Mapping our connections to other people
Jana Kaopuiki, MA ’17, grew up on the island of Lanai, where she has vivid memories of running across the street as a kid to take hula lessons from her great-uncle’s wife. This intimate relationship with a “distant” relative inspired an interest that she ended up pursuing as a master’s student in the Learning, Design and Technology (LDT) program at GSE: the way we map our connections to other people. (As her capstone project, she built a family history platform that helps users think about relationships in nontraditional ways.) For Kaopuiki, it’s the genealogy of knowledge—in conversation with biological ties, of course—that makes the most sense as an organizing principle. She thinks about the way she’s been influenced by her mentors, from her childhood hula teacher to GSE Dean Dan Schwartz, and the way her own ideas are animating a new generation of middle schoolers as she teaches them the practice of design thinking. “What I notice with Hawaii kids is that this whole idea of empathy is pretty easy,” she says; the trick is helping them to look beyond the shore.