HONOLULU, HI (March 11, 2022) – The Graduate School USA’s Pacific and Virgin Islands Training Initiatives (PITI-VITI), congratulates the twenty-three new Pacific Islands graduates who successfully completed the Executive Leadership Development Program (ELDP). A virtual commencement honoring current and future leaders in public service was held on Thursday, March 10, 2022. Program participants represented the US-affiliated insular areas of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau.
The twenty-three Pacific participants were joined by program alumni, family, and friends to celebrate their graduation. The ELDP graduates are an extraordinary group of Pacific Islanders with diverse professional backgrounds, exceptional personal qualities, and an enduring commitment to public service.
Gender and Professional Demographics of the 2021-2022 ELDP Cohort
The Graduation ceremony officially opened with a prayer and blessing from Father Francis X. Hezel, SJ, program advisor and former director of the Micronesian Seminar. In his opening prayer, Father Hezel reminded participants “that one cannot become a leader without first being a servant.”
Mr. Nikolao Pula, the Director of the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) of the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., welcomed the participants. In his opening remarks, Mr. Pula acknowledged the challenge of participating in an ELDP virtual program. In response to the insular areas implementing aggressive global travel restrictions to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, the ELDP program, which traditionally met over four weeks, pivoted to an entirely virtual program. The ELDP program participants attended training over 16 months to develop public service values and leadership, management, and policy skills. Mr. Pula, recognizing the challenge of not meeting in person, surprised all graduates by agreeing to seek funding for an in-person fifth week of training. Mr. Pula then concluded his remarks by challenging the graduates to give back to their communities: “I certainly hope that you will continue to move forward in your careers and at the same time take what you've learned and spread it among your fellow workers who are serving your country.”
Ms. Mikaela Saelua served as the second graduation speaker. Ms. Saelua, who was elected as the class speaker, marked this special moment by sharing the personal stories and funny characteristics of each member of the cohort. She reminded participants of the impact of their ELDP journey, "as we come to a close and I reflect on the question of how to measure our virtual experience; I remember the following things. We got to meet some pretty cool people: governors, presidents, ambassadors, pastors, and judges." Ms. Saelua also asked participants to understand the unique opportunity that the ELDP provided. I want us to remember that our paths were able to cross. Granted, they were virtual, World Wide Web paths--but they crossed, nonetheless. I'm so happy they did because we've gained a vast network of colleagues from our Pacific Region." In her concluding remarks, Ms. Saelua challenged her classmates "to keep this oceanic network strong and to embrace the vastness of our power as Pacific people. Always remember that we are not so different from each other. We are all people: who care for our communities, who work hard to strengthen our governments, who share family values, who come from rich cultures and languages, and who have a passion for learning and growing so that we can make an impact on our sea of islands."
Mr. Jason Aubuchon, Director of the PITI-VITI program, served as the last graduation speaker. He began his remarks by honoring two ELDP community members we recently lost. Mr. Ivan Alafonso Blanco (1976-2021) and Honorable Bethwel Henry (1934-2020) were recognized for their significant contributions to the ELDP. Faculty and staff were also acknowledged and thanked for their contributions to the experiences of the ELDP Cohort 7. In his closing words, Mr. Aubuchon shared his pride and honor to have journeyed with the participants and challenged them to remember the foundation that made their ELDP experience possible.
The ELDP graduates enjoyed a video presentation before transitioning to their final Micro Poly presentations. Mr. Surangel Whipps Jr., President of Palau, served as a panelist providing valuable feedback on the participants' reform proposals.
The PITI-VITI is proud to honor and congratulate the 2021-2022 Executive Leadership Cohort members, which include:
The Pacific and Virgin Islands Training Initiative anticipates the application process for the 2022-23 cohort to open later this year. For more information, please check website https://pitiviti.org/about-the-eldp
The US Department of Interior Office of Insular Affairs commissioned the Executive Leadership Development Program (ELDP) to assist the insular governments with developing and retaining the qualified and skilled staff needed to lead insular governments into the future. Since 2008, the DOI-OIA has supported the participation of 178 leaders who have completed the program. Additional information on the Pacific & Virgin Islands Training Initiatives can be found online at https://pitiviti.org/