2017-2018 Luce Scholar

School of Communication and Media, Ewha Womans University

For his Luce year in Korea, Sakaria “Sai” Auelua-Toomey will have the opportunity to support the work and research of Professor Hye Eun Lee in the School of Communication and Media at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. Ewha is the world’s largest educational institution for women and a top university in Korea since its founding in 1886. Dr. Lee was a tenured associate professor at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (Sai’s alma mater) before joining Ewha. Her research expertise is in the areas of interpersonal communication, intercultural communication and research methodology.

Sai is a recent graduate in Psychology and Communicology at the University of Hawai’i Mānoa. Born in Honolulu, Hawai’i of Samoan and Irish parents, Sai had an early exposure to the diversity of intercultural communication, which stimulated his subsequent research interests in how different cultures maintain effective communication with one another and how socio-cultural factors affect perception. As an undergraduate research assistant in the Intergroup Social Perceptions Lab, he explored the malleability of identity through its influence by culture, motivation, and situational cues, and how that identity affects intergroup cognition and communication. Sai also worked in the Minority Health International Research Training Program, with a biomedical research team at the Thai Red Cross Anonymous Clinic in Bangkok, Thailand, where he focused on the impact of stigmatization on HIV infection rates in transgender women. Sai also studied individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and schizophrenia, as a research assistant at the Hawai’i Early Assessment Lab.

For his senior honors thesis, Sai collaborated with Interactive Autism Network at the Kennedy Krieger Institute to investigate individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which led to his first publication in the Mānoa Horizons undergraduate journal. This was followed by an internship at the Center for Study of Language and Information at Stanford University. Sai plans to pursue a Ph.D. in perception, decision-making and communication, and leverage his research to facilitate effective intercultural communication in international relations. As a Samoan, he promotes greater representation of Pacific Islanders in academia and politics and has plans to create programs that support this goal while serving as a role model for Pacific Islanders. Sai currently serves in the United States Air Force, providing him a unique experience with a better understanding of the military’s perception of risk and how international challenges are handled. He also volunteers as the unit’s physical training leader and unit education advisor. Concurrently, Sai serves as a seminar leader at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, a U.S. Department of Defense institute that addresses regional and global security issues with participation of representatives from the United States and over forty Asia-Pacific nations. As a seminar leader, he facilitates an environment for discussion and collaboration based on inclusion, transparency and mutual respect. When not working, he enjoys being active by participating in races, rock-climbing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and basketball.