Alumni Spirit Award:
James Kawika Riley, BA-05
Currently the Washington D.C. Bureau Chief for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, James has served in many high-profile communication roles for the federal government.
Prior to his current role, James was the Mid-Atlantic Spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, and Communications Director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
James also teaches courses in Native American Political Leadership for George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. Many Native American, Alaskan Native, Pacific Islander and other indigenous scholars seek out his classes.
“James is a mentor to his students, as well as his friends and colleagues,” said Nathan Havey, a fellow UNC alumnus. “He is a man of incredible drive, integrity and vision.”
James was born and raised on Hawai‘i Island and graduated from Kealakehe High School. One of the few from his social circle to go to college, he has always been passionate about helping others and is a well-respected advocate for native people of many cultural backgrounds.
In his spare time, James is the CEO and Founder of the Pacific Islander Access project, a nonprofit that is dedicated to increasing higher education opportunities for Pacific Islander Americans.
Read James’ guest column on the UNC Bear Den blog.