MSW graduate Albert Toves' CHamoru values fuel his passion to help others

by Ahliil Saitanan  |   

Portrait of Albert Toves
Albert Toves', pictured, pursuit to attain a degree in social work is rooted in his passion and responsibility to help his community in Guåhan. (Photo courtesy of Albert Toves)

As an Indigenous CHamoru, Albert Toves' pursuit to attain a degree in social work is rooted in his passion and responsibility to help his community in Guåhan (Guam) and other indigenous communities. For context, Guåhan is the largest and southernmost island in the Marianas Archipelago in the region of Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean.

Parallel colonial experiences

When Albert applied to the UAA Master of Social Work program, he shared about the impacts of militarization, colonization, and intergenerational trauma on the CHamoru people, due to Guåhan’s political status as a colony/territory of the United States. As he learned more about Alaska Native history, he recognized the parallels between the colonial experiences of the CHamoru and the Alaska Native peoples.

"First, as a settler in Anchorage, it is essential to acknowledge and offer a si yu’os ma’ase (thank you) to the Dena’ina people. I acknowledge that the spaces UAA occupies and where I have been living these past few years are located on the ancestral and unceded traditional territory of the Dena’ina people," Albert says.

During the two-year program, Albert continued to advocate for Guåhan while learning more about the Alaska Native people’s thriving culture and history. Additionally, he developed skills to collaborate and support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) communities.

CHamoru values

Since graduating in Spring 2021, Albert is grateful for the insight, mentors, and experiences he gained from the UAA MSW program. The experiences and lessons he learned has emphasized his CHamoru values of aguaiya (to love), agofli’e’ (to see others without judgment), a’umitde (to be humble), afa’maolek (to make things good), arespeta (to have respect), amamåhlao (to know/have moral and ethical boundaries), ageftao (to be giving), and a’agradesi (to have appreciation for one another)—all of which fuel his passion to help others.

"After graduation, I hope to use my degree to collaborate and support BIPOC communities. Additionally, I look forward to building field experience and attaining licensure in the field of social work," Albert says. "The UAA MSW program showed genuine interest in my passion to help the community on Guåhan and other indigenous communities. After exiting the program, I can say that they were truly supportive of that passion and have helped me develop the skills needed to collaborate and support BIPOC communities."