Staff Directory


Keliʻi Akina, Ph.D.

President/CEO, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

Keliʻi Akina, Ph.D., is a recognized scholar, educator, public policy spokesperson, and community leader in Hawaii. Currently, he is President/CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a public policy think tank dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, free markets and limited, accountable government. In 2016, Dr. Akina was elected to statewide public office as Trustee-at-Large of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. An expert in East-West Philosophy and Ethics, Dr. Akina has taught at universities in China and the United States and continues as an adjunct instructor at Hawaii Pacific University. He holds advanced degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Hawaii.

Joe Kent

Vice President of Research

Is the Vice President of Research at the Grassroot Institute. He grew up on the Big Island, and attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Minnesota State University, where he obtained his degree in education. Joe was a public school teacher for eight years at King Kamehameha III School in Lahaina, Maui and at Sleepy Eye Public School in Minnesota. He was also a student fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education.

Malia Blom Hill

Director of Policy

Malia Hill comes to the Grassroot Institute with a background in law, politics, and communications. She completed her undergraduate studies at Mount Saint Mary’s University and obtained her J.D. from the Catholic University of America. After working in Hawaii politics at the state level (including a brief period with the Office of Rep. Mark Moses), she went on to work for several Washington DC-based advocacy groups. She is currently the Policy Director for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, and lives in the Washington, DC area, where she works on both national and state issues affecting the future of Hawaii.

Zachary Cox

Membership Services

Graduated from Hawaii Pacific University with a Bachelors in Economics. He is currently working towards a Masters in Marketing, and is on the development team at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. He has his pilot’s license and hopes to follow in his parents’ footsteps of becoming an airline pilot one day.