Higher Education’s “Kuleana” to Make Things “Pono”

kuleana” – Right, privilege, concern, responsibility, title, business, property, estate, portion, jurisdiction, authority, liability, interest, claim, ownership, tenure, affair, province; reason, cause, function, justification.

“pono” – a Hawaiian word commonly rendered as “righteousness”. The Hawaii state motto: “Ua mau ke kea o ka `aina i ka pono” or “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness”  Goodness, uprightness, morality, moral qualities, correct or proper procedure, excellence, well-being, prosperity, welfare, benefit, behalf, equity, sake, true condition or nature, duty; moral, fitting, proper, righteous, right, upright, just, virtuous, fair, beneficial, successful, in perfect order, accurate, correct, eased, relieved; should, ought, must, necessary

Hawai’i is known for its welcoming hospitality, it’s aloha – the unconditional extension of trust and friendship.    Here in Hawai’i the common definition of “kuleana”  is “rights and duties or accountability and responsible stewardship.”  In comparison to most communities, the academic community has immense resources that most institutions are loath to share.  Still, the vast majority of institutions of higher education institutions constantly bemoan their “poverty.”  Yet to those who much is given, much is expected.

Universities worldwide have a “kuleana” to make things in their communities, local, national and global, more “pono”.  Both the academy as well as individual academics have a duty to enhance the general welfare and prosperity of the less fortunate in their communities.  Actions that perpetuate righteousness can start as close as their own neighborhoods.  Academics have for too long been guilty of telling the third biggest lie when they say that “I am from the university and I am here to help you.”  For those of us who are involved with educating and empowering business leaders at all levels, we should be aware of how our engagement prepares those we work with, both in and out of the university, to do well and to do good.

Wayne M. Tanna, Professor of Accounting at Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii has developed and implemented service-learning initiatives in his classes to further his students’ educational experiences.  Building on the Hawaiian values of “kuleana” and “pono“, he regularly involves students in activities where service in the field fits into a course curriculum to include tax clinics at homeless shelters and pro-bono legal service assistance in low income communities.  Mr. Tanna has made presentations on service learning at numerous state, regional and national conferences.  As an exemplary role model for the Chaminade University Marianist community, his volunteer efforts, community non-profit work and activities has garnered him numerous local and national awards and recognitions from the State of Hawaii to the American Bar Association.

This year alone, Mr. Tanna, his students and community collaborators provided tax assistance to over 8,200+ in Hawaii, resulting in over $7.2  million in tax refunds.  Their assistance on tax returns for the homeless and indigent have made the difference in providing the needed deposits for housing to help people out of their homeless situation and  the extra funds for  provisions for transportation, meals and basic daily needs.

As a professor, he teaches classes in taxation, accounting, business law, ethics, management, international law, environmental studies, history, political science, education and pastoral leadership.  Mr. Tanna holds a Bachelors Degree from the University of Hawaii, a Juris Doctor from Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College and an LL.M. in taxation from McGeorge School of Law.  Mr. Tanna is currently licensed to practice law before all Hawaii State Courts, Federal Courts, U.S. Tax Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.