This wider audience is certainly pleased by rich, authentic and semi poetic accounts of participants’ stories and lives. This style does not harm the rigorous methodological work, where Bonus thoroughly analyses field-notes, diaries and transcripts of interviews to offer detailed description and analyses of the transformations that these students went through while transforming their university." — Thiago Bogossian, Ethnic and Racial Studies


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Rick Bonus is Associate Professor of American Ethnic Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle, coeditor of The “Other” Students: Filipino Americans, Education, and Power, and author of Locating Filipino Americans: Ethnicity and the Cultural Politics of Space.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface and Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. What Does It Mean to Transform Schooling?  1
1. The Students, The School, The Ocean: Tracking Students' Lives on Campus  23
2. Pipe: Collective Mentorship as a Politics of Partnership  65
3. Those Who Left  107
4. Schooling Outside and Inside  149
Conclusion. Transformative Schooling Against Boundaries  191
Notes  203
Bibliography  277
Index  245
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0672-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0604-6