Mya Hunter has always felt drawn to protect natural spaces. Growing up on O’ahu, Hawai’i, Hunter was constantly outside.
Hunter’s choice to study Human Dimensions of Natural Resources comes from her experiences living on the island.
“My desire to help the natural world came from a deep sense of loss,” Hunter said. “I saw my home around me changing every year and always felt a sense to help my community in this aspect. This is my way of giving back to my island and community.”
Along with the natural world, community is one of the driving factors of Hunter’s life.
Originally, Hunter had planned to stay on O’ahu for college, but Hunter’s family motivated her to come to the mainland.
Hunter said, “One day my mom and I were in our yard making lei and talking about my plans after high school. She told me that I should go to the mainland to experience and learn as much as I could to one day bring back to the islands.”
After that, Hunter’s sister helped her find the HDNR department at Colorado State University.
Since then, Hunter has continued to grow her passion for protecting the nature of Hawai’i.
“The opportunities, experiences, challenges, connections, and education I received as an undergrad have been more rewarding than I ever could have imagined,” Hunter said.
On top of academic development, Hunter has a growing list of accomplishments.
One of her notable feats was publishing a book: Mo’olelo Pokole: Learning Hawaiian Through Story.
Hunter’s book is designed to help readers learn nearly 150 Hawai’ian words. The book uses “narrative domain” approaches to teach vocabulary and context using stories rather than listing words like a dictionary.
O’ahu has the most full-time residents and the most visitors to the islands that make up Hawai’i. Because of this, the island has been nicknamed “The Gathering Place.”
With her mix of protecting natural spaces and making the Hawai’ian language more accessible, Hunter is helping O’ahu keep its title intact.
In her own words
Q: Other than your book, what accomplishments are you proud of from your time at CSU?
A: My freshman year I lived in Allison hall and wanted to make a sustainable art piece for the building. I befriendedthe maintenance staff and they set me up with a large wooden canvas. During my first semester, I collected bottle caps and plastic straws to repurpose them into art! I painted a diver and a whale shark in a recycled trash mosaic-style art piece that has hung in the lobby ever since!
Q: What activities were you involved in?
A: I was involved in the APACC club. It was helpful in the transition from living in O’ahu to the mainland, and I met many of my closest college friends there.
Q: What was your favorite class at CSU?
A: My favorite class at CSU was Political Ecology taught by Anna Lavoie. This class was extremely interactive and expanded the way I viewed controversial/ heavy environmental and social topics. Political Ecology really lit a fire beneath me to educate myself on environmental injustices occurring throughout the world. I left this class feeling an overwhelming sense of eagerness and inspiration for the work I may do in my life.
Q: What was one of your favorite Warner College memories?
A: My favorite Warner memory was going on an HDNR trip to the mountain campus. We went hiking, did a high ropes course, had bonfires, and saw lots of stars. It was my first time ever being in the mountains like that. Great company and beautiful surroundings. It is a very fond memory of mine.
Q: Which faculty made the biggest impact during your studies?
A: I have had many phenomenal professors at CSU. In particular Jennifer Solomon, Rebecca Gruby, Anna Lavoie, Brett Bruyere, and a special shoutout to my incredible advisor Jacqie Hasan. All of these people have inspired, guided, and mentored me all while being exceptional examples of stewards to this Earth. They are truly phenomenal individuals who have a gift for teaching.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I am enrolled to serve in Peace Corps Jamaica 2023. I will leave the U.S. in March to train in Kingston for three months before getting placed in a rural community to continue two years of service as an Agricultural Facilitator. This includes coaching individuals on sustainable soil and water conservation techniques, co-facilitating trainings on post-harvest management techniques and agro-processing, coaching and co-facilitating sessions on basic agribusiness skills trainings, and organizational development (capacity assessments, stakeholder engagement, project design and management, computer skills, etc.)
Q: What is one piece of advice you’d give to incoming freshmen?
A: Be selfish… hear me out. The transition from high school to college is strange and weird. It’s easy to be hard on your past self while also questioning who you are in the present, and what you’ll be doing with your life in the future. This equates to an insane amount of pressure. Put yourself first by being kind to yourself! College goes by in the blink of an eye so stay present, and be grateful. Also, try to study abroad- it was one of the best opportunities I’ve had in my studies and is an invaluable experience.