The 8th of 9 children born to parents from the US (colonial) Territory of American Samoa, Sefa was a first-generation low-income college student at UCLA. As an undergraduate at UCLA, Sefa became actively engaged in the struggle to create access to education opportunities for Pacific Islander youth in Inglewood, Carson, Compton and Long Beach. This program today, PIER (Pacific Island Education and Retention), has institutional support from UCLA and has been a constant in the struggle to educate overlooked and underserved Pacific Islander youth for nearly two decades.
Sefa is currently the Associate Dean and Director of the Asian American Resource Center at Pomona College. Professionally, he has served as an academic and student-organizational advisor, as well as an instructor for Asian American Studies programs at UCLA and California State University, Fullerton. Sefa has taught courses in contemporary Pacific Islander issues, community engagement, and has done countless workshops and talks at colleges and universities throughout the country.
Sefa has helped to establish leadership pipelines that allow for Pacific Islander college students to build their own résumés through internship and fellowship opportunities in Washington DC, California and Hawaii. He has utilized his expansive network to help build the capacity of the larger Asian American and Pacific Islander community. He is a lifelong educator with a commitment to creating transformative experiential learning opportunities for students.
In the community, Sefa served on the advisory boards of the PIHCP (Pacific Islander Health Careers PIPELINE) Project, NHPI (Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander) Alliance for Health, Pacific Islander Cancer Control Network (PICCN) Samoan Community Advisory Board, and The AIGA (All Islands Getting Along) Foundation. Sefa is also a founding member of NPIEN (National Pacific Islander Educators Network) and the UCLA PIER Project.
In September of 2010, Sefa was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Sefa served as the Vice-Chair of the Commission from 2010 – 2014. He has also been a Reader for the APIASF (Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund), and AIGCS (American Indian Graduate Center Scholars) Gates Millennium Scholarship. Through his work on college campuses and in the larger community, Sefa has demonstrated his commitment to increasing the support and opportunities for non-traditional, marginalized, first generation students.
Sefa graduated from UCLA with a BA in History and has begun the UCLA MA program in Asian American Studies.