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Sakaria Auelua-Toomey

Class of 2017-2018

About Sakaria

(updated 6/2018) Sakaria “Sai” Auelua-Toomey 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.  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 in the Center for Study of Language and Information at Stanford University.  Sai plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Psychology and leverage his research to understand social categorization and facilitate effective intercultural communication.  As a Samoan, he promotes greater representation of Pacific Islanders in academia 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. Sai served as a seminar leader at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, where he facilitates an environment for discussion and collaboration based on inclusion, transparency and mutual respect.  As a Luce Scholar, Sai conducted research at Ewha Woman’s University on the role South Korean media plays on its international relationships, identifying specific factors that influence South Korean media success.  Sai also served as a guest lecturer.  In February 2018, Sai worked as a liaison officer at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, where he coordinated and assisted with interviewing the participating athletes.

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