Alumna Elected President of Marshall Islands

Hilda Heine, BS ’74, became the first female head of state of an independent Pacific Island nation when she was elected president of the Marshall Islands in January.

Heine, who graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in general social science, had been serving as the education minister before being elected to replace Casten Nemra, a Portland State University alumnus who had been sworn in just 17 days prior. In addition to being the first female to head any independent Pacific Island nation, Heine is one of only three female members of the 33-member Marshallese parliament

Heine is also the only person from the Marshall Islands to earn a doctoral degree, receiving her doctorate in education from the University of Southern California in 2004.

The Marshall Islands, part of the Micronesia island group in the Pacific Ocean, is located near the equator just west of the International Date Line. The country was originally settled during the second millennium BC, and the current population of just more than 53,000 is spread over 29 coral atolls.