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The Leader

I s s u e 2 . Vo l u m e 1 2 6 . J u n e 2 0 2 0

Pg. 14

Pg. 24

Worldwide pandemic: The wedding must go on

The Tanners express gratitude for their time spent in Laie

Pg. 46 Professor shows how obstacles can turn into opportunities through faith

JUNE 2020 • VOLUME 126 • ISSUE 2

LeeAnn Lambert

Haeley van der Werf

Noah Shoaf

Kevin Brown

Esther Insigne






Bruno Maynez

Eli Hadley

Michael Kraft

Sadie Scadden

Hannah Manalang






Olivia Hixson

Serena Dugar Ioane

Marvin Latchumanan

Madi Berry

Leiani Brown






Brooke Guryn

Hailey Huhane

Cody Bruce Barney

Ho Yin Li

Chad Hsieh










Letter from a writer As a writer, I have been humbled as I experienced the depth of people’s culture through their voices. I believe every person has a unique culture of their own, and the only way to understand it is by listening to their voices telling their own stories. This school has taught me our differences unite us more than our similarities. I am grateful to be a part of this wonderful community and to celebrate others for being who they are. This issue focuses on happiness. I found this to be quite fitting for my life, as I have found a completely new meaning of the word “happiness” since coming to BYUH. I used to think happiness came through means of worldly things, but I have since learned that, for me, it comes by turning outward. I have found happiness by making sure people are my highest priority, as I truly believe we are placed among those around us for a reason. In this issue, there are students who share their most fond memories working at the PCC and the impact the people around them have made (pg. 20). As a psychology major, being able to interact with people and learn about their individual cultures gives me a greater understanding of our world and, more importantly, their world. In this issue, one example of understanding one’s happiness through their culture is how Pomai Krueger shares happiness through hula (pg. 34). I believe we are not placed in the world by chance; therefore, we can each learn valuable lessons from those who shared the ways they have been able to find happiness in their own lives. For me, my happiness is because of this. It comes from continuing to learn about each of you and be a part of an extraordinary community. I hope you feel nothing except honor and joy for the opportunity to be part of such a diverse community. •

Madi Berry - Writer NEWS CENTER

BOX 1920 BYUH LAIE, HI 96762 Pr int Ser vices Editorial, photo submissions & Distribution inquiries: k e a l a k a i @ by u h . e d u . To s u b s c r i b e t o t h e R S S F E E D or to view additional ar ticles,go to k e a l a k a i . by u h . e d u


Email: kealakai@byuh.edu Phone: (808) 675-3694 Fax: (808) 675-3491 Office: BYU–Hawaii Aloha Center 134 ON THE COVER:

John and Susan Tanner stand in front of their home on campus on the evening of May 27 as members of the BYU–Hawaii ohana thank them for their service to the university and community. Photo by Monique Saenz

ABOUT US The Ke Alaka‘i began publishing the same year the university, then called Church College of Hawaii, opened. It has continued printing for more than 60 years. The name means “the leader” in Hawaiian. It began as a monthly newsletter, evolved into a weekly newspaper, then a weekly magazine, and is now a monthly news magazine with a website and a social media presence. Today a staff of about 20 students works to provide information for BYU–Hawaii’s campus ohana and Laie’s community. © 2020 Ke Alaka‘i BYU–Hawaii All Rights Reserved JUNE 2020



Pg. 34 Giving the gift of hula

Changes at the helm John “Keoni” Kauwe will replace John S. Tanner and become the university’s 11th president. The Kauwes have five children, ages 2 to 13.

Autwinsm Twin sisters start YouTube channel to spread autism awareness and inspire others to understand the way they see the world.

Striving for continuous learning Tuvshinjargal Lkhagvadorj refines his skills to become a better husband, father, priesthood holder, employee and student.



Contents Campus and Community Genuine Gold: Odgerel Ganbaatar


Remembering Ropeti Lesā

Changes at the helm


Stories of change: Shan Arumugam


Fond memories as Polynesian Cultural Center employees

Love in the midst of a pandemic Serving our ohana

14 16

COVID-19 babies: The mothers’ stories Love and farewell from the Tanners



10 20 12


14 24

Noho me ka Hau’oli (Be happy) Three little things


Finding happiness




How boxing led me to my wife


Giving the gift of hula


Passion for sports


Sharing laughter through TikTok


Turning obstacles into opportunities


Knowledge equates to happiness


Happiness: It’s contagious


Spring 2020 Graduates Meeting Tamarina Barlow


Striving for continuous learning


Doing it all


Making the Savior a priority


Weathering the storms of life


June: The “Noho me ka Hau’oli” issue As a staff, we will be continuing themes for the rest of the year. This month’s magazine features shining examples of positivity and happiness that triumphs over global uncertainty. Members of the BYUH ohana show how serving others is at the forefront of being happy. JUNE 2020


The road to healing As the world grapples with the reality of systemic racism, Michael Kraft shares his thoughts on how to move forward When the video of Ahmaud Arbery being killed while jogging went viral, it broke my heart. When I heard of Breonna Taylor’s death in her own home, it was crushing. And when I watched the nearly nine-minute video of a police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until he died, I knew I could no longer stay quiet. As a black man, I cannot write this 1 thoughts and opinions without sharing my own about racism and the latest instance of an unarmed black man being killed by the police. American comedian Dave Chappelle said it best. “Black people are very afraid of the police. That is a big part of our culture. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, how old you are, we’re just afraid of them. We got every reason to be afraid of them.” I do not say this to insinuate that all police are bad, or that all police are racist. Because they aren’t. But when I get pulled over, I have no way of knowing what type of officer I am dealing with. That being said, interacting with police aren’t the only times I have experienced racism. It happens all of the time, even with subtle remarks with no malice behind them. Things like, “But you’re black, why aren’t you better at basketball?” or, “You’re very articulate. A lot of black guys I know aren’t as well spoken as you.” Yes, I am black. No, we are not all the same.

Please don’t put me in a box. The things you say may not have the same consequences as a police officer drawing his weapon on me, but it hurts all the same. It hurts because putting us all into a box of what a black man is, and what a black man does, is why Derek Chauvin was so comfortable kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until he died. It’s been weeks since George Floyd was killed and the world seems to have united in its fight against racism and prejudice. I have often wondered why this is a fight that needs to be fought at all. Can’t people see that racism and racist ideologies are not positive traits? Standing on the grass of the Hawaii State Capitol building alongside thousands of protesters, I found my answer. As I stood there, I looked around and realized the reason the fight against racism still rages on is it is a battle takes place not only on a societal level, but also on an individual level. To end racism on a large scale, it must first be abolished in our own hearts. In a recent social media post, President Russel M Nelson gave counsel as to how to create a more unified world. “We need to foster a fundamental respect for the human dignity of every human soul, regardless of their color, creed, or cause. And we need to work tirelessly to build bridges of understanding rather than creating walls of

segregation … I plead with us to work together for peace, for mutual respect, and for an outpouring of love for all of God’s children.” We need to put ourselves in the shoes of people we don’t understand. We need to educate ourselves, through conversations, through reading books, through taking in media that shows us the lives and stories of people who aren’t the same as us, and as we do this we will be able to understand each other. As a society we need to learn about others, and by doing so, we will build understanding, and one fine day, we may well see an end to the plague of racism and racist ideologies. This goes for everyone, White, Black, Latinx, Polynesian, Native American, Asian, male or female, gay or straight, it doesn’t matter. To finally end this poisonous mentality that any race is better than another, we must first look inwards if we wish to change the outside world. We can no longer live in fear. We need to make changes so people do not have to be afraid of each other because of differences in the color of our skin. As the great George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, said, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.” And, after all, hasn’t the world seen enough suffering already? •

C RE AT I V E W R ITING/ART/P HOTO SUBMISSIO N “The Road to Healing” by Michael Kraft, a sophomore from Washington, D.C. studying communications.

Share your art, photos, or creative writing with us and we may feature it in our next issue. E-mail us your high-resolution photo or work with a caption at kealakai@byuh.edu





Campus Comment: How has knowing the Plan of Happiness made you happy?

Melissa Tomu, a sophomore from New Zealand majoring in social work, said, “On May 22, it [was] five years of being a member, and honestly, there are no regrets entering the waters of baptism ... The Plan of Happiness has helped me to realize families can be together forever, but at the same time, I kind of struggle with having parents who are both divorced. I had to pray and know that whatever Heavenly Father plans for me, I will see my family one day. Even though my family is not all members of the gospel, I do know I have a lot of work to do on this side and the other side of the veil, and the temple is what makes me happy. I have been blessed with wonderful families who love me. If I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. I am not perfect, but I strive to be a better person

Photo provided by Melissa Tomu

and to follow the Savior’s path.”

Conner Ah Sue, a senior from Hawaii majoring in political science, said, “While on my mission, my grandma passed away. It was a struggle for me because my last memory was of her being frail and sick. It brought me down thinking that, in her last days, I wasn’t there to be of any help. At that time, we were promoting the ‘My Family’ pamphlet the Church put out to encourage family history. The video ends with clips of families at the temple, and the second verse of ‘The Day Dawn Is Breaking.’ My favorite line is, ‘In many a temple, the Saints will assemble. And labor as saviors of dear ones away. Then happy reunion and sweetest communion. We’ll have with our friends in the beautiful day.’ I felt the Spirit remind me that my grandma’s passing was necessary to progress in God’s plan and because of Jesus Christ, she won’t be frail and sick the next time I see her. But because of our Savior, Jesus Christ, she will be perfected. And thinking of my grandma as a perfect,

Photo by Nina Cochran

happy being, makes me happy.”

Charlotte Day, a senior from California majoring in psychology, said, “My testimony of the Plan of Happiness is very simple. What gives me the greatest comfort is knowing that Heavenly Father has thought of something so special. He has a plan for us, and while today we are on earth, everything is so inconsistent and constantly changing every day, I have a lot of comfort in knowing he is mindful of us and he will always have a plan for us. I just have a simple testimony that Heavenly Father loves us, and He knows what He is doing, so I don’t have anything to fear.”

Photo by Chad Hsieh

Andino Bima Mahreza, a junior from Indonesia majoring in social work, said, “Believing in the Plan of [Happiness] has not always been an easy thing for me. Indeed, this lesson is not new to me, but, as a good member of the Church, we must have a testimony in every teaching of Jesus Christ. I was born and raised in the Church, but my spirituality was not as active as my physical body. Because my family was very active, I felt that Church is a necessity, not an option, so what I was taught is not entirely believed. Until I served



a mission, my faith and testimony began to grow in the Plan of Salvation. By studying this, it made me a different person. Changes in my heart happened every day. I learned to be better day by day. Our hope and happiness lie in knowing who we are, where we come from and where we can go. Our lives will not end when we die. Our future life is determined by the way we live our lives now. Understanding the following things can help us live happier lives now and in eternity.”

Photo by Yohana Manurung JUNE 2020


Genuine Gold Odgerel Ganbaatar Alumnus Odgerel Ganbaatar brought fire knife dance to Mongolia and started his own crew BY SERENA DUGAR IOANE Odgerel Ganbaatar said he found his passion for fire knife dancing while studying at BYU– Hawaii. He shared how he worked hard to become a fire knife dancer at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC). After his graduation, he returned home and later created his own crew that has performed in different events, including the Mongolian National Holiday Parade.

Ganbaatar said he applied what he learned at the PCC to create his own fire knife crew in Mongolia. Photos provided by Odgerel Ganbaatar 8


How did you find your passion for fire knife dance? “My first job as a dancers’

How did you become a fire knife dancer? “I auditioned many times to become

the performance, even though my dancing

a fire knife dancer at the ‘Hā: Breath of Life’

skills were good. I continued practicing to

evening show at the Polynesian Cultural

become an authentic Polynesian fire knife

wardrobe organizer gave me the

Center. My first audition was unsuccessful

dancer in every way. After my third audition,

opportunity to watch fire knife dancers

due to my low weight, but I did not give up

I became the very first Mongolian fire

a lot, and I was amazed by their skills. I

and continued to work hard to gain weight

knife dancer in the history of the PCC and

developed a strong interest in fire knife

and auditioned again. [My second audition]

Mongolia. For Mongolians, it is a very new

dancing and dedicated many hours of

was unsuccessful as well because of the


practice to learn.”

neutral face expression I maintained during

Why do you like fire knife dancing so much?

How did Mongolians receive your crew’s performance?

“There is something special about

“In the beginning, people were

dancing with fire. I have a deep love and

scared, but after our performance,

respect for Polynesian cultures. I had a

audiences began to express their

chance to perform in the King Kamehameha

emotions through a loud round of

Day Parade in Honolulu in 2015 while I was

applause. People are usually blown away

working at the PCC.”

by it. They love it.”

If you have a chance, will you dance at the night show again? “Of course, I will. I came back in 2017 for a business trip and had a chance to

When you left for Mongolia, did you leave your fire knife dancing as well? “No, I did not. I took what I had

dance for a few nights at the evening show.

learned from my days at the PCC to

It was amazing, and brought back my

Mongolia. I created my own fire knife

memories of my student years.”

dancing crew, Ahi, and trained my crew members. My crew members are my brother, Odbayar Ganbaatar; my friend, Tamir Ganbold; and Gankhuyag Tsogoo,

How did your experience at BYUH help you? “Studying at BYUH and working at the

an alumnus of BYUH. At first, six of us started practicing, but eventually, two

Were there any struggles to bring fire knife dance to Mongolia? “Yes, there were many challenges. Some of our crew members gave up in the middle of the road. It’s really hard to be good at fire knife dancing. You have to practice every day if you want to become good at it. Another problem is we couldn’t find in Mongolia the naphtha gas, which makes the fire burn bigger and brighter, so our fires are smaller and not bright enough.”

guys gave up. The Ahi crew introduced

PCC were amazing experiences that blessed

fire knife dancing to the people in

my life in many ways. I majored in supply

Mongolia. Several TV stations became

chain management and graduated in 2014.

interested in us and did broadcasting

Currently, I work in a Mongolian copper

segments on us. We performed our

and diamond mining company, Oyu Tolgoi,

fire knife dancing at many events by

as a mine control supervisor, and serve as

invitation and shared the Polynesian

a bishop of the Bayanzurkh Ward in the

culture with Mongolians. We participated

Ulaanbaatar East Stake. [The] academic and

in many big shows and events. The

spiritual educations I gained at BYUH are

biggest one was the National Holiday

still blessing my life.”


What does family mean to you? “Family means everything to me. I

am blessed with a wonderful family. I live with my beautiful wife and three children. My wife, Batchimeg Bukhchuluun, is also an alumna of BYUH. My younger sister, Zulbayar Ganbaatar, graduated from BYUH as well.” Graphics by Sadie Scadden

JUNE 2020


Changes at the helm BYUH ohana bids farewell to Tanners and welcomes 11th university president BY LEIANI BROWN

Susan Tanner shared she feels forever bonded to the BYUH community. Photo from The Church Newsroom

Five years after he was first announced president of BYU–Hawaii, John S. Tanner gave his words of farewell and welcomed his successor, John “Keoni” Kauwe, in a special devotional broadcast from Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 12. “These have been sweet years, wonderful years for us. We have come to love you and the university more and more with each passing year,” said President Tanner. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced the incoming president’s fourth great-grandfather was one of the first native Hawaiian members to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “‘To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.’ What a wonderful time and season we usher in today at BYU–Hawaii. “We wish both the Tanners and the Kauwes God’s speed in the next chapters of their respective lives,” said Holland. President Tanner shared how although he is not exactly sure what comes next in his journey, he is certain it will come with more opportunities to love and serve. “The most important journey we take is never traced by 10


the arc of our professional lives. The journey that matters most – no, that matters all – is the journey of discipleship.” Laura Hinze, a junior from Washington studying marine biology, said she was saddened by the news of the Tanners’ release, since she started as a freshman the same semester they were inaugurated. “At their [inauguration], they talked about how they were starting a new journey and were excited to go off onto this voyage of learning how to be a president. I resonated with what they were talking about because I had just started college. “They’ve been with me the entire time I’ve been here. It was kind of beautiful that we were both starting at the same time, so I emotionally connected and resonated with that.” President Tanner shared it was a “poignant moment” for him to be leaving behind his nearly 40 years of service as an educator and reflected on the “voyage” of the last five years. “Now, after all these years of trying to steer by the stars, I have come to my journey’s end as a president and professor. This is my last port of call as an educator. ‘Home is the sailor,

home from the sea,’” he said, quoting the famed poet and author Robert Louis Stevenson. “I leave confident that BYUH will sail on, ably guided by a new helmsman who takes the helm at a difficult time when the university is sailing in uncharted waters. Please be patient with him as he learns the ropes. He will prove to be a remarkable captain.” Susan Tanner recounted experiences of losing her father and mother while she and her husband served at BYUH. She explained the love and aloha she felt from her “Hawaiian ohana” gave her peace during those difficult times. “We have been touched and changed by you, the angels of BYUH, and Laie. Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude for the aloha you have showered upon us … We are sad to be leaving you, but feel comfort in the knowledge that we will meet again, and that we will be forever bonded.” Marilyn and Aaron White, parents of two BYUH alumni and a current student, said they were thankful the Tanners were a part of their children’s education. They explained their children are the first in their family to receive college degrees.

“[We are] a little sad to see [the Tanners] go but happy to know they will be on to other endeavors in their lives,” says the Whites in a email response. “They did a great job at BYUH, [especially] how they started the Holokai Program that allowed our children to attend BYUH and graduate with degrees.” Following the Tanners’ remarks, incoming university president, Keoni Kauwe and his wife, Monica, introduced themselves and shared their thoughts and experiences with education. Monica Kauwe said she learned the importance of obtaining an education as a young child, after watching her father work hard and sacrifice money, time and sleep as he studied to become a nurse. She added that her education continued into her marriage as she worked toward an associate’s degree in chemistry and then worked for two years in the pharmaceutical industry before having her first child. “I loved my work in chemistry, but I strongly felt that it was time to begin a whole new phase of my education: motherhood. “Having five children has taught me that no two people are alike.” She said she has learned valuable life lessons gained through parenting their five children ages 2 to 13.

Keoni Kauwe shared his commitment to the mission of BYUH in the blending of spiritual and secular knowledge. “BYUH gathers people across countries and kingdoms and creates unity in spiritual and secular education like no other institution on Earth. The mission of this university hinges on that education readying us to lead and build.” He shared he comes from Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, Maori and Northern European ancestry. He grew up between Utah and Hawaii and served in the Fukuoka Japan Mission. He said he has worked with and mentored people from around the world. “I have found that when people from different backgrounds unite in a single purpose, wonderful things happen. I believe that when we unite in a prophetic purpose, miracles happen. “Diversity and unity work together here at BYUH in remarkable ways. I am deeply committed to building on past efforts to prepare our students with knowledge and testimony sufficient to make them ‘men and women whose influence will be felt for good towards the establishment of peace internationally.’” •

Top: Keoni Kauwe said uniting in a prophetic purpose brings miracles. Bottom: Monica Kauwe, right, shared she learned how no two people are the same from parenting her five children. Photos from The Church Newsroom

JUNE 2020


Stories of change: Shan Arumugam 12


Graphics by Hannah Manalang Photos provided by Shan Arumugam

Student from India does good and treats others equally after almost ending his own life BY BROOKE GURYN After feeling stuck in life and making bad choices that made him even more unhappy, Shan Arumugam said he attempted suicide in 2012. However, not long after, he said he met missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With his limited English, he said he asked the missionaries who they were. In response, they gave him an invitation to their English class, and his life was changed forever. “The Church saved my life. It came into my life and changed it,” shared Arumugam, a junior from India majoring in business management. Now, whenever he faces temptation or difficulty, Arumugam said he follows his motto “Do good, be good.” He said he lives his life being kind, loving others and treating everyone as equals. He said he has not lived an easy life because he and his family are ranked low on the Indian caste system. According to Prospect magazine, “The caste system is a hierarchy that is still used today, ranking the society from a social status of high class to lower class.” Arumugam said, “It’s tough. Even if you have everything, you cannot go up a level because that’s how society is set for us … and it goes from generation to generation. If my grandpa made slippers, my dad would have to, and so would I.” The limitations of the caste system made Arumugam want to leave his small town, and two missionaries came into his life when he needed it the most, he said. “The Church is not looking for rich people, but they always look for your heart. I am from a place that is based on a caste community system, but when it comes to the [gospel], there is no caste system,” he noted. Saved by the Church “In 2012, I realized I wasn’t happy, and I didn’t feel true happiness. I always felt sad ... I thought drinking and all these things [were] fun, but I was not happy. [I] thought, ‘This is not who I am.’” He said he started doing “all the bad things” at a young age. “I had a lot of freedom, and I was seeing other people doing drugs and

drinking alcohol. I was into it, and I always wanted to try those things.” But then in 2013, he said he went out of his way to speak to two young male missionaries who gave him a card for an English class they were teaching. He attended the course, and he said he was baptized three months later on Nov. 27, 2013. He said he stopped finding temporary happiness through substances and found joy in the gospel and following Christ. He said his desire to end his life completely left him and now abstains from drinking alcohol and doing drugs. A year after his baptism, he began his mission for the Church in India. Arumugam shared, “My mission president introduced ... me [to President Tanner] who was visiting my mission. We got to know each other a little bit, and then he told me I could apply for BYUH, and he offered me the IWORK scholarship. “I always wanted to pursue an education, and that was my dream ... India gave me the gospel life, but Hawaii taught me how to live the gospel life.” Sula Jayasekara, a senior from Sri Lanka majoring in information technology, said, “Shan is always ready to meet a challenge with the right attitude. “We all struggle in life, but my friend never gives up, no matter how hard things get in life. I have seen Shan overcome challenges through his faith. He always trusts in the Lord and believes that things will work out as long as he keeps the commandments.” Sharing the aloha spirit Margaret Krishnavel, a former BYUH student from India, said she has known Arumugam for more than two years and has been impressed by the way he treats others. “He is friendly to everybody. He could make friends anywhere he goes. He’s very good at networking.” Arumugam said he recognizes people who do small jobs because they are just as valuable as people who do “higher up” jobs. In an Instagram post, Arumugam shared a photo with two people from the Custodial

Department at BYUH. The caption said, “Every time I see these two people, I say, ‘Hi,’ and [give a] huge Hawaiian kiss because I love them, genuinely.” He shared his desire to acknowledge those who do small jobs is because “as an Indian boy, I have done many low-level jobs. Not many people get treated properly, so I give back to the people around me.” He shared an experience of walking in downtown Honolulu with friends. He would stop, talk and shake the hands of those living on the street. He said his friends asked, “Are you okay? Those are drug addicts.” He said to them, “Those people who are drug addicts ... I was there in that situation. I used to sleep on the street. I know the feeling.” Arumugam said he is a firm believer in fighting loneliness and being a friend for others and showing love. “I just want to [serve] the lonely people, you know, with an emphasis on paying it forward.” Jayasekara said, “One thing that I admire about Shan is his aloha spirit. Everyone who comes across him or meets him will know that spirit he carries. No matter if he’s having a good or a bad day, Shan always has the aloha spirit and will gladly share it with others.” • This story is part of an ongoing series highlighting members of the Laie and BYU–Hawaii ohana with stories of positive change.

JUNE 2020

13 13

Love during the pandemic Newlyweds share how their wedding plans changed during COVID-19 and views on marriage are shifting BY OLIVIA HIXSON During quarantine and social distancing, newlyweds and engaged students said they are facing a question of whether to wait for the temples to reopen to get married or get married civilly. Alexandra Taea, a BYU–Hawaii alumna, said this question was prevalent in her mind as she was deciding with her now-husband how they would proceed with their wedding amidst government and Church announcements. She

said they eventually decided to get married in her living room with a few close friends on March 28. “It definitely wasn’t my dream wedding or what I had planned, but I think that it worked out better for the circumstances for everyone. [We had to] keep everyone safe, but also have a wedding still ... It was fun. It definitely felt more intimate, and we were able to enjoy everyone who was there.” Taea said she noticed others on Facebook doing the same thing by getting married in unique ways. She said this shows how much the coronavirus is affecting the plans of couples who planned on getting married during these spring months. Rolling with the punches With a big wedding planned and family members planning to fly to Hawaii for the wedding, Malissa and Henry Seniloli said they had to cancel everything they had in place for their wedding. Instead, they decided to get married by their bishop in the Heber J. Grant Building on April 21. Henry Seniloli, a senior from Fiji studying information technology, said while this change was a hit to their family who were excited to come and celebrate their marriage, a smaller, more intimate wedding was what he and Malissa Seniloli wanted in the first place. Even with these changes, he said his attitude about getting married did not change.



Sam and Aubrey Merrill got married in Provo Canyon. Photo by Jake Ingolia and Haylee Ulmer

Malissa Seniloli says getting married to her husband Henry despite the pandemic was a way to find comfort during this difficult time. Photo by Cindy Iongi and Isikeli Fehoko

“I was still excited on the day we were going to get married, even though I knew it was not going to be a big gathering.” Likewise, Malissa Seniloli, a senior from Tonga studying political science, said getting married to her husband was a source of comfort for her in these uncertain times. “I love Henry so much that I wanted to get married to him. To be honest, being single during this time is boring. The school was pressuring us to leave campus and go to the mainland or back home. I think I was kind of stressed out with figuring out, since we were not married, how we were going to continue our relationship.” Sam Merrill, a BYUH alumnus, also said getting married to his wife, Aubrey, was the best thing he could have done during these times. Also having to cancel their original plans and have a few set backs, Merrill said he and his wife got married in Provo Canyon on April 22.

Sam Merrill said he was most impressed about the new Church policy on letting couples get sealed whenever they want after being married civilly instead of after being married for a year. He said this revelation provided him and his wife comfort about their decision to get married civilly. “There’s definitely a blessing in that the Lord changed how couples don’t have to wait a year to get sealed in the temple after they are married civilly. That changed just a year or so ago. I think that was definitely inspired.” Shifts in Church culture With this marriage revelation in mind, Taea said she thinks there is still definitely a stigma around couples deciding to get married civilly rather than in the temple. She said she hopes marriages outside of the temple during the coronavirus will help Church members learn to become less judgmental and more respectful of couples’ decisions. Leilani Coker and Braden Kim are preparing for their upcoming marriage. Photo by Maleah Lim

“I feel like it's getting a lot easier for couples ... I think more couples getting married outside of the temple is making other couples more comfortable to do it. But honestly, you can’t really judge anyone in this predicament. It’s not like anyone made up a virus to make it to where I was not able to get married in the temple,” she added. Leilanie Coker, a senior from Hong Kong studying marketing, said she has seen this stigma in her own life as she and her fiance, Braden Kim, are figuring out their new wedding plans. She said she thinks this stigma negates the commitment temple marriage is for couples. “I think a lot of the time young couples go into marriage and they go through the motions. So, they go and get married in the temple, but I don't think they really recognize the commitment and the depth of what they're taking on is and they just kind of do it.” Similarly, Malissa Seniloli said she does not appreciate the stigma because it does not acknowledge the commitment of temple The Taeas say they were married in their living room. Photo provided by the Taeas

marriage and the couple’s choices in their own wedding. “When people talk about this stigma, all I can think is they’re not the ones getting married. I’m the one getting married, and I will be the one responsible for my choice ... Our bishop gave us a thumbs up, and my parents and his parents supported us. That’s all we needed. We didn’t need any extra comments on the side.” Sam Merrill said he also hopes this virus, and the different challenges with it, will help Church members be more sympathetic to couples who are getting married civilly. “I feel like, if anything, people and Church members are sympathizing more with the couples rather than judging them,” he said, adding people undertand couples would have gotten married in the temple if they weren’t closed because of COVID-19. He said people may even respect couples who went ahead and got married civilly despite the difficulties created by the pandemic. • Graphics by Sadie Scadden

JUNE 2020


Serving our ohana The Sustainability Center starts new projects aimed to serve the community during COVID-19 BY SERENA DUGAR IOANE


KE ALAK A ’I Besides bread, the Sustainability Center also provides fresh produce and eggs to students. Photos by Keyu Xiao

Graphics by Hannah Manalang

yu Xiao

During the COVID-19 quarantine, the BYU– Hawaii Sustainability Center conducted projects to benefit the BYUH ohana, including creating sanitizers, giving away food and travel commodities and supplying materials to make face masks. The Sustainable World Action & Technology Team (SWATT) changed its name to the Sustainability Center two months ago per the Communications Department’s request, said Leslie Harper, the center’s manager. Harper said the Sustainability Center’s team wants to show care and interest in the BYUH community through projects during the quarantine, which is why team members give away freshly-baked loaves of bread each Sunday. Students can volunteer to help make the bread. Bayarjargal Davaakhuu, a junior from Mongolia majoring in information technology, shared how he has been served by the Sustainability Center. “The Sustainability Center proved they are always there to help us no matter what happens. I was amazed by how they are using their resources to serve the community, being inventive and solving problems. I love their fresh, warm bread, and [we] use it to do our sacrament every Sunday.” Sustainability Center employee Tomoyuki Akiyama, a senior from Japan majoring in marketing, said he works at the center’s bike shop where he fixed 10 bikes during quarantine. He added the bike shop is working by appointment for the students who need help with their bikes. The Sustainability Center also helped students who left the island with suitcases from Give and Take, Harper said.

Since the center has a considerable amount of canned foods and over-the-counter medicines for students who need it – donated by students who left the island – any students and faculty who need these items can contact the center. “Being prepared for unexpected situations can decrease the fear and panic,” Harper explained. He added raised planting beds in the garden are available for students who are interested in learning farming. Creating hand sanitizer The BYUH Emergency Action Committee (EAC) recognized the BYUH supply of hand sanitizers was running low, said Harper, so it asked the Sustainability Center to make hand sanitizers from scratch. Harper shared his team, working with Daniel M. Scott, an associate professor in the Faculty of Sciences, created a sanitizer formula. They made almost 200 bottles of sanitizer and gave it to the university’s Campus Distribution Center to give to departments who needed it. Harper said they bought the materials needed, such as alcohol, aloe vera, bottles and so on. The labels were made at BYUH Print Services, he added. He said they also used materials from the Give and Take to make face masks for Facility Management’s Safety Department. Other projects Sustainability Center employee Munkhzul Galbadrakh, a junior from Mongolia majoring in hospitality and tourism management, said the center has more than 80 chickens, and 20 of

them lay eggs. They get 20-to-30 eggs each day and give them away to students who come to the farm. Since the Polynesian Cultural Center is closed, Galbrakakh said they are struggling to provide food for their chickens. Before, the center used to feed chickens with food waste from the PCC, she said. Now, they are asking the BYUH ohana to donate their food waste for the chickens. Galbadrakh said, “We built two chicken coops during this quarantine and are trying our best to create a comfortable environment for our chickens. However, we need others’ help to sustain our chickens during this hard time.” The Sustainability Center also gives away bananas and other fresh produce. Harper said they harvest bananas frequently from their Temple View Learning Garden and put their bananas in several locations of TVA to distribute to students. “We post about it on social media, and students can come and get them.” Galbadrakh shared how she is learning useful skills from her student job at the center that have helped her, and she has seen the importance of self-sustainability during this pandemic. Nunia Ranama Ucunibaravi, a sophomore from Fiji and one of the employees of the center, said she usually works on hydroponic gardening and grows fresh produce, such as cabbage, lettuce and more. She said she has donated produce to single students by contacting their club presidents. Ucunibaravi added the skills she is learning from the center will benefit her for the rest of her life. •

JUNE 2020 17 The Sustainability Center made face masks and almost 20 0 bottles of sanitizer and they were distributed to departments on campus. Photos by Keyu Xiao

Quiet yet powerful Alumnus of 50 years passes away, leaving behind a legacy of fulfilling the school’s prophetic mission BY LEIANI BROWN One of the six original TESOL graduates at what was then called the Church College of Hawaii, alumnus Lesā Lefa’asisina Ropeti Fa’afetai, otherwise known as Ropeti Lesā, passed away on March 4. In what his colleagues and friends said was his quiet, humble way, Lesā left behind a legacy that epitomizes the vision on which BYU–Hawaii was built. “One doesn’t have to be loud or showy to make an impact,” said Mark James, a retired professor in the Faculty of Education & Social Work, who knew of Ropeti Lesā through Alumni Services. “[Ropeti Lesā is] a good example of someone who, through righteous living and rigorous academic preparation and years of application and commitment, can benefit other people.” His wife, Phyllis Lesā, said her husband knew he wanted to go to America for his schooling, rather than take the scholarship he was offered in New Zealand, after being taught by missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Western Samoa in the early 1950s. “His whole heart was there [at CCH]. He loved President McKay,” said Phyllis Lesā, who further explained how the former president of the Church and founder of CCH had visited and promised blessings that impacted the saints in Ropeti Lesā’s home country of Western Samoa. “And when he got to Church College of Hawaii and saw that big mosaic of President McKay in the lobby … he knew he was in the right place.” The duty to fulfill a prophetic vision and the beginnings of TESOL President David O. McKay’s vision, first realized at the flag raising ceremony depicted in the mosaic at the entrance of BYUH at the front of the McKay Complex, was of a higher learning institution that would gather students

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Ropeti Lesa teaching an EIL class in MCK 101 in 1970. Photo provided by Mark James

from around the world and prepare them as leaders for their respective countries. “That was the goal. We were committed to going back. We were committed to giving back to the many who sacrificed so we could go to school,” said Juanita Nalani Benioni, another of the first six graduates in the TESOL program and former classmate to Ropeti Lesā. Benioni added how students from the Pacific at the time felt a sense of duty in returning to their home countries to serve because of the scholarships that made it possible for them to attend CCH. “When we went [to CCH], there was a huge focus on going back to where you came from to serve. It wasn’t only to serve, but to teach others, to teach the younger [generation]. We had that responsibility, and we wanted the young people we taught, who would be the next students at Church College of Hawaii or BYU, to have it easier than what we went through.”

At that time Dr. Alice Pack, former Church College of Hawaii faculty member and alumna, was starting a brand new program (then called TESL) geared towards teaching English as a second language, and Phyllis Lesā said her husband was recruited to join the program after his counselor saw a knack for language in him. After graduating from CCH, Ropeti Lesā accepted a teaching position at Mapusaga High School in American Samoa, which later became the American Samoa Community College, and was where he spent the majority of his professional career as a teacher, coach and administrator. “[Ropeti Lesā’s] contributions are huge … It’s just a classic case,” said Mike Foley, another of the first six graduates in the TESOL program and former classmate to Ropeti Lesā. “Definitely ‘genuine gold.’” Maryann Mapu, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Culture, Language & Performing

Arts and the Faculty of Education & Social Work, along with her sister, Rowena Reid, an assistant professor in the Center for Learning & Teaching, Distance Learning, Faculty of Sciences, and Faculty of Culture, Language & Performing Arts, both had Ropeti Lesā as their teacher at Mapusaga High School and now both sisters teach at BYUH. In regard to the vision of BYUH, Mapu remarked, “That’s exactly what [Ropeti Lesā] did. He came and got an education and then went back and served his people, and in doing so fulfilled BYUH’s mission.” An early knack for academics and athletics Ropeti Lesā spent most of his early years away from his immediate family on the shores of a Western Samoan Peninsula catching sand crabs using a small rock and breadfruit leaves, shared Phyllis Lesā. One of seven boys out of 10 total children, Ropeti Lesā came from a family that had blood ties to all five of the major Samoan titles. “He always wanted to go to school,” explained Phyllis Lesā. “His mother had the foresight to see that education was the best way for this titled family to go.” Phyllis Lesā said her husband’s mother changed his birth certificate, making him two years younger than he was, so he could get into a private school. A 14-year-old who did not know any English in a class with 12-year-olds, Ropeti Lesā did well in school and was fluent in English by age 15. Benioni explained she and Ropeti Lesā were both recruited to join the TESOL program around the same time but knew each other before as they were both English majors. “He was really unusual because English was his second language, but he had such a great command of the English language. He was very well-read. Truly a scholar, a very serious academic, but he was dangerous on the rugby

field.” In addition to playing rugby, friends and faculty shared their memories of Ropeti Lesā’s love for tennis and golf and his overall natural athleticism. “I never saw him struggling with any of his class work … He never complained that it was too hard,” said Benioni. “He told me something one time. He said, ‘You can learn anything, just with some people it takes longer.You can excel in anything you study. Some people are just going to take longer to learn it.’ That was his attitude, this very positive attitude.” The son of a chief and a girl from Magna, Utah Benioni said she remembered being a little scared the first time she met him as a freshman because he was tall and quiet. Phyllis Lesā added she remembered her husband as “well-sought-after, tall (6’2”), goodlooking, with an air of confidence about him. “I didn’t find out until later that he was the son of the high chief. And I’m sure that’s where his confidence came from because his mother kept telling him, ‘Don’t forget your name.’ It wasn’t, ‘Don’t forget who you are,’ It was ‘Don’t forget your name.’ He was confident, but humble. He never lauded what I call ‘royalty.’” The two met through a mutual friend in what Phyllis Lesā said was “purely by accident.” And when he eventually asked her to marry her, she said she would have to think about it. “He took me by surprise, for one thing. And secondly, I was concerned because it would be a mixed marriage. The year that we got married is when they took away the ban on mixed marriages in the United States,” she said, adding she was aware of his goal to return to his home country. “I fasted and prayed for four days to make sure I was doing the right thing. Every prayer I got the answer, ‘Yes, this is the right choice for you.’ So when I told him ‘Yes,’ in my mind I was

Lesa's graduation photo as one of the first six graduates in the newly created TESOL program. Photo provided by Mark James

telling him, ‘I’ll go wherever you want to go.’” The Lesās ended up spending more than 40 years in Samoa, and it became as much of a home to her as was her original home of Magna, Utah, Phyllis Lesā shared. Together they raised 12 children, Phyllis Lesā explained, some of whom were the sons of Ropeti Lesā’s brother who passed away prematurely. She said she remembered sitting at a window overlooking their long, rambling porch in American Samoa, and hearing a voice that said, “Take care of my boys.” When her husband returned home from the funeral prepared to ask his wife if she would be willing to take in three more boys, Phyllis Lesā said she was ready with the answer before he even asked. Phyllis Lesā said of her husband, “He never wanted the recognition, the praise, the glory that came with his titles. He just wanted to do what he could to help his people. “And of all the titles [Ropeti Lesā] had, he preferred ‘dad.’ But next to ‘dad’ was ‘teacher.’” • Ropeti Lesā’s funeral services were held in Provo, Utah.

The BYU–Hawaii TESOL 50th anniversary reunion held in Provo, Utah, in 2017 at which Lesa was given a Distinguished Service Award. Photo provided by Mark James. Lesa’s funeral services were also held in Provo, Utah. JUNE 2020


Missing their home away from home Students share their memories of fun, friends and spirit of aloha as Polynesian Cultural Center employees BY BROOKE GURYN Students who worked at the Polynesian Cultural Center said they miss the loud cheering crowds of visitors, dancing with their friends, making visitors smile and seeing their PCC ohana every day. “It’s fun to [blow little] kisses, and the kids catch the kiss, and if they do it back, I catch it and bring it to my heart. They think we’re so cool, even though we’re not that cool,” said

Meere Birima, a freshman from Utah majoring in elementary education and dancer for the Huki canoe show. Birima also shared she misses seeing her co-workers every day. “They really are some of the best people I have ever met in my life. I feel really blessed to have them in my life.” She described working at the PCC in one word: heart. She explained, “When working at the PCC, people are doing things they are passionate about and with heart. The place itself

seems to be alive and has its heartbeat.” Another word she gave was love. “Love for [our] culture, love for [our] co-workers, the bond the guests make with the employees, and also the spirit.” Nephi Moe, a junior from Missouri majoring in exercise and sport science, said, “Every day I would come into work, and we would just have fun. I didn’t feel like I was working. I was able to relieve the stress from [school] and other things.

PCC employees say they can feel the lively atmosphere of the center through everyone’s passion for sharing their culture. Graphics by Sadie Scadden 20


Students say they love working at PCC because it’s fun, relieves the stress of classes, and they get to share the gospel and aloha. Photos by Leila Tuinei

“We are just regular students and people who still have fun on the job. We are all students trying to make ends meet …, [but] we make the most of it by sharing the spirit of aloha, dancing, sharing our culture, and learning more about our culture and others.” Moe explained he misses the fast-paced nature of being in the night show. He loved the constant go, go, go of changing scenes, costumes and dances. He said he and his coworkers miss the fatigue, yelling at one another and the exhilaration of performing. He shared, “There’s never a dull moment. Even when we perform the same dance, same moves, same music, there’s always a different story that happens. Whether that is someone

tripping or falling into the lagoon, or someone forgetting their motions.” He used “organized chaos” to describe working at the PCC. Leila Tuinei, a sophomore from American Samoa majoring in business, said, “I love being able to share my culture. It’s always been something very important to me, and to be able to be paid and have a job where I can do that every day is very special to [me]. “We get to preserve our culture in a very wholesome way. I love sharing the gospel through dance and music,” she added. Her favorite memory was when she passed the dances for the night show, Hawaii, Tahiti, and Aotearoa. She said, “It was emotional when I danced in my first night show because

everyone had worked so hard, including me. It was a confidence booster.” She misses her co-workers the most. “Family” is a word Tuinei used to describe working at the PCC. She said, “PCC is a home away from home. It’s hard to be away from the family and go to college, so it is nice to have a family here.” Each student said they value the time spent with their PCC ‘ohana, and said they are eager to see one another again when the PCC reopens. •

JUNE 2020


New mothers, pictured left to right, Kierra Lopis, Anudari Enkhbat and Lupe Resture, say they are taking extra precautions to protect the health of their newborns during the pandemic. Photos by Chad Hsieh

COVID-19 babies: The mothers’ stories Mothers of newborns share trials of having babies during a global pandemic BY MADI BERRY While much of the world has experienced a temporary pause in work and regular routines, life has continued to move forward for mothers having children during this time. BYUH student-mothers described their journey of what life looked like leading up to the hospital, their experience inside and life afterward with a newborn amid the restrictions. “I was alone in the hospital during my labor,” said Kierra Lopis, a junior from Taiwan majoring in TESOL. Her baby boy was born on March 28, 2020. Lopis continued, “It was not very fun to [have] labor and a baby during the coronavirus.” Lopis said the night before her scheduled induction appointment, her husband got sick with a fever from working in the rain. They went to the hospital the next day, but they were not permitted to enter until they were tested for COVID-19. Her husband’s fever went away while they waited to get tested, but because he



no longer displayed symptoms, he couldn’t get tested. However, they were given a doctor’s note for her husband to be able to go to the hospital. The next day, Lopis said she was having contractions and was ready to go into labor. Her husband called the hospital to ensure he would be permitted, but he was told he would not be able to enter without having a negative result of a COVID-19 test. Reflecting on the advantages of having a baby amid the global pandemic, Lopis said, “It was a very special time to be alone in the hospital and was a big blessing for me. Before we had our baby, we would worry if he would be safe in the hospital. It was a blessing, everyone treated me like a COVID-19 patient because of my husband’s fever.” Lupe Resture, a senior from Fiji majoring in IT and entrepreneurship, said she had her baby girl on March 12, 2020. She said it was

scary to have her baby during this time because she was constantly thinking about keeping her baby safe from the virus. Resture commented on the blessings she has experienced while having a baby amid the pandemic. She said, “It is special because I can stay with her at home for more than six weeks, and we could have our sacrament meeting with her for the first time at home, along with her baby blessing soon.” Resture talked about the precautions she is taking during this time with her baby. “A lot of friends and family want to visit us, and I am always worried about them touching the baby because we will never know what could happen. Even though some people don’t show symptoms, they could be carriers of the virus.” Anudari Enkhbat, a sophomore from Mongolia majoring in accounting, said she had her baby boy on March 20, 2020. She commented

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on the experience she had while having her baby during this time. She said, “I urgently had to have a C-section, and that was difficult for me because I couldn’t recover in four to five days. My baby and I were still in the hospital after six days. And when I came home, COVID-19 was getting worse day by day.” Enkhbat said the day her son was born, the BYU–Hawaii announced classes would be moved online. “It affected me mentally and physically because I couldn’t go anywhere with my baby. We couldn’t go outside because we were afraid of the coronavirus. I was really nervous about that. I know he needs more oxygen and vitamin D.” However, Enkhbat said school being moved online turned out to be a blessing for her. She said, “If we didn’t have COVID-19, I would need to go to school. If that was the case, I would have some struggles with it because a C-section requires a lot of energy, even if it is [just] walking.” •

Mothers deal with new protocols as the pandemic continues worldwide. Photos by Chad Hsieh

JUNE 2020


Susan Tanner shared they expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to serve in the university. Photo by Monique Saenz 24


Love and farewell The Tanners express gratitude and say goodbye to students and BYUH ohana BY LEIANI BROWN For BYU–Hawaii President John Tanner, and his wife, Susan Tanner, the end of the Spring 2020 Semester closes five years of steering BYU– Hawaii towards Zion. The Tanners shared their love and gratitude for meaningful interactions with faculty and students, trips to Laie Point and connections to their ancestors and the Pacific. “People have said this must be a bittersweet time. It’s not bitter. This continues to be a sweet experience, but it is a poignant time for us because we love the university and we love the community. We’ve given our hearts to this assignment,” said John Tanner of his reaction to his release as university president. Susan Tanner added they prayed every day, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to serve at BYUH. “We feel like Heavenly Father has granted us the most special blessing in the world. “I’m not sure if you’re ever ready to give up something that you love so much.” Beginnings and endings President John Tanner has held several callings in the Church, including first counselor in the General Sunday School presidency and mission president of the Brazil São Paulo South Mission. Susan Tanner, originally Susan Winder from Granger, Utah, served as Young Women General President from 2002 to 2008. “Every Church assignment has a release built-in,” explained President Tanner. “We know that, and we believe and support that. But of course, we will miss this assignment and opportunity. And I have to say that being president hasn’t been all sweetness and light. We have had challenges, as every assignment does.” As she reflected on her time at BYUH, Susan Tanner said she loved watching the excitement and anticipation of new students each semester, as well as the confidence and accomplishment of graduating students. “I love beginnings, and I love endings ... As we’ve been

looking back now on our time here, it’s been fun to feel the university’s growth.” President Tanner added this ending has been difficult for him because the campus has been so empty due to the pandemic. He said one of his earliest memories at BYUH was waking up early one morning after his presidency had been announced before their first semester began. He said he remembered walking out and looking up Kulanui Street and Hale La’a, seeing the temple. “I felt this real, strong sense that this university needs to be connected to and worthy of the temple.” To end with the temple closed and activity level on campus at an all-time low, an area President Tanner said he has sought to improve during his time here, has made it difficult to say goodbye. He added he would just as soon slip out the back door without any fanfare, but he wants the BYUH and the wider Laie community to know he loves serving alongside them. “Our deepest desire is [for them] to know how much love and gratitude we have for everyone at this place. We have just been showered with aloha from day one,” said Susan Tanner. Steering through rough waters President Tanner said due to the pandemic, he worried about how to continue to remotely provide the interactive, intercultural learning experience that is consistent with the mission of BYUH. But this is just one of the challenges the Tanners said they have experienced during their time at BYUH. When things got tough, the Tanners explained, or they started to feel a little discouraged, they would go out and find students or faculty, invite them to dinner and hear what brought them to BYUH. “This is a place that’s mission-centered. People would often tell these remarkable stories of how the Lord brought them to

“Our deepest desire is [for them] to know how much love and gratitude we have for everyone at this place. We have just been showered with aloha from day one.” - Susan Tanner

Students and community members said their farewells to the Tanners during their drive-by aloha ‘oe event on May 27. Photos by Monique Saenz JUNE 2020 25

BYUH, and it would lift us, inspire us and give us a new shot in the arm when things got hard,” said President Tanner. “We have felt the university’s mission so strongly in our lives, and so to have that renewed in our mind is what would get us through difficult things or hard times,” Susan Tanner added. She reminisced about how her husband would often come home around 6 in the evening with all the worries of the university weighing on his shoulders. They would go out to Laie Point to let the wind blow through their hair and admire the beauty of the island. She explained how the physical beauty of the surrounding landscape renewed them as they felt the presence of God. President Tanner added he would even occasionally go out and boogie board, especially after hearing he would be released. Pacific connections The Tanners shared their ancestors translated the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian and Samoan languages and were deeply enmeshed into the Polynesian cultures. Susan Tanner explained she read anything she got her hands on about her ancestor, George Q. Cannon, to learn about his missions to the Hawaiian Islands.“I just hungered for connections to him.” She added she often looked at the portrait of George Q. Cannon in the Laie Hawaii Temple. “I would look into his eyes and think, ‘I want to be worthy to be your granddaughter. I want to give and sacrifice and love in the same ways that you have here.’ [That connection] has had an impact on me. I have felt his presence and his spirit.” She said she thought about the sacrifices her grandparents made to serve a mission in Hawaii as a young married couple, including giving birth to their first child away from family. President Tanner added it was sweet to have celebrated the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Laie Hawaii Temple during their time here, especially after discovering his wife’s grandparents were present for the original dedication in 1919. He said his connection to the Pacific is with Samoa, where his grandfather served three missions. His grandfather, who oversaw the translation of the Book of Mormon to Samoan while serving as a mission president when he 26


was about 28 years old, stopped in Hawaii on his way home and spoke in sacrament meetings in Laie. President Tanner shared during their first visit to BYUH campus, years before being called president, he and his wife stood under the newly erected statue of George Q. Cannon and Jonathan Napela, and talked about their ancestral connections to Hawaii and Samoa. As they talked, he said he wondered if they would have any personal connection to the Pacific. “We raised that question, but

never thought that we’d be back to follow in the footsteps of some of those pioneers of the Pacific... So that’s given this a special, personal, family-history connection.” Zion as a goal In his inaugural address, President Tanner stated, “I see a university that is intended to be not only a ‘school in Zion’ but a Zion university,” and continued to refer to that idea throughout his time at BYUH. He further explained in his farewell devotional speech that

John and Susan Tanner and their entire family and grandchildren during Thanksgiving of 2019. Photo by Monique Saenz

he used “Zion” as a shorthand “not because I ever expected to dock in a harbor called Zion but because I believe we are better for steering toward it.” He further stressed it was not his directive, but rather a concentrated effort to echo and reanimate statements of past prophets in a way that would help the university strive to be better. “We’re better off for striving to be better with high aspirations, even when we fall short, than we are when we aim low. ... That vision

of a Zion university is something that has guided us, and I hope will continue to guide the university, whether the new president uses that phrase or not. I can tell already that he’s committed to the university’s prophetic vision and that’s the important thing.” Susan Tanner added she has long loved the idea of Zion and has appreciated the reiteration of it as a metaphor for what the university is seeking to be. “ We’re progressing on the road to Zion and a Zion university,” she said.

President Tanner added he deliberately used the word “savor” of Zion in speaking about Zion in his inauguration. “You experience something here that’s really special and makes you want to take that into the world and replicate it. “It doesn’t mean you’re perfect, or that you’ve arrived at Zion, but you’ve experienced something here that has a special flavor.” Susan Tanner added, “Hopefully that means we’ll take a little piece of Zion with us wherever we go.” • JUNE 2020


‘Be happy’ Section

Three little things Alumnus Josh Wallace shares joy in family, music and Seasider life BY LEIANI BROWN



Josh Wallace said he and his wife are now in constant contact with their birth parents. Photo by Kei Riggins Graphics by Esther Insigne

For Josh Wallace, there are three things he considers central to his identity: being adopted, a musician and a BYU–Hawaii alumnus. Wallace shared how being a “Seasider through and through” has influenced his experiences following graduation, including performing around the world and reconnecting with his birth parents. “I love that campus. I love everything it stands for. I love all of the flaws too. I know it’s not perfect ... The direction and the hope it brings to everybody who goes there, if we can all strive to become those people every day, even after we’ve gone, I really feel like then we’ll be seeing mighty miracles in our own lives and the world.”

Jamming in unexpected places While studying at Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain, Wallace and his wife were contacted about joining a talent show competition similar to “America’s Got Talent” but for the particular region they lived in. The show aired on TV as “Family Duo” and the couple won second place overall. Wallace explained they did not take the show too seriously at first because his wife was in the middle of her master’s program, and they decided together they would “just do it and have fun. “And as we were having fun, we kept getting further and further along in the show,” added Wallace. “Then it was the semifinals, and then the finals. We were like, ‘Well, we’re still in this. We actually have a shot of winning 10,000 euros. Maybe we should get a little more serious.’” Wallace explained even with his wife’s fluency in Spanish, a lot of their time on the show was spent nodding, smiling and saying “gracias” because the judges were all speaking in a dialect neither of them understood. Although they did not win first place, Wallace said it was an incredible experience he was grateful to share with his wife. After moving to California in January, another unexpected opportunity presented itself as a spot to be a musician on a McDonald’s commercial for the new “Trolls: World Tour”

movie. This popped up on a group chat that connects alumni from Wallace’s grad school living in the Los Angeles area. When he noticed one of the slots was for a ukulele part, Wallace said he decided he would give it a shot. “I got an email saying that we got the spot, and the pay doubled, which was great. And now I guess my ukulele is being heard all over the world in a bunch of different languages for a McDonald’s commercial.” Wallace added the ukulele is not his primary instrument, and he was shocked, but grateful for the opportunity. “I consider it a huge blessing. It was a cool opportunity to take a little bit of Hawaii with me and share that, and now everyone can hear it.” Finding his roots Wallace explained he met his wife at BYUH. They were both adopted through Family Services, a private nonprofit corporation owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Wallace said he asked her on a date to get to know more about her adoption story.

“I consider it a huge blessing. It was a cool opportunity to take a little bit of Hawaii with me and share that, and now everyone can hear it.” - Josh Wallace A BYUH alumnus and Wallace’s good friend, Ninoy Kusuma, shared Wallace was very open about being adopted. He further explained, “What I know is he’s not someone who complains too much … He always tries to be open about everything, if you ask him.” Kusuma said he remembers Wallace telling him he was going to go after Kei, Wallace’s now-wife, when she returned to the BYUH Salsa Orchestra. After a school music trip to Japan, Kusuma said he noticed the two of them began dating. “I became really good friends with them, and I even got the chance to be one of their groomsmen. It was a lovely experience for me to see them finally get married in the temple in San Diego. They are both just perfect for each other.”

After graduating and getting married, the two moved to Spain, and Wallace said he started having trouble sleeping at night. He explained he kept getting the feeling that he had to find his birth parents. So he went online and was able to find his birth mother, and from there, he connected with his birth father and some half-siblings. “Reconnecting with my birth family wasn’t really on my radar. I kind of felt like I would find them one day, but I didn’t know it was going to be while getting my master’s degree.” Within a year and five months, both he and his wife were in touch with their birth parents. Wallace said reconnecting with them has been a positive experience, and they are still in constant contact with them today. Using music to unite Darren Duerden, a professor in the Faculty of Culture, Language & Performing Arts, said Wallace studied percussion with him during his time at BYUH and played an important role in the university’s steel drum band, Shaka Steel, as well as the Salsa Orchestra. Duerden said Wallace was a very “multi-talented musician. “I have nothing but respect and admiration for Josh and his wife, Kei. They’re great people. They represent BYU–Hawaii very well. I love the positive attitudes that they have.” Duerden said he has followed their progress via social media, including watching live stream performances they do together and listening to the original songs Wallace has written. “They make themselves visible on social media. They’re always uploading positive messages and performances of themselves. They make their presence of goodness belt on the internet ...You just never hear negative stuff coming out of their mouth in any format.” In addition to percussion, Duerden said Wallace had a knack for songwriting. “He had the most amazing set of entertaining skills. He was kind of a born entertainer. When he took the stage, you just wanted to watch him.” Kusuma, who was also a part of Shaka Steel and Salsa Orchestra, said he and Wallace worked as drummers together at the Polynesian Cultural Center for a time and noticed Wallace’s natural ability to laugh and joke. JUNE 2020


“In our ensemble class, he would always help the group to have more fun with the music... In every salsa concert that we had, he was actually the first person to play and dance at the same time. “And when we would look at him, we just wanted to dance too. But he was always the first person to do it, and everyone would follow. He was the light of the group.” Duerden added Wallace was always the life of the party when he attended BYUH. “He does have a very infectious laugh, and he’s fun to be around. He would always play ukulele and sing. He has a really rich storehouse of songs at his disposal.” Wallace said he sees music as a tool that can be used for good and bad, but he has always tried to use his music to point others toward “light and truth” and “happiness and positivity.” He added he has always leaned towards more positive music and described his music tastes as “unique.” Attending BYUH, Wallace explained, opened up a whole new world of music for him. Having been classically trained in his youth, Wallace said experiences at BYUH introduced him to salsa, Latin, Jazz, Polynesian and Tahitian music, and also added drums to his repertoire.

“It helped me to understand what I feel like my calling is, which is to make music that is more geared toward the masses. [Music] that’s fun, danceable and lively but is still positive. “I’m forever grateful for my time at BYUH, especially [with] the Music Department,” said Wallace. He explained music doesn’t necessarily have to be deemed “church music” to bring the Spirit, and added he had many experiences with songs that have touched his heart. An artist who has been influential in his life, despite differences in beliefs, is Bob Marley. “[Bob Marley’s] faith system isn’t something that I 100 percent agree with. But a lot of his messages were about unity, love, positive thinking and trusting in the higher power to deliver us – and just being happy and not worrying. I find music like that in lots of different genres, inspiring my wife and me to create music that’s geared in that direction.” Passing on positivity Wallace said since graduating from BYUH, all he feels is gratitude. “It kind of goes back to BYUH’s ‘Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve,’ being ‘genuine gold’ and standing out. “I really feel strongly that ... all the things that have happened to me happened

because Kei and I went there.” Wallace said a major reason he chose to come to BYUH was President David O. McKay’s vision for the school. “My time at BYUH was some of the most precious time where I was able to learn ...[that] being able to serve our fellow man is one of the most beautiful things that we can do.” Wallace explained BYUH taught him how to serve people of all backgrounds and beliefs. “At the base of it, we’re all the same, and I learned that at BYUH. It’s helped make service a lot easier and more rewarding for me.” Wallace now works as a music teacher for Fusion Academy, a private school in California. Despite not expecting to teach until he was much older and hoping he would have more experience in the industry first, Wallace said he does not regret it at all. Wallace added he hopes to steer his students to create positive music that tells a story and captures real emotions. “I’m able to serve every single day. I’m able to teach youth and the next generation of artists and songwriters to love music and to help foster their passion for music.” •

“In every salsa concert that we had, he was actually the first person to play and dance at the same time. And when we would look at him, we just wanted to dance too. But he was always the first person to do it, and everyone would follow. He was the light of the group.” -Ninoy Kusuma



Josh Wallace and his wife, Kei, performed on a talent competition show, “Family Duo,” together and finished in second place. Graphics by Esther Insigne

Wallace now lives in California where he teaches music to youth. Photo by Kei Riggins

JUNE 2020


Graphics by Esther Insigne

Autwinsm Twin sisters from Kahuku create YouTube channel to spread awareness for autism BY BROOKE GURYN Seeking to spread awareness for autism, twins Kaitlyn and Emily Myers said they created a YouTube channel called “Autwinsm.” They spread awareness by sharing their real experiences of having autism and what is different for them, in hopes others will understand their world, they said. Their mother, Lauri Myers, said, “At times, people with autism might not look at you when you are talking or may react in a ‘weird way’... But that doesn’t mean they are not worth knowing. “Since the YouTube channel began, people who saw the videos are not afraid to talk to [them] because they feel they know [them] better. It has opened doors for communication and [broken] down barriers.” “It’s not a disease and not something to be ashamed of. It is something unique and special,” said Kaitlyn Myers.



How it began Kaitlyn and Emily Myers are local Kahuku graduates. They created their YouTube channel because of a class assignment. It was something they always wanted to do, but they said they just never gotten around to starting it. Kaitlyn Myers said they were required to go out into the community for a school assignment, but she was not comfortable with it. Instead, she asked permission to do videos on autism awareness. She said a lot of people are judgmental towards people with disabilities or mental illness because they do not understand what it is like. “I think the more we can help people understand what our world’s like, hopefully, the more accepting and open people will be.” Usually, the sisters are shy and don’t speak much, but the videos are a space for them to be confident. Lauri Myers described, “[They’re]

showing the world who [they] are in the safety of home and the comfort of family.” In the videos, both Kaitlyn and Emily Myers feel comfortable being their true selves, said their mother. Kaitlyn Myers said they don’t only want to spread autism awareness, but also inspire others. Emily Myers often giggles in the videos, and she makes her sister laugh. She hopes the people who are watching laugh and smile too. She said, “I think it’s really important to encourage people and make people smile... Try and get to know people [with autism] and make them smile, but approach slowly.” Lauri Myers said the message they want to share on their YouTube channel is, “We are different. We all have our quirks, and that is fine. I have seen [their confidence] implant itself in their hearts even deeper since they have been working on this project together.”

Overcoming challenges Abigail Nielsen, a junior from Utah studying accounting, is a friend of Kaitlyn and Emily Myers and their family. She said she admires them both because she feels they both have to push through so much, and they do it with strength. “To see them do everyday things that may seem impossible to some people who have autism, they are doing it. They make me so proud, and they inspire me. If they can do these things, I can do it, and I can make it. They have done a great job of being great people.” Nielsen shared an experience of them pushing through loud noise and a chaotic environment to attend two of her dance recitals. She knows loud sounds are difficult for them and was touched that they went into that situation to support her at her dances where it would be loud. She said, “It meant a lot to me.” She also admired their bravery of dancing a Polynesian dance in a class at Kahuku at the Hukilau Marketplace where it was going to be loud and in front of many people. The future of “Autwinsm” Kaitlyn, Emily and Lauri Myers all agreed Autwinsm will continue. Lauri Myers said, “The project is a family effort. Every member of the family helps to support in the ways they can.” She said the girls have unconditional support for one another. She has loved watching them giggle and laugh together during this project where they can express themselves and educate others on the importance of accepting people with autism. Emily and Kaitlyn Myers are thinking and planning out ideas for future videos. Watch their videos by searching “Autwinism” on YouTube. •

“I think the more we can help people understand what our world’s like, hopefully, the more accepting and open people will be.” - Kaitlyn Myers

Top photo: Lauri Myers shared how viewers of the 'Autwinsm' channel now have a better understanding of autism and are not afraid of talking to the twins because of it. Bottom photo: The 'Autwinsm' channel cover on YouTube. Photos provided by Lauri Myers

JUNE 2020


Graphics by Hannah Manalang

Giving the gift of Hula Pomai Krueger finds joy in passing on Hawaiian culture to student performers BY HAILEY HUHANE As a sixth generation kumu (hula teacher), Pomai Krueger’s understanding and passion for his native Hawaiian culture he said was instilled in him at a young age. He shared he was inspired by his parents, grandparents and past hula teachers. Krueger said, “They are all my mentors, and without them giving me any knowledge, I wouldn’t be able to pass it on.” Passing on his knowledge of the Hawaiian culture is something Krueger said he does every day at the Polynesian Cultural Center. As the Hawaiian cultural specialist at the center, Krueger inspires, teaches and mentors the students who perform there. Growing up in Maui, Krueger said he was taught the importance of the gospel and his cultural traditions. For both, family was central. He said, “Family comes first over everything else. Those are the values we grew up with and those values are what brought us joy.” Krueger’s upbringing was not always idyllic as he watched both of his parents work 34


hard to provide for him and his siblings. With his mother working full time and his father working multiple jobs, they still made time for what was most important. He said, “It’s expensive to live in paradise, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. “It’s probably the best place you can grow up, but I know my parents had a hard time. This is why I'm grateful for the gospel because it helps give us a good perspective. It keeps what matters most at the forefront. “Growing up, we were committed to performing hula.” From a young age, Krueger performed at various cultural events and competitions. His years of dancing ultimately led to his pursuit of teaching hula as a career. Today, Krueger has four hula halaus (hula schools) located in Japan, Virginia, Maui, and Oahu. His role as a Kumu Hula continues at the Polynesian Cultural Center. “My job at the PCC is basically to run all of the cultural content when it comes to Hawaiian culture. I’m responsible for what they

learn and how they learn it.” As the cultural specialist at the Hawaiian village, most of Krueger’s work is done behind the scenes. He said, “My interactions with the guests are limited. My job is to empower the employees who interact with the guests. I am constantly inspired by the students and their desire to learn. They have questions, they’re eager and they work hard.” Krueger explained while it’s exciting to teach the guests about Hawaiian traditions, there is something even more special about teaching the native students about their culture. He said, “It resonates with them. It’s in their genetic makeup. It’s a seed that has all of a sudden sprouted. Interacting with the students and seeing them understand these very ancient cultural practices and traditions is what brings me joy.” Kepueli “Kepu” Huhane, a former dancer in the Hawaiian village and an alumnus of BYUH, spoke of his experience while working with Krueger. He said, “When I first met

Pomai K

Krueger said hula has always been a part of his life. Photos provided by Pomai Krueger

“Pomai is a young Kumu, yet so very talented. His knowledge runs deep, not just in hula but how to live the Hawaiian ancient way of life. The unique opportunity to work in the Hawaiian village showed me just how talented Pomai was.” - Kepueli “Kepu” Huhane

Pomai Krueger has four hula schools throughout the world. Lower left photo by Mike Foley

Pomai, I could feel his passion and love for hula. Before teaching us, he would sit everyone down and tell us the stories behind each dance.” Huhane said he was constantly amazed as he watched Krueger give meaning and purpose to the motions. “It brought hula to life.” As a Kumu Hula, Krueger is able to watch his students transform. He said, “First, they’re uncomfortable, and then they begin to recognize the motions. Eventually their body begins to naturally lend itself to the movements and then all of a sudden, their spirit understands, and when they perform, they transform.” Huhane explained as he grew closer to Krueger, he came to understand his knowledge was not limited to hula. He said, “Pomai is a young Kumu, yet so very talented. His knowledge runs deep, not just in hula but how to live the Hawaiian ancient way of life. The unique opportunity to work in the Hawaiian village showed me just how talented Pomai was. When he was tending to the lo’i with the kalo, he was quite knowledgeable. “When he was teaching us hula, it was clear he lived and breathed the knowledge that he was teaching us. He would sew our costumes and teach us how to make lei polo. He would teach us how to chant and teach us the meaning of the chants. He was the embodiment of those who had gone before him. I have a lot of respect for him and am so grateful for his influence.” Wallace Pelesasa, from Samoa and a student in Krueger’s halau, said, “Pomai is one of the few people I’ve met who not only talks about and shows their pride in their culture [but] has a gift of connecting with the ancestors of the land. “I say that because he speaks about the ancestors of others as if they were his own, as if he personally knew them, walked with them and loves them. His respect towards his culture and its history is very strongly rooted. In many ways, as a student of Kumu Pomai, I am blessed to see how beautifully congruent his character is to our Savior.” Krueger recognized the unique nature of his profession. He said, “I feel gratitude to have the opportunity to work and get paid for practicing my culture. I recognize that. I feel quite blessed that I get to go to a job where I'm able to spend my day enjoying my cultural practices. It’s a blessing.” • JUNE 2020


Sharing laughter through TikTok

TikTok has increased students’ abilities to share creativity and talents with each other BY BROOKE GURYN Quick moments of joy cross the screen as people endlessly scroll through TikTok videos of others dancing, singing and sharing their talents. The TikTok app, formerly known as Musical.ly, has entertained students during quarantine, they said, and has allowed them to de-stress from exams and schoolwork. It creates a space for students to be creative and share what they love doing. 36


Ralph Mallapre, a sophomore from the Philippines majoring in vocal performance, said, “It’s addictive. The videos are so cool that you can watch over and over again, and it is still so good. It’s just a small video clip, but it is satisfying. That’s why people want to download the app.” Mallapre said he started using TikTok during the quarantine because he was bored. He explained, “I was so stressed with trying

to figure out if I was staying [in Hawaii], or if I had a job. I love to dance, and dancing helped me get rid of my stress. I used TikTok to get away from problems for the moment and take a break from all the headaches.” Content on TikTok Damon Kumar, an alumnus from Fiji who graduated in Winter 2020 and who studied hospitality and tourism management

and business management, said the app is for entertainment. He described how he likes to make dancing videos with his friends even when they pass on the opportunity. Kumar said he enjoys sharing the videos with his friends and family. He also enjoys watching cooking and exercise videos. He said he uses it for educational purposes and also to uplift and make others laugh. Sela Tuihalamaka, a junior from Tonga studying social work, said she started making TikTok videos because she found it was a new trend last year and was interested in trying it. She said, “One of my biggest hobbies is dancing. I wanted to show my dancing skills. “Sometimes I am nervous to [share] my videos because of what people may say, but I don’t mind it. I feel comfortable because what I dance, do and say is appropriate and shows who I really am.” She said she wants to inspire other people to dance and share their talents no matter what others think, and TikTok is a good resource for doing so.

Opportunities for fame Gerome Romero, known as ldsgeromero on TikTok, is a freshman from the Philippines studying biochemistry. He said he made an original TikTok video that went viral overnight. The video has more than 1.7 million views, and Romero now has more than 5,000 followers. Romero had only started using TikTok when the quarantine started. On his viral video, there was one comment that stuck out to him that read, “I needed a good laugh, and you gave it to me.” Romero said he thanked the commenter. Afterwards, “The woman who commented started conversing with me and told me she had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was tested a week before the video. I was able to make her smile while she was in isolation away from her family and feeling lonely. We had this conversation, and I felt happy to help her during these times.” He said the whole world is on TikTok, “So be careful and aware of what you click and what you post, and you will be good.”

Making money on TikTok According to Elise Darma, an entrepreneur from YouTube, there are ways to make money on TikTok. She said people are growing their followers and then selling their accounts. Another way is by going live and collecting donations from TikTok users after 1,000 followers. Darma said, “You can purchase coins on the app, [and] 100 coins are about $1.39. You give it to users on live as a thank you for the content they provide. The creator can turn those coins into diamonds, which then can convert into cash via PayPal.” Romero said, “TikTok is a place where you can go to show your talents and show a little bit of you there.” To learn more or create a TikTok account, visit https://www.TikTok.com/en/ or download TikTok on the App Store. •

Graphics by Esther Insigne JUNE 2020


Knowledge equates to happiness Barbara Hong shares how she turned her educational journey into a pursuit of happiness BY MADI BERRY

Former professor of Special Education at BYU–Hawaii Dr. Barbara Hong, and author of “Failing Up: A Professor’s Odyssey of Flunking, Determination, and Hope,” shared she believes knowledge has helped her find happiness throughout her life. Hong talked about her hard upbringing in Singapore and how she overcame obstacles to her education. “I could be poor, hungry, tired, yelled at or abused, but I honestly felt like I had the whole world in my hand because I was in charge of my own mind. No one could take that away from me. The sense of self-empowerment surpasses everything money could buy,” said Hong. Hong shared how she began to value her education, commenting, “When you think of an Asian from Singapore, the movie ‘Crazy Rich Asian’ naturally comes to mind. Well, that’s not my life at all.” “I was born practically into a sweatshop home because my family had to snip threads off of clothing and sew pillowcases to make our living,” said Hong. She said she worked hard and focused on surviving but had little time to focus on education. Hong said she enjoyed attending church with her aunt when she was 10 years old. “I 38


was instantaneously drawn to these members. I enjoyed hanging out with them compared to going home to my drunken father. One day in church, I learned something that would change my life forever.” Hong said when she learned knowledge is the only thing people take with them after death, it was a life-changing moment. This teaching altered the course of her life, causing a change of heart, she explained. “I yearned to learn everything I could possibly learn to expand my mind and take that with me for eternity.” Jillian Ruby, a junior from Colorado majoring in special education and psychology, said, “[Dr. Hong] has a love for learning that I have never seen before. She studies things that are not even in her field of study or her profession ... She did not always have an upbringing of being able to learn and grow, but she was given the opportunity to later in life and held onto it.” Hong shared failing the tenth grade fueled her determination. “[I] allowed myself only 365 days to turn my life around. I studied so hard that my parents were mad at me for wasting electricity.

“Since we lived in government housing, I decided to sit on the steps of the stairways each night to study using the public lights, often surrounded by rats and feces. “I was so happy when I finally passed and was able to move on to the next phase of my education. To me, my knowledge was my happiness. Not because I finally obtained my Ph.D., but because I finally took charge of my own life.” Megan DeJong, a junior from Colorado majoring in psychology, said, “She has so much passion, and it is contagious... I know that there are many kids who had never heard about special education, but she got everyone engaged in the class. I don’t think anyone had anything negative to say about her because she cared so much about what she taught.” Ruby commented, “She inspires me because she is always willing to help others. I have never met anyone who stands up for the little guy as much as Dr. Hong. She makes sure that those in her community and around the world who cannot speak for themselves are spoken up for.” DeJong said after sharing her plans to become a special education teacher with Hong,

“She told me, ‘That is noble, but you can do so much more than that. You should definitely get your master’s degree.’ No one had ever really challenged me the way Dr. Hong did. After I heard that, I decided I wanted to do that.” Hong emphasized the importance of learning for the right reasons. “If I had simply studied for the sake of grades or fear of failing, I would have denied myself one of the greatest gifts of happiness. Of course, we obtain an education for job security, but that should not be the goal. Learning itself is the goal. “I don’t know everything, and I’ll never know everything, but as long as I’m willing to learn and allow my mind to expand, I know I will be happy.” •

“I yearned to learn everything I could possibly learn to expand my mind and take that with me for eternity.” - Dr. Hong

Dr. Hong says she used education and knowledge to achieve her goals and dreams. She now is a dean at Texas A&M. Photos provided by Dr. Barbara Hong. Graphics by Bruno Maynez JUNE 2020


Jessica Birch shares how she finds happiness from growing up in Maui to attending BYU–Hawaii BY HAILEY HUHANE


KE ALAK Birch saidA ’Ishe treasures her childhood memories in Hawaii and wants the same for her future children. Photo provided by Jessica Birch

From the joys of growing up in the islands to attending BYU–Hawaii and working at the Polynesian Cultural Center, Jessica “Jess” Birch, a sophomore from Maui fulfilling her science credits to transfer to a nursing school, shared the ways she has found happiness throughout her life. To her friends, Birch is an example of “leaving people better than you found them,” a motto she continuously tries to live by. A friend and co-worker, Pohai Miyamoto, a sophomore from Lahaina on Maui majoring in elementary education, said, “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, Jess will always greet you with open arms and the warmest smile.” As Birch reflected on her childhood, she said, “Growing up here is the best. I want to raise all of my kids here because growing up here was just so fun.” Birch recalled running through the sugarcane field behind her childhood home, picking fruit from trees and going to the beach often. She said, “It’s a different kind of lifestyle. We’re just running outside barefoot all day, and it’s actually what I want my kids to experience. I remember sitting outside and husking coconuts for hours after school.” Birch said she would sell the coconuts to the golfers at a nearby golf course and joked this was proof she was born to work in the Samoan Village. She also cherishes the community in which she was raised. She said, “Another thing that I love about being here in Hawaii is that you just know everybody. Everywhere you go you see people you know. It is such a tight community where I’m from.” She said while serving in the Utah Salt Lake City West Mission, she struggled without this sense of community. “I realized on my mission that not everybody has that.”

Birch said, “I feel like I was the happiest growing up because I always had so many people I felt love from.” Whether it was at school, church or in her neighborhood, she said she felt a constant sense of unity. She said, “Everyone feels like family, so it’s hard not to feel good all of the time.” Being raised in Hawaii, Birch learned quickly what it means to live with aloha. She explained, “Living in the islands, everybody takes care of each other. If you see somebody on the side of the road trying to push their car, you jump out of your car and help them. “It’s holding the door open for someone. It’s the spirit of looking out for each other and wanting the best for each other.” To her, the word aloha means being aware of other people, serving them, and loving them. Once Birch became a student at BYUH she said she found joy attending school with fellow Latter-day Saints from all over the world. “My testimony has been strengthened so much knowing that people are coming here from Mongolia and New Zealand and Mexico, and the gospel is the same in all of those places.” Birch said she enjoys attending BYUH because she is able to feel the spirit frequently. She said, “I sit in sacrament meeting with people from like 40 different places all singing the same hymns and worshiping the same God. The gospel brings us all together and makes the world feel so small. “For me, that makes my testimony so strong, knowing that the gospel is true everywhere.You can feel it so strongly here, even when you’re not at church.” While attending BYUH, Birch has worked at the Polynesian Cultural Center. She works as a tour guide where she finds happiness interacting with guests. She said, “When you work at the PCC, you’re obviously interacting

with guests a lot. As a tour guide, I get to be with them all day and help teach them about all of these wonderful cultures. I feel like most of my joy comes from being with my co-workers and all of these families who come from different places.” Every day at work, Birch said she seeks to share the same spirit she has been able to feel throughout her life. “Being from [Hawaii], I want them to feel aloha, and I want them to feel the spirit. “I want them to feel love when they come to the center. Even if they don’t remember all of the facts about the PCC or the different islands … I at least want them to remember how they feel there,” she said. Micah Pascual, a sophomore from the Philippines majoring in human resources and supply chain management and a friend of Birch’s, said, “One word I would say best describes Jess is ‘Christlike.’ “She is the kind of person who exemplifies the true meaning of that word. Jess is always there willing to help other people and she never asks for anything back.” Birch advised the best way to find joy is by serving others. “I feel like that’s something anyone can do. If you’re having a hard day, just turn outward. Serve others, and you will feel happy.” Pascual said the thing he admires about Birch is her thoughtfulness. He said, “I love how she thinks of other people. I love how she gives service to others, and you’ll never hear her complaining at all. “For her, she is doing it because she loves it. She’s happy seeing that she can do something good for other people and make them feel the love they need.” •

Living in Hawaii: “It’s a different kind of lifestyle. We’re just running outside barefoot all day, and it's actually what I want my kids to experience.” -Jessica Birch JUNE 2020 Graphics by Esther Insigne


How boxing led me to my wife Golden Gloves winner, Hirini Wikaira, said boxing became the bridge to eternal marriage BY MARVIN LATCHUMANAN Reminiscing about his boxing career and how it led to temple marriage, Hirini Piikau Wikaira, a senior majoring in Pacific Island Studies from New Zealand, kept a recording of when he won against Auckland, New Zealand champion Andrew Lueii. Listening to the final words from the commentator, “Wikaira dishes out powerful uppercuts and long right hands, which snap Lueii’s head back often. Wikaira seems to have all the skills to go far, and although Lueii is still firing in the third, he is clearly outgunned and is being clubbed by right hands.” The commentator concluded saying, “In an eventful fight, Hirini Wikaira impresses enough to win a unanimous decision.” Meeting his eternal companion Wikaira recalled how the sport led him to marry his wife, Abish Wikaira, a junior from New Zealand majoring in TESOL education. He said being married to her is the most precious blessing, and she is someone he will fight for forever. He said everything fell into place after he served a full-time mission in Brisbane, Australia. He was reunited with his former boxing coach, Herewini Jones, to resume training. Hirini Wikaira also said he found he had feelings for a girl he said he never liked before. 42


Hirini Wikaira shared he was inspired to act on his impressions about his coach’s daughter, Abish. “Whilst being there, I became close to his daughter and felt impressed that she was my eternal companion. “After spending time together, I could tell we got along very well, and my feelings weren’t just mine but ours. I remember telling her saying, ‘I think you’re my eternal companion.’ It just came out. She replied, ‘I know.’” Abish Wikaira said after receiving inspiration, they decided to get married a week later week (on the second night of October 2016 General Conference), but he proposed properly the week after. Hirini Wikaira said, “We prayed for confirmation, and from that night, we were pretty much together. A week later I proposed to her at the Hamilton New Zealand Temple, and one day later I flew here to Hawaii. “We did long distance for one year. Then, when I returned for the holidays in summer break, we were sealed in the temple. Three years later, we are both here in Hawaii. Boxing helped me not only learn skills for life but also led me to my eternal companion.” Abish Wikaira said she was also convinced her husband’s boxing journey had led to their journey in marriage. She said, “The way we came together was a really special experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. We still learn

new things together every day, but with Heavenly Father as our guide, we keep our eyes forward and our heads up knowing everything’s going to be fine.” Wikaira’s boxing career Hirini Wikaira is from the Northland of New Zealand and said he started boxing when he was 13 years old. His father introduced him to the sport and encouraged him to “give it a try.” He said he had trouble finding matches because boxing was not popular where he lived. He moved to Hamilton, New Zealand, when he was 15 and joined a local association called The Nawton Boxing Club. With the move to Hamilton, it was easier for him to find boxing matches, and he said he would compete in tournaments at least once a month. Hirini Wikaira said, “I had coach Rusty Porter, second coach Merrill Percell, and third [coach] Herewini Jones. I also would train with my dad, Shane Wikaira.” He won the Waikato championship, qualifying him to go to the New Zealand Nationals in 2010. He placed second, and he said it made him determined to sharpen his skills in the sport. In 2011, he placed second again, and he said, “I became hungrier. In 2012, I trained harder and had assistance with Herewini Jones.

Above: Hirini Wikaira declared the winner of Golden Gloves in 2016. Left: The awards Wikaira have amassed throughout the years in his boxing career. Graphics by Esther Insigne and photos provided by Hirini Wikaira

“He taught me the important stuff of boxing. Timing will always beat power and speed. I remembered that and applied it to my training.” Hirini Wikaira said he was grateful for Jones as he played influential roles in his life. He said Jones was his boxing coach and his branch president in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who assisted him in preparation for serving a full-time mission for the Church. He won the New Zealand national tournament and was the New Zealand middleweight champion in 2012. Wikaira said that same year he had won the Golden Gloves in New Zealand. The “Golden Gloves” is a wellrespected tradition in the boxing world where the title is given to amateur boxers who would go on to fight and claim victory in the National Golden Gloves tournament. According to the Britannica.com, the history of the Golden Gloves can be traced back in the mid 1920s where the first competition was held between teams from Chicago and New York in 1927. The tournament’s symbolic award comes in a form of a small pair of gold boxing gloves and is awarded to the winner. In boxing history, many Golden Gloves champions would take boxing to a professional level and become World Champions.

Hirini Wikaira won two other titles which were the “Waikato Championship” and the “Central North Island Championship.” Winning approval from his coach On speaking about Coach Herewini Jones’ influence, he said, “He was a wise teacher. He taught me the old school way. ‘I’ll show, and you copy.’ Something I loved about him was he was fussy right down to the smallest detail. He was a good teacher and scary at the same time. “It was hard to tell him Abish was my eternal companion. I was scared, but I knew it was right. He cried and approved.” Hirini Wikaira further acknowledged his boxing journey prepared him to serve a mission. “It added focus and drive to whatever work I pursued. My parents helped me so much to prepare for it. I went to the Australia Brisbane Mission. It was a blessing in my life. “Just like my coach said timing is better than power and speed, I feel this is spiritual too ... The Lord’s timing is perfect.” One of Hirini Wikaira’s friends, Liam Greening from New Zealand, said, “The cool thing is that I met Hirini on my mission. He was the first missionary to come up and introduce himself to me. He was so cool and relaxed. I just thought he was the man. And it turns out that I wasn’t wrong.

“He was an amazing missionary, and he was loved by everyone who served around him. I remember in the gym watching him shadow box and hitting the bag. It was just so much fun. His hands were so quick, and the bag would be flying.” Greening said Hirini and Abish Wikaira are an amazing couple. “[They are] so dynamic with Hiri being the more outgoing jokester and Abish being reserved in most social settings but really opens up when she is comfortable and has a crack up laugh.” •

Hirini Wikaira with his wife, Abish. Photo provided by Wikaira. JUNE 2020


Game on Alumni and current students say they learned about team work and the value of hard work from sports and martial arts BY MARVIN LATCHUMANAN

Using sports as a way to learn discipline and teamwork, alumni and students shared their passion for their hobbies and how they have matured.

Bastian Büchler said planning was essential as a student-athlete. It was important that he schedule his day to stay on top of assignments and soccer practices.

Graphic by Esther Insigne 44


Soccer Former BYUH student-athlete from Germany, Bastian Büchler, said he has played soccer since the age of 5, and it was an important aspect of his life. His interest in “football” grew as he kept playing, and at the age of 18, he joined the SV Darmstadt 1898 and TS Ober-Roden, which marked his debut in playing at a competitive level. After graduating from high school, Büchler decided to step up and combine education and competitive soccer by moving to the United States. “When I got the first offer from Coach Dümmar to play for BYU–Hawaii men’s soccer, I never really heard of the LDS Church. During my time at BYU–Hawaii and during the soccer season, I met a lot of amazing people, and I’m thankful for every single one. “We grew together as a team, and I, as a person, gained a lot of new experiences. I am thankful for the time with this team and for all the friendships this time brought. “I’m personally not a very religious person and did not choose this university because of my belief. For me, it was important to find a school that has a good academic program, but I also wanted to have a competitive level in the soccer program.” Büchler said he also took the opportunity to experience a different culture and pursue his degree. “When I first arrived in Hawaii, I felt immediately welcomed. Everyone is super friendly and helpful if you have any problems. People are more laid back, and you can feel the ‘aloha spirit’ everywhere.”

Büchler said planning was essential as a student-athlete. It was important that he scheduled his day to stay on top of assignments and soccer practices. He also said most away games were on the mainland, and it required long travel and adapting to the time difference. “We traveled to California twice a season and were gone for five days each time. It is important to communicate with your professors to make sure that you get all the material you miss while traveling.” Jiu-Jitsu Stefan Huysmans, a alumnus from New Zealand who majored in graphic design and entrepreneurship, is a practitioner of the “gentle art,” Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Huysmans said he was always into martial arts as a child. He grew up watching Bruce Lee and would make his own nunchucks out of household items to try to be like Lee. His interest in Brazilian JiuJitsu started when he was filming a project for his job at the Media Production Center (MPC). “The place I was filming was right next to a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym, and the guy I was filming was headed there after the shoot. He simply invited me to join, and I accepted. After that, I was hooked.” Huysmans recently graduated and was striving for a year-long internship with MPC. While working, he thought picking up Jiu-Jitsu seemed like a good use of his spare time. “After training for a while, I found out some friends of mine were also into Jiu-Jitsu, and I would travel to their gyms around the island and train with their people. It was great to go around and see the different training styles and to roll with people in different stages of their Jiu-Jitsu journey.”

“Even though I was still considered a beginner, I was able to ‘roll’ with others and sometimes even tap the higher belts. It showed me that belt colors don't just represent your skill level but also the dedication you put into your training.” Kelsy Simmons, an alumnus from Utah, said she’s been training in martial arts since the age of 6. She started with Tang Soo Do and picked up new fighting techniques as she grew older. She trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu along with Huysmans and other students. She earned a blue belt at Casa de Fera Jiu-Jitsu Simmons expressed her gratitude for martial arts as it has taught her the importance of being a good training partner. She shared what makes a good partner. “A good rolling partner has nothing to prove. They are there to train, not to show off. They understand that going easy on you will hinder your progression. They also understand that injury is real and avoid it at all costs. They always try their best to win the roll. Remember the primary goal is to train, not to win.” Softball and baseball Kylee Chamberlain, a junior from Nevada majoring in psychology, has played baseball and softball for more than 10 years, she said. Chamberlain played for different clubs and teams. She played for Team TFS (The Fast Pitch School) Northern Nevada Organization under coaches Jodi Dolan and Michael Bastian. She said it was the last time she played before moving to Hawaii for school. Chamberlain said sports taught her about teamwork and working hard for what she wanted to achieve. “It has taught me

that anything is achievable if you want it bad enough, and if you work hard enough for it.” Chamberlain said she picked up softball because her mother who used to play. Chamberlain then went into baseball through softball. She said she loves watching baseball and understanding what happens behind the scenes of every pitch and play. “I fell in love with pitching. I love the energy of it and the whole atmosphere. My most memorable moment was the last game I played ... I pitched and just was able to fully appreciate every pitch and how it felt to throw the ball and spin it in a way I had practiced so many times. It was almost like a flashback of all the times I had done it before. It was really cool and very special to me.” •

Graphic by Esther Insigne

JUNE 2020 Left: Far left, Stefan Huysmans said he got hooked on Jiu-Jitsu while filming for MPC. Middle: Kylee Chamberlain has played softball and baseball for more than 10 years. Right: Bastian Büchler chose BYUH because it had good academic and sports programs. Photos provided by Kelsy Simmons, Kylee Chamberlain, and Bastian Büchler


Turning obstacles into opportunities Jennifer Kajiyama Tinkham says she overcame medical adversity by trusting in God BY HAILEY HUHANE After years of suffering from a debilitating medical disorder that causes painful muscle spasms, Jennifer Kajiyama Tinkham said her testimony of God’s love and His divine plan helped her through the darkest moments of her life. “My life is so different now. I can chew. I can smile. I can talk ... [Don’t] let the chaos and the uncertainty and the fears of the world overcome the comfort that comes only from the Savior, Jesus Christ.” Although she has had an accomplished career, Tinkham, an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Business & Government, said she recognizes the limitations and difficulties this life often presents. “Everyone goes through their own unique challenges, but God is definitely in the details of our lives.” In 2012 Tinkham was diagnosed with a debilitating medical disorder called hemifacial muscle spasm. “It started off with a flutter in my eyelid. And for most people, it will go away, but mine got progressively worse,” she said. As time progressed, so did the disorder, explained Tinkham. “It started going down my face. From my eyelids to my nose, to my cheek, to my mouth, and then kind of by my chin and then down to my neck and shoulder.” These spasms led to severe migraines, pains to the right side of her face, and muscle distortion. Hemifacial muscle spasm is a disorder of the nervous system that causes the muscles on one side of the face to twitch involuntarily. In a 2018 BYU–Hawaii devotional Tinkham said, “Movement of my face or my mouth or stressful or high-energy situations would trigger my spasms, which would not let up for several hours. “Sometimes, the spasms would continue through the night while I was sleeping. Just imagine having your eyelids rapidly open and close all day and night.” Tinkham said the condition often left her face tired and in pain and she said simple things like smiling, looking people in the eye, and even teaching were all challenges. As a teacher, 46


Jennifer Tinkham says she is grateful to be able to smile again after recovering from hemifacial muscle spasms after surgery. Photo provided by Jennifer Tinkham

Tinkham said she was left standing every day for hours with “my face, my mouth, and my shoulder spasming.” Although Tinkham described herself as outgoing, she said, “I would wake up [every day], and I would pray to have [the] courage to teach and to look people in the eye.” Tinkham recalled one night in particular when her spasms became almost unbearable. She said, “I had been asked to give a talk in church. I was working on my talk, and I had a really bad muscle spasm attack on my face. I couldn’t sleep because it was just so painful.” The pressure of speaking the following day, paired with her inability to sleep, perpetuated the spasms. Tinkham recalled

saying, “Heavenly Father, why? I’m doing what you’re asking me to do.” The next day in Church, Tinkham prefaced her talk by explaining her condition to her fellow ward members. “Little did I know that when I shared my talk in my ward, there was a woman who had the exact same thing. She had hemifacial muscle spasms as well,” she said. Tinkham said, “She heard me talk about it in church, and then at a ward activity, she came up to me and talked to me about the surgery she had. She had gotten it a couple years before, and she was completely cured. “She told me about this doctor, and it was a surgeon I had been trying to get a hold of for a really long time. Every time I tried to make

Left: Tinkahm at her wedding. Right: Tinkham with her husband and children. Photos provided by Jennifer Tinkham

an appointment, something would happen. I just figured that doctor just wouldn’t ever be someone I’d get to see.” The woman from the ward called the surgeon’s office and told them of Tinkham’s condition. Tinkham said, “The surgery was scheduled [immediately], and I was able to get in to have the brain surgery. So even that alone was a miracle.” This chance meeting changed Tinkham’s life forever, she said. “When we are at the point when there is nothing we can do, that is when we can stand back, and we can feel God’s hand in our lives.” After reaching the point where she had done all she could do, Tinkham said God stepped in and took care of the rest. “I had no doubt in my mind that that was a miracle. God had answered all of my prayers by sending this angel into my life.” The healing process post-surgery was slow and difficult, but Tinkham said she felt as though she had been given a second chance. Even in her darkest moments, Tinkham testified God never left her side. Growing up in Laie, Tinkham eventually attended BYU–Hawaii, where she studied political science and Japanese. She went on to work in the U.S. Senate for the Secretary of the Senate, the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office,

the Hawaii State Supreme Court, and the Hawaii State House of Representatives all as an undergraduate. She served in the Japan Nagoya Mission for the Church. Upon her return, she attended the J. Reuben Clark Law School in Provo, Utah, where she studied international law and alternative dispute resolutions. While attending law school, Tinkham was editor-in-chief of BYU’s International Law and Management Review Journal. She then went on to complete a master’s of Public Administration from the Marriott School of Management. In addition to being a licensed attorney, Tinkham is also a certified court mediator, divorce mediator, and arbitrator. Tinkham is now the Legal Studies program director at BYU–Hawaii and is a Legal Studies professor. She is also serving as the Prelaw Society faculty advisor. Tinkham’s husband, Nick Tinkham, said he is grateful for his wife and her “tenacious love for the Lord, our family, and the community.” He said, “Whether spending time with our children, lending a hand to her parents ... or teaching BYUH students, she gives her whole heart and soul, and we know she loves us.” As a professor, Tinkham’s love and desire for her students to succeed is something she

says is a gift from God. “If I could tell my students anything, it would be to believe God.” Tinkham said she wants her students to know they are not alone. She said she felt alone as she was going through her trials with hemifacial spasm. “Little did I know that somebody just down the street from me would have the exact same condition.” She said to think of trials as opportunities instead of obstacles. “They are blessings because they refine us so that we can be better able to do what God needs us to do ... I always tell students we are going to start together, and we are going to finish together stronger and better.” Terrence Dela Peña, a senior majoring in political science from the Philippines, works closely with Tinkham as both her student and her teaching assistant. He said it has been a privilege to work with Tinkham. “Her bright personality radiates wherever she goes. Her willingness to help students succeed goes beyond the classroom.” Dela Peña said Tinkham made him and other students feel welcomed as a member of the BYUH ohana. “She inspires me to dream big, believe in myself, and work hard to achieve my goals. Professor [Tinkham] is a true disciple of Jesus Christ, and I am eternally grateful for her example.” • JUNE 2020


Happiness all around

BYU–Hawaii students share how spreading positivity helps them and others feel happy BY OLIVIA HIXSON

“Joy and happiness are like a butterfly. If you're actively trying to seek it, sometimes you won't actually find it. But when you are doing other things, when you're serving people, when you're learning how to adapt, eventually happiness, like this butterfly, will fly towards you and you will feel happy.” - Enock Shek



During this time of uncertainty and the pandemic, BYU–Hawaii students spoke about how they are trying to be a positive force in the world through helping others and discovering what happiness means to them. Payton Kaalekahi, a freshman from Molokai studying hospitality and tourism management, said she initially had a tough time adjusting to life at BYUH because she was used to knowing and saying hello to everyone on her small island of Molokai. She said she decided she would just say hello to the people she saw while walking around campus. “I found my own happiness in greeting people regardless of how they reacted. I just love to smile, and I love to just say ‘Hi,’ and ‘Good morning.’ So I would go around campus and just say ‘Hi,’ to a lot of people, and they had no clue who I was. So, I got a lot of funny looks, but I was really happy knowing that I got to say ‘Hi,’ to somebody.” Similarly, Enoch Shek, a sophomore from Hong Kong studying TESOL education, said he learned how important it is to serve and uplift other people on his mission in Washington, D.C. He said his mission president tried to inspire him and the other missionaries to find joy through service. “Joy and happiness are like a butterfly. If you’re actively trying to seek it, sometimes you won’t actually find it. But when you are doing other things, when you’re serving people, when you’re learning how to adapt, eventually happiness, like this butterfly, will fly towards you and you will feel happy.” Spreading joy Shek said he was able to work with people trying to become American citizens and be proficient in English so they could take the necessary exams to complete the process. Through this, Shek said he found so much happiness and joy through helping people. He said these experiences on his mission were the driving force behind his decision to study TESOL education. “My companions and I would specifically find Chinese people to help them learn about the gospel, and one way that we did was offering to teach English ... to empower them. Doing that on my mission really inspired me and helped me to find my passion of teaching and serving others.”

Likewise, Kaalekahi said her efforts in greeting everyone and making people feel appreciated not only helped other people, but also it helped her find her own joy and fulfillment through fulfilling others. “I just realized there’s still a reason to be happy because I’m making other people happy. I decided I was just going to keep smiling and being happy. I can keep doing this because, if someone else is happy because I’m happy, that makes me even more happy.” Stephanie Eldenberg, a junior from Sweden studying art and painting, said she also loves meeting new people and being a force for positivity in the lives of other people. “People and relationships are some of my main priorities in life. I value people and conversations. I believe that saying ‘Hi,’ or just simply giving someone a hug can change the course of someone’s day.” Eldenberg said she gets inspiration to be happy by expressing herself through her love of art and music and through avidly listening to the words of Church leaders. She said she tries to take their words of encouragement to heart as she cares for other people. “I believe what many of the apostles have said that it is through us that God answers many prayers, and we can make a bigger difference in others’ lives than we think. Therefore, I always try to take the time to talk to people and help them feel loved and seen. “I believe those small acts can make a bigger difference in people’s lives than we think. Reach out, say ‘Hi,’ and help someone feel seen and loved. Be present in the conversation. It makes all the difference.” What happiness means Eldenberg also said it is important to find what happiness means to everyone individually since it is subjective. She expressed the interests of some may not necessarily be the same for other people. “People are always so surprised when I express interests that I have and how they are different from many others. “I love spending time creating art, going for a drive with a friend to just sit on the beach and I love visiting art museums. We don’t need to … have the same interests and experiences in life. We are all different, and that is great. Find what you truly enjoy and fully embrace

who you are.” Kaalekahi also said it is important to make time for oneself. She suggested taking a few minutes every day to relax and contemplate how to find true happiness in life. “Sometimes it hurts to be alone, but I think you need to take a few minutes each day and just relax, like be totally relaxed. “Don’t sit there and contemplate life. Don’t sit there and think bad about yourself or about anyone else. “Don’t stress about your homework. Just find somewhere you’re comfortable, and just let yourself cool down. Because after that, you’ll feel so relaxed that you’re able to feel more emotions, and you’ll be more capable of feeling happy.” Eldenberg said relaxing is a great way to evaluate what happiness really is to some people and how to refocus on the important things in life. “I try to make time to just ‘be.’ I have made it a point to not be too hard on myself. I keep reminding myself that my worth is not connected to my achievements or grades. It is okay not to be perfect all the time. “I also make sure to make time for all the things I do enjoy. And the most important part, I make sure to stay close to God and be with Him in prayer and scripture study.” Similarly, Shek said one of the best ways to get through uncertain times like the COVID-19 pandemic is to focus on what one can control in this situation. “This is something we can’t control, and it just came out of nowhere, and it’s affecting everyone’s lives ... But you can control what you do here in Hawaii.You can control how you stay connected with your family and your friends.You can still do the things you love, like going to the beach. “I think focusing on the things you can control will definitely help people find happiness during stressful times. I think it is very important to learn to be grateful in a stressful situation. “I think if we are willing to humble ourselves and also remember the things we’re thankful for, we will see the good in every situation and feel a lot happier when we are.” •

Graphics by Hannah Manalang JUNE 2020




Tamarina Barlow said people should take advantage of every opportunity given them in life. Photo provided by Tamarina Barlow

Graduates Section

Friends and family say she is a woman who has character, humility and works hard BY BROOKE GURYN As the first student in her family to go to college, Tamarina Barlow, a senior from California majoring in communications, has managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA. Her husband described her as a humble yet fierce, individual and student. Barlow said she feels the pressure of being a first-generation college student. “You have so many people looking up to you, but that’s where most of my motivation comes from. I want to make the absolute most of my family’s sacrifices.” Both of her parents were born and raised in Samoa. They came to the United States to find additional opportunities for their family, Barlow explained. She said her parents love seeing her and her siblings take advantage of education. She decided to pursue communications while in her sophomore year after her first communications class because she enjoys the ability to analyze media critically. She said she has learned all media and ads have a subconscious effect on us. “[My husband] Beau could probably tell you how often I complain about commercials, not because they interrupt our show, but because of the underlying messages I get from them.” Barlow said she hopes her journey through a university education will inspire her community back home, family and her future children to take advantage of every opportunity possible. Going the extra mile Barlow works as a Human Resources student assistant at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Her manager, Poutai Matalolo, said, “Tamarina is a truly exemplary employee. I am proud of her and the great work she gives to this great place.” Matalolo described Barlow as a leader. “Leadership is a characteristic that not too many people have, but [Tamarina] possesses it in a quiet and humble manner. She [is] a leader without having to be brute or loud about it.”

To show an example of Barlow’s leadership, Matalolo shared, during the Winter 2020 IWORK PCC job fair, there was a student who was having a difficult time finding a job. After several weeks of not being able to find a job, the student came to the PCC Human Resource Office discouraged and frustrated. “We usually have the students go online and apply on their own. But [Barlow] could tell she was quite frustrated and scared because this was financially stressful for her as a new student.” Matalolo said he admired how Barlow “personally took her to the side, sat down with her and helped her on one of the computers.” Barlow went through each job with the student and trained her to go into an interview confidently, explained Matalolo. “She didn’t only help [the student] find a job but also encouraged her to be brave,” he said. Admiration from loved ones Her husband, Beau Barlow, a senior from California majoring in anthropology, shared what inspires him the most about his wife, “She’s one of the most hard-working people I know. She is super self-motivated. When she finds what she’s passionate about, she puts her all into it.” The two met at a YSA multi-stake dance in a very brief encounter, but then ran into each other again a few weeks later at a “break the fast,” he said. “I struck up a conversation at her table while putting chairs away, and I got her number. We began dating after that. “She is a lot more fierce than she gives herself credit for, and she is always willing to try new things.” Beau Barlow said he is always impressed when other students from her major share with him how smart and well-spoken his wife is. “They are always [telling] me how good of a student she is.” Tamarina Barlow had the opportunity to represent the communications major at Asia-

Pacific Career Conference, and her husband said he is proud of her accomplishments. Kaylani Quiocho, Tamarina Barlow’s cousin from California, described her as a determined person. “Once [Tamarina] puts her mind to something, she will make sure to get it done. “Whether it’s something big or small. She is consistent in getting things done … Although she is younger than I am, I’ve always looked up to her.” She said her cousin leads by example and believes Tamarina Barlow will thrive after graduation and become successful in whatever she decides to do. Tamarina Barlow said she loves school, and being a student. She shared BYUH has been the perfect place for her to develop a stronger connection with her culture, the spirit and herself. “I feel like everyone has their ‘thing,’ whether it be sports, cooking, etc. My ‘thing’ just happens to be school. My husband is also the most goal-oriented person I know, and he’s been an awesome help and example to me.” Tamarina Barlow said she wants students to know it is okay to take a break and decompress. “Life is exhausting, and it’s okay to admit that. I have a 4.0 GPA, and I am an avid napper. Ask my husband. I always say there’s no point in studying when you’re too tired to retain anything.” She hopes to jump right into the workforce to take a break from school and spend time with her family post-graduation. She then wants to enter grad school to further her education. She said, “Overall, I just hope to use my education to build God’s kingdom wherever and however I can.” •

Graphics by Sadie Scadden JUNE 2020


“Family is always a priority to her ... She is my motivation and a super mom to our kids.” - Nasanbold Sukhbaatar

Graphics by Hannah Manalang

Doing it all Graduating senior Otgonchimeg Chimedregzen overcame challenges to achieve her goals BY SERENA DUGAR IOANE

Otgonchimeg Chimedregzen is pictured with her family. She was a manager at Give and Take for two years. Photo provided by Otgonchimeg 52


Otgonchimeg Chimedregzen, a senior from Mongolia majoring in social work, managed to successfully graduate while struggling with the loss of her father, being a new mother, a full-time student, and working part-time as a manager of the Give and Take. Despite her challenges, which she said felt overwhelming at times, she believes it was all worth it. Blessings of BYUH Her husband, Nasanbold Sukhbaatar, a recent BYUH alumnus, said, “Pursuing higher education was one of her dreams, but this educational journey was not that easy. There were so many challenges and problems we faced and overcame. As a mother of four, a full-time student and a part-time worker, she has tried to balance her duties and never left behind any of them.” Chimedregzen said studying at BYUH with her husband and four children was the most memorable time of her life because of the unique challenges she faced. She and her husband said they were showered with new knowledge and experiences from their four years of study and work. She shared how, initially, she and her husband started at the same English as an International Language (EIL) level, which required them to take many of the same classes. “Most of our classes were overlapping, so it was very difficult for us to find babysitters. Sometimes, one of us had to skip classes or have to take our children to the classes.” She also said she barely had time to spend with her husband due to their busy schedules. “In the mornings, we usually have classes, and then both take turns to work. After work, we have to do our homework. Sunday is the only day we spend as a family.” Chimedregzen shared how several times, she was in despair due to failing classes and having an overload of obligations. “My English was so bad. I cried many times and wanted to give up, but I didn’t. I usually did not have much time to practice my English, so I decided to talk only in English with my children. It really helped me to improve my English.” Her family was also blessed with two new members during their studies. Chimedregzen said going through the pregnancy and birth process twice while juggling school and work was challenging yet rewarding. “Now, we are used to living overloaded all the time. The time management skills I learned

from my mission helped me. When I look back, these years were the most effective years of my life.” They have three sons and one daughter. Sukhbaatar shared. “Family is always a priority to her, and she always tries to find time from her busy schedule to spend with our kids and me. She is my motivation and a super mom to our kids.” Chimedregzen said her professors saw she was trying and valued her hard work, which encouraged her to keep moving forward. One of the biggest obstacles in her life, according to Chimedregzen, was when she lost her father at age 15. From this experience, she learned she had to love her mother and those around her as much as she can. “No one knows when death and other afflictions come to our loved ones. People’s lives are very short,” Chimedregzen shared. Chimedregzen’s bishop, Merlin Paul Waite of the Laie Married Students’ 4th Ward, said, “She is an amazing lady. It is not easy raising four children while going to school and working. On top of [all of that], she is doing everything in a foreign country, learning a foreign language. I am proud of her.” She said although her family is very busy, they try to serve the community and the Mongolian Club as much as they possibly can. Her husband served as a Mongolian Club president for a year, and they performed charity projects, such as fixing bikes and raising funds to help children in Mongolia.

Devoted manager Besides her study and family obligations, she was a manager for BYUH Sustainability Center’s Give and Take for two years. She shared how much she loved her job and how it helped her to communicate appropriately across cultures and practice leadership skills. From her working experience, she also learned not to be afraid of making mistakes and that everyone is equal, she added. Leslie Harper, the Sustainability Center’s manager, said, “Chimgee is a very busy wife and mother. With all she has done, she was hesitant to accept the position as manager of the Give and Take. It was obvious to all that her focus was on serving others and making a difference in people’s lives. She was an excellent manager and will be a great asset in the future.” Dreaming big for the future Since Chimedregzen majored in social work, she wants to become an expert who works with children in Mongolia whose rights are restricted. “There are many children who are suffering and do not know how to protect themselves and where to go to ask for help. Children are the future, so I want to help them.” In the future, she wants to establish a school where she can prepare bright, future leaders for her country. Eventually, she wants to establish her school in different countries. •

“She is an amazing lady. It is not easy raising four children while going to school and working. On top of [all of that], she is doing everything in a foreign country, learning a foreign language. I am proud of her.” - Bishop Merlin Paul Waite

Chimedregzen began to speak only in English with her children to learn the language. Photos by Chad JUNE 2020 Hsieh 53

Striving for continuous learning Mongolian senior and dedicated family man says he pushed himself to learn outside of the classroom BY SERENA DUGAR IOANE Aiming to become his best self by using a positive attitude, Tuvshinjargal Lkhagvadorj, a senior from Mongolia majoring in information technology, shared he did not run from his obstacles. Instead, he decided to face and master them, applying this principle in his academic and spiritual life, along with his marriage and career. Looking back, Lkhagvadorj said the biggest obstacle in his life was conquering himself. “When I felt lazy or discouraged, anything I did was hard and sometimes impossible. However, when I am confident and overcome myself, anything is doable.” Overcoming laziness and fear Lkhagvadorj said he loves to learn new things and tries to use his time wisely to achieve something worthwhile. Besides studying during his university education, he developed many skills, such as swimming and fixing cell phones, computers and bikes. He also learned how to sew during his time at BYUH. Lkhagvadorj shared he overcame his fear of water and learned to swim by taking swimming classes. Now, he said he enjoys swimming in the ocean and likes cliff-jumping into the water. Additionally, he said he saved a lot of money by fixing bikes, computers and phones. Instead of buying items new, he said he watched videos and learned how to fix his old bikes and devices. He added when he buys new clothes, they usually do not fit perfectly, so he learned to sew and tailor them to his size. He also sharpened the skills he already possessed during his studies, such as filming, editing videos and playing basketball. He took a basketball class at BYUH, which strengthened his skills, helping him win a Seasider Sports intramural basketball



competition in April 2019 with his other Mongolian friends. Before coming to BYUH, he was working for the “Beone” media production company, which he established with his friends. He said after his mission, he and his friends founded the company pursuing their hobbies. At this company, he served as a photographer, videographer and graphic designer. He said he advanced his videography and photography skills by taking BYUH film classes and learning how to use Adobe Photoshop and Premiere.

Lkhagvadorj is pictured with his family. Photo provided by Lkhagvadorj

When he was working for Beone, he helped arrange the Mongolian version of the hymn “Did You Think To Pray?” A segment of this arrangement was played during the April 2020 General Conference. Additionally, he and his team made other videos for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mongolia, which he said

were precious memories of telling the history of the Church’s development in Mongolia. In addition to making videos for the Church, they also made videos and music clips for Mongolian celebrities. Bayasgalan Sukhbaatar, a sophomore from Mongolia majoring in business management, said, “We are childhood friends. Ever since he was young, he was always one of the smartest students in our school. He became a national champion of biology and physics twice when we were in high school. “Also we used to go to morning Seminary together. He has a deep understanding of the gospel and knows scriptures very well. I really like his responsibility. When he is asked to do something, he always does it.” A family man Lkhagvadorj married Ganchudur Batgerel in the Hong Kong Temple in 2012. He said his wife is his personal Liahona. “Through her good advice and encouragement, she helps me be a good husband, father, priesthood holder, employee and student. That is why husbands should listen to their wives.” They have two sons and one daughter. Raising three young children while studying and working was difficult, but Lkhagvadorj said he and his wife sharpened their time management and multitasking skills. Lkhagvadorj shared he had many memories at BYUH, but the most precious involved the birth of his two youngest children. “In June 2019, we had a new baby girl during finals week. Even though it was tough and busy, it didn’t feel so because of her. “Having a new baby is challenging but helps us to be stronger and selfless,” Lkhagvadorj added. He joked, “I can change diapers and make formula with my eyes closed.” He said he believes earthly parenting is an

endless process of learning until he becomes a heavenly parent. Lkhagvadorj’s wife, Ganchudur Batgerel, a senior from Mongolia majoring in supply chain operation, said, “He is the biggest blessing God ever gave me. He is the best husband and father. We went through many struggles, but because of his patience and kindness, we overcame them.” Peter Wong, a senior from Malaysia majoring in information technology, said, “I used to work with Tomche (Lkhagvadorj’s nickname), and we took a few classes together. He is a wonderful father and husband. “Managing time for classes and work when you have a young family is not easy, but I can see how dedicated he is in getting things done so that he could balance spending time with his family and school.” Lkhagvadorj said his priority is to be a good husband, father and priesthood holder. “I know that if I am faithful to the Lord and do my best, I will have work opportunities to provide for my family.” Spiritual growth Lkhagvadorj said he took religion classes almost every semester, which he said helped him to learn the correct principles of the restored gospel and strengthen his faith in the Lord. He is a convert and joined the Church in 2004. He served in his mission in two different areas, first in the Arizona Tempe Mission and then in Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission from 2008 to 2010. From his missions, he said he learned if he sacrifices his laziness and works hard, blessings will surely come. Lkhagvadorj shared, “My faith in the Savior grew stronger during my study. I learned that His atonement brings not only remission of sins, but also strength and peace in my hardships.” •

“I know that if I am faithful to the Lord and do my best, I will have work opportunities to provide for my family.” - Tuvshinjargal Lkhagvadorj

Peter Wong shared he saw Lkhagvadorj's dedication to get things done so he could balance school and time with his family. JUNE by 2020 Photo Chad 55 Hsieh

Putting the Lord first Emily Reid shares the reason behind her decision to work in the temple and integrate service into her life BY KILLIAN CANTO Temple worker and full-time student Emily Reid is a graduating senior from Washington studying communications. Reid and her family shared how her dedication to service inside and out of the temple has led to her spiritual wellness and to her being an example. After returning to Hawaii following her mission in Brazil, Reid said she knew it would be harder to focus on the Savior. She said serving in the temple was something she wanted to do to stay close with her Heavenly Father. She said, “I needed to continue serving in some way. Not just a calling, not just in scripture studying and everyday service, but also in the temple. [It’s] an opportunity I have in a five-minute walking distance.” Keeping Heavenly Father first, no matter how hard it gets, is what Reid said drove her to fill the four-hour shift in the temple once a week. At the beginning of the Fall 2019 semester, Reid was taking 19 credits and was serving as a club president. She said being stressed and having difficulties drove her to stop working in the temple. During a visit to her bishop, she said he surprised her with the suggestion she serve in the temple. It felt crazy, she said, but she knew it was what the Lord wanted her to do. Reid said, “You can compare it to tithing. You give up 10 percent of your income, and he’ll help you financially. He’ll provide you with what you need. “If you give up just that small amount of time in your week to the Lord, then he’ll give you the energy and the time that you need to get everything done.” She pointed out the



blessings of energy she received that semester, including achieving a 4.0 GPA, without needing to drop any classes. Reid’s boyfriend, Jackson Oliver, a junior from Washington studying biology, said temple work for both of them has been a wonderful experience to step away from selfishness. The effect he said it has had on their life has been incredible. “It really helps put everything into balance.” Allowing them to take a break from the normal stresses of their lives, Oliver said it is an interesting pause from regular day-to-day life. Referencing a talk President John Tanner gave, Reid said the temple and the school are connected. As a member of the Hawaiian Club, she was a part of their Culture Night group, dancing to represent the story of the Laie Hawaii Temple. Growing up in the Church, Reid said the lessons she learned and songs she sang about the temple hold significant value. However, she said besides going to the temple for occasional baptisms, it was not until she was able to receive her endowment when she realized the temple is a place of learning. She characterized the temple as a learning center to thrive spiritually in the world. When she finds herself no longer at BYUH, Reid said she hopes to take the lessons she has learned through her service in Laie and apply it to wherever she finds herself in life. She said, “I’m going to be blessed the most when I turn outside of myself and try to be like Christ.” Her brother, Stephen Reid, who lives in Utah, said she is already engaged in service

no matter where she is. He said, “She can genuinely connect with anyone she meets, whether that be the person sitting next to her on a plane or the employee at a restaurant. She will make you feel loved no matter what your background.” He praised her ability to be charitable, which makes her a prime example of Christlike love. He shared how her kindness is “something we should all strive for.” Explaining how she makes Heavenly Father first in her life, Oliver said she has been an incredible example in his life. He said her willingness to speak about the gospel and really make it the central focus in their lives has helped their relationship thrive and grow over the years. Reid has two younger sisters, one in high school and one in middle school. While she was talking about her brother’s example encouraging her to serve a mission, she said she wants to be an example in their lives. Even if they do not attend school at BYUH like she hopes, she said she just wants them to be good people. Despite the distance, she said, “They’re still watching everything that I do and they’re listening to everything I say to them.” Reid’s ability to be comfortable in pursuing the gospel and bringing it up in normal conversation is one of the strengths her brother said she has. Her brother said he hopes as they follow Emily’s example, they will “learn to talk about their faith with non-member friends without it being weird or awkward.” He said she is willing to grow her testimony as well, never hesitating to look deeper as she grows in the gospel. •

Emily Reid said the Lord provides more time for life’s responsibilities when people give service in the temple. Photo by Chad Hsieh

JUNE 2020


Weathering difficulties Graduating couple shares how BYUH taught them to work with others despite cultural barriers BY SERENA DUGAR IOANE

The Ips hold their daughter, Astrid, who was born while they were at BYU–Hawaii. Photo by Ho Yin Li

Hei Long “Oscar” Ip and Tsui Lum Ka’imilani Ho “Milani” Ip, both from Hong Kong, reflected on their studies at BYU–Hawaii as they prepare to graduate and shared how the university taught them the importance of working with different people and scenarios. They also learned how to depend on each other as they faced the rigors of college and married life. Milani Ip, a senior majoring in graphic design, shared how the most important thing she learned from BYUH was not knowledge, but experience. According to her, “Experience of knowing other people, being independent, being responsible for my education and life and taking responsibility for my choices were vital for me.” The Ips said another important outcome of their studies was learning about other cultures. Milani Ip noted how she is an introverted person who was homeschooled, so it was important for her to be exposed to different cultures and make international friends. Oscar Ip, a senior majoring in supply chain operations, said he has worked at the Polynesian Cultural Center and Student Leadership & Service, where he built meaningful relationships with people from all over the world. 58


Milani Ip’s parents are both BYUH alumni, and she grew up hearing about their experiences at BYUH. She said coming to this school was her goal during her homeschooling. She wanted to mingle in the diverse environment of BYUH. She learned how cultures play an important role in people’s lives and obtained the ability to communicate with people from different cultures. According to Milani Ip, curiosity and a desire to learn was the legacy of her parents. They also encouraged her to find her passion and pursue it. Her husband, Oscar Ip, said she followed her parents’ advice and supported her desire to become a talented photographer and graphic designer. Oscar Ip shared how his parents taught him to always finish what he started, which helped him to move forward until the end, no matter how hard his college years were. For the Ips, their experience at BYUH will be a highlight of their lives going forward. Oscar Ip said they had many memorable moments at BYUH, but the most precious ones were spent with his wife and having their daughter, Astrid.

Milani Ip said she is more of an introvert, but her husband is an extrovert with a good sense of humor. “He always brings laughter at home, and I love it. His strengths make up for my weaknesses. He is patient with me instead of being tolerant.” In regard to his wife, Oscar Ip shared, “She helps me to be a better person by being patient and listening carefully. She was homeschooled, so she is really good at managing her time. That is one thing I lack sometimes.” Building careers while studying The Ips said their studies at BYUH also prepared them for their future careers. They said they have learned many useful skills related to their majors and developed good work ethics from their student jobs. Oscar Ip has worked at the BYUH Student Leadership & Service as a student logistics supervisor for two years. He said he developed his leadership skills and learned to inspire others from his job. He was a part of a team that organized three Culture Nights, two Food Fests and many other events. He also learned the importance of listening to others and humbling himself in his

workplace. “Sometimes you can be wrong, and it is better to listen,” he said. “I also want to be a good example for my family and lead them spiritually.” Mark Eyo, a senior from the Philippines majoring in political science and TESOL, said Oscar is “a very energetic and smart person. Everyone loves him in the office because he has the energy to do a lot of things. “When we have an issue about a major upcoming event, we always rely on Oscar’s intelligence about clubs because of his vast experience. He is a great leader, one who thinks about the people first before the task.” Samuel Jonatã de Souza, a senior from Brazil majoring in supply chain operation, praised Oscar Ip. “Oscar is full of excitement about helping people.You can tell that he has a unique personality from the first time you meet him. Oscar also inspired me to look for a better job that would look better on my resume. “He helped me to prepare and apply for a significant leadership position at the Student Leadership & Service. As a coworker, Oscar is always creative, and he gets things done. Oscar is also a friend that I can count on when I need help,” Souza added. Milani Ip majored in graphic design and has held jobs as a photographer and graphic designer for Ke Alaka‘i and BYUH Communications. From her work experiences, she said she developed creativity and learned the importance of communications and

teamwork. “I used to be frustrated when others didn’t understand my art. However, I learned that frustration doesn’t help anything. Instead, I can help them to understand my art.” Relying on God The Ip couple stressed how another vital part of their success was developing personal relationships with the Savior and God. They had many challenges as student parents and employees. Their challenges helped them draw closer to God, they said because they had to rely on Him so much during their studies Oscar Ip said his biggest challenge was learning English at an academic level. “Writing and reading in academic English was tough for me. However, my diligence and my professors’ understanding helped me to succeed.” Milani Ip said her most significant obstacles were her habits, such as procrastination and perfection. “My struggles are usually created by me. I always want to do things perfectly and expect perfect outcomes, which overwhelms me.” However, she said she learned to balance her time and efforts, which helped her to become a successful student, mother and wife. Eyo commented, “Seeing the Ip family is always inspiring because they are a perfect team who love and support each other, whether it’s with school or with taking care of their daughter, Astrid.” •

The Ip family said they got through challenges by trusting Heavenly Father. Top two photos were provided by the Ips. Other photos by Ho Yin Li JUNE 2020


Members of the BYU–Hawaii ohana came together for a parade to bid the Tanners farewell and show their appreciation for their years of service to the community. Photo by Trisha Panzo.

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Ke Alaka'i - June 2020  

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