W&J rising sophomore Ella Phillips stands in front of the Lolani Palace in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii.

Exploring the Polynesian archipelago: rising sophomore uses Magellan Project to study colonization in Hawaii

Created: July 8, 2022  |  Last Updated: August 5, 2022  |  Category:   |  Tagged: , , , ,

WASHINGTON, PA (July 8, 2022)—Rising sophomore Ella Phillips has crossed the continent and is learning the cost of colonization through W&J’s Magellan Project.

A political science and history double major, Phillips spent 25 days in June and July exploring Hawaii, and traveling through its Hawai’i, Oahu, and Maui islands to study the history of colonialism in the Polynesian archipelago.

“The Hawaiian Islands have a long history with colonialism, and the effects of imperialism have lasted into the 21st century,” Philips said. “Coming to the islands allowed me to research that much deeper than I could on a computer.”

By speaking with locals and historians in Kona, Waikiki, Wailuku, and Kihei, and visiting the Hulihe’e and Iolani palaces, Lahaina Heritage and Plantation museums, Queen Emma and Baldwin homes, Moku’aikaua Church, Pearl Harbor Memorial, and Old Lahaina Prison, Phillips made her learning personal, taking it beyond the screen.

“These places are important to study because they tell the story of Hawaiian monarchy and culture,” Phillips said. “I made meaningful and lasting connections with the people [I met] in Hawaii and believe I have gained a personal understanding of what their history means to them.”

Using travel to gain cultural knowledge and understanding has always been a priority for Phillips, and even factored into her choice of school.

“The Magellan Project was one of the reasons why I decided to attend W&J,” Phillips said. “I always knew I wanted to travel…and expand my horizons, and I was extremely excited to have this opportunity.”

But stepping out of her comfort zone to travel alone for the first time also proved intimidating.

“I became very nervous,” Phillips said. “But now, after being in Hawaii for almost one month, I’ve shown myself that even if I am worried, I am able to navigate an unfamiliar situation without the support of close friends or family.”

Though her graduation is years away, Phillips plans to carry that lesson with her into post-collegiate life, hoping to travel with either the Fulbright Program or Peace Corps before pursuing a law career with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“I believe that being able to put myself into another person’s shoes and gain world experience will help me to be a successful and empathetic person,” Phillips said, “and the Magellan program gave me the tools to start that journey.”

About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu or call 888-W-AND-J.