“No research topic is too unachievable.”
That’s one of the greatest lessons recent graduate Nicole Sagapolutele learned from professor Wyble, her mentor. “You can do research on anything you want…even though it’s something that not everyone knows. You shouldn’t be afraid to do a research topic that interests you just because you’re not sure how it will be received.”
Sagapolutele recently nominated Wyble for the 2019 President Mackey Prize, otherwise known as the Outstanding Mentor Award. The annual award recognizes a Chaminade professor who has provided students with research experiences that go above and beyond the classroom experience. Wyble was named this year’s recipient at Na Liko Naʻauao, the university’s undergraduate research conference on April 26.
“My philosophy of teaching is a student-centered one and I definitely carry that over into any sort of mentoring that I do, so I think it only makes sense that Nicole is in the spotlight,” Wyble said. “I think it’s as much her award as it is mine.”
In her nomination letter, the Sagapolutele highlighted the various ways that Wyble went above and beyond in helping her with her research project, titled “The Importance of Hawaiian Representation in American History Textbooks According to Avatar: The Last Airbender,” which explored the connection between how Native Hawaiian history is often inaccurately depicted in American history textbooks and how a genocide is depicted in the fictional children’s show, “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
She shared how Wyble used his knowledge of Pacific Island literature to offer feedback and revise her research paper, introduced her to secondary sources he had used for his own research, helped her apply and prepare for conference presentations and encouraged her to pursue graduate school. But what really stuck with Sagapolutele about Wyble’s mentorship style was the creative freedom he gave her to explore topics that interested her.
Prior to mentoring Sagapolutele, Wyble had never seen “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” but did his research when she voiced that it was a topic she was interested in.
“That’s what a student-centered classroom means to me. I always try to start with where the students are, what their interests are,” Wyble said. “I’m constantly searching for those stories that I think they might enjoy reading and then trying to push their thought a little bit higher. I definitely start with them and see where I can take them.”
Throughout the mentorship, which officially lasted from fall 2018 to spring 2019, Wyble helped Sagapolutele prepare to present her research at two undergraduate conferences: Na Liko at Chaminade and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.
But the research partnership is not over yet. With the support of Wyble, Sagapolutele will be presenting her project at the Science Fiction Research Association Annual Conference 2019, which Chaminade is hosting in June. Unlike her experiences at Na Liko and NCUR, she’ll be presenting alongside professional scholars even before she has begun graduate school—though, she will start soon.
A week before graduation, Sagapolutele received the news that she was accepted into Chaminade’s Master of Arts in Teaching program where she plans to study secondary education starting in the fall and eventually become a high school teacher. However, her time at Chaminade and the mentorship she received from Wyble has also opened her up to the idea of getting her doctorate and teaching at the university level.
“I’m very honored to receive [the President Mackey Prize],” Wyble said. “It’s nice. It feels good. I really like that this award is focused on the teacher-student relationship and it really foregrounds the importance of mentoring, of that close teacher-student relationship we have at Chaminade.”