Alton M. Okinaka

Title: Associate Professor
Company: The University of Hawai’i at Hilo
Location: Hilo, Hawaii, United States

Alton Okinaka, Associate Professor at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Educators for dedication, achievements, and leadership in sociology education.

Dr. Okinaka studied at the University of Hawai’i, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1979, and continued his education at Indiana University Bloomington, where he earned a Master of Arts in sociology in 1984. He accepted a position as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Hawai’i Hilo (UH Hilo) in 1987, and became an assistant professor in 1988. Dr. Okinaka continued his academic pursuits at Indiana University Bloomington and earned a PhD in 1991. He returned to UH Hilo from 1992 to 1994 as the director of institutional research.

In 1993, Dr. Okinaka leveraged his experience and credentials to become an associate professor of sociology at UH Hilo, a position he holds to this day. From 1999 to 2003, he served as chair of the sociology department, and from 2003 to 2006, he served as chair of the social sciences division. Dr. Okinaka additionally acted as chair of the education department at UH Hilo from 2004 to 2007, and has worked as a consultant in his field in addition to his educational pursuits.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Hawai’i, Dr. Okinaka credits his professor Kiyoshi Ikeda as a mentor who encouraged him to do independent research on local issues and agencies. He attributes his success to the “plantation camp mentality” that was inherent to his family’s community-oriented, poverty-shaped heritage molded during the Great Depression—he learned that in a poor community, it’s vital to look out for others. If a job needed to be done in the community, Dr. Okinaka’s family refused to wait for someone else to fix it. This sense of communal responsibility has pushed Dr. Okinaka to work hard and improve the lives of others through his educational and service endeavors.

For his excellence as an educator, Dr. Okinaka has been recognized with multiple awards, including a Service to Student Life Award in 2003, a Service Award in 2003, and the UH Hilo Outstanding Advisor and Mentor Award in 2005. He is proud of his work as an adviser to the student government—under his advisement, they created a response organization that served to look out for the entire campus. Dr. Okinaka has also maintained affiliations to multiple professional organizations, including the Hawaii Sociological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the American Sociological Association.

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