CAPAL Intern Spotlight Vanessa Tufaga ’21


Vanessa Tufaga (she/her/hers) is a rising senior at the University of Alaska Anchorage, studying Political Science and International Studies. This summer, she will be interning with the Peace Corps as a Strategic Partnerships & Intergovernmental Affairs intern.

What are your main responsibilities at your position? What are some of your big projects? 

My responsibilities at Peace Corp are to draft and proofread a variety of routine informational and programmatic materials. As well as generate responses to preliminary partnership inquiries and assist in distribution of program reports. I will also be reviewing grant projects within the Peace Corp database and assist in special projects. 

I have the opportunity of doing my CAP project with Papa Ola Lokahi this summer. In this project, we will provide a map which indicates the population of the Native Hawaiians in individual states and territories. This map will be presented and given to Native Hawaiian Health care systems, partners, stakeholders and networks along with other public forums and social media. It is my responsibility to overlook states and territories that span alphabetically from Alabama to Missouri. 

How does this internship/scholarship fit with your professional and career goals?

When I was in high school my grandparents offered me a chance to visit our home country, Samoa. When I visited I fell in love with everything, from the Apia Market to the beach fale (houses) only inches away from the sea. Eventually I had to return back to America, but what I realized was that I wanted to know how to aid my home country in anyway I could. This experience influenced my choice to go into Political Science and International Relations. My internship with Peace Corp has allowed me to work in the realm of international work, while being exposed to initiatives directly connected to global security, global health and environmental sustainability. 


What do you hope to achieve this summer as a part of CAPAL’s 2021 cohort?

The vocational goals I hope to achieve this summer in the CAPAL 2021 cohort is project management, data analysis and research skills. I believe these skills will help me succeed in field I’m going into. I also hope to meet colleagues who can teach me different viewpoints and perspectives. 

What does public service mean to you?

Public service means listening to the needs of the public and contributing time to meeting those needs. I believe the act to empower and uplift communities is what being a public servant is, especially when it comes to furnishing equitable and fair access to resources. I value public service because it was public servants who helped my family when we were in need. It’s my turn to give back. 

Did you pick up any new hobbies during quarantine, and if so, what are they?

In the beginning of quarantine, I played Animal Crossing religiously. I was also binging Japanese dramas and reading webtoons. I suddenly realized that I was not getting as much exercise as I probably should, so I decided to take on indoor cycling. Have not stopped cycling since. 

What’s your favorite book?

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Koko Laisa (Samoan Cocoa Rice) with French bread covered in butter. I know that’s two items of food, but it’s like peanut butter and jelly, an unmatched duo. 

What is one country/place you hope to travel to one day? 

I’ve had a recent interest in Africa, more specifically Kenya and Ethiopia. I’ve been reading about the tectonic plate movement that’s been occurring there and I had no idea that they had active volcanoes. Volcanoes can be the beginning of a new agricultural growth, so I think it would be interesting to check that out. 

What’s one interesting/surprising fact that a lot of people may not know about you? 

My last name is Tufaga, which is very close to Tufuga. The Tufuga in Samoan culture are respected craftsman who hold great significance in passing on our traditional tatau (tattoo) the pe’a and malu. The pe’a is for men and the malu is for women. I was honored to get the malu on my hand this past year, which has been a sacred experience for me.

Meet all of our 2021 CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.