Aja finds joy in building reciprocal relationships between people and land. She was born and raised on the island of Oʻahu in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, and currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island. She is a PhD candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the department of History, Anthropology, Science, Technology & Society (HASTS). Her dissertation research focuses on sustainable city building in Providence and Honolulu. In these places, she works with multi-ethnic, Indigenous-led farm and garden communities who practice community stewardship over the lands they drink, eat, and live on. Her work explores how urban planners in both cities are drawing on Indigenous knowledge for climate change resilience and environmental justice transitions in the twenty-first century. Through ethnographic and archival research, she aims to offer models for policy makers on how they can responsibly reciprocate what knowledge they glean. Her previous experience ranges from interning at a multi-national engineering and design firm to grass-roots organizing within communities and educational institutions.
Outside of MIT, Aja is a consultant for multi-use infrastructure and greenway projects, such as a Hawaiʻi-based agrivoltaics farm, as well as river beautification projects carried out by local youth in Providence. She holds a B.A. in Science, Technology & Society from Brown University. Her research has been supported by the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Garden Club of America Douglas Dockery Thomas Fellowship in Garden History and Design, and the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women’s Steinhauss/Zisson Grant. She is a member of CC4S (Coalition Center for Environmental Sustainability). In her unstructured time, she savors gardening, surfing, cycling, and riding mass-transit.