Liu Vatea attended BYU–Hawaii from 2016 to 2019 and now serves as Co-President for the Tahiti Chapter presidency. Her mother had graduated from BYUH many years ago, so both of her parents were very supportive about wanting her to attend. Her own desire to attend this university really came while she was serving her full-time mission. She knew that BYU–Hawaii was a special environment; the cultural diversity and the opportunities offered here were ones she did not want to miss. She knew that coming to BYU–Hawaii would be a place where she would feel safe and right at home despite being away from home.
One of her fondest memories while attending BYU–Hawaii was working as a tour guide at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Being a tour guide was a very challenging job, but being one who enjoyed challenges, she wanted to put herself out of her comfort zone to grow. She ended up working with amazing leaders as well as making new friends from all over the world.
Her BYU–Hawaii experience has blessed her life in so many ways. It taught her to see the world and the people around her in a different way. It also allowed her to have so many learning opportunities, including a Georgia trip in 2019 with other students to attend a worldwide convention for Teaching English to speakers of other Languages (TESOL). This trip allowed her to learn more about utilizing her skills and knowledge and meeting great mentors.
Raihau Gariki, who also serves as Co-President for the Tahiti Chapter Presidency, attended BYU–Hawaii from 2016 to 2019. She graduated with a major in Teaching English to speakers of other Languages (TESOL) with a minor in foundational Japanese. She currently works as an English Teacher at a private school in Tahiti.
Attending BYU–Hawaii was never part of her plans as she had originally planned to study in France since she was in middle school. However, the Lord had his own plans for her, and he led her to Hawaii. Every path to go to France was shut down, whereas her application to BYUH was as smooth as surfing on a wave. She had taken her English test because she wanted to check her English skills as she had recently returned from serving her mission at Temple Square. After finding out that she had passed the test, everything else seemed to fall into place.
One of her favorite memories about being here at BYUH was learning about other cultures, especially participating in Culture Night. There was a time when she signed up for 5 different chapters (Tahiti, Japan, Malaysia, Cook Islands, and New Zealand) and although learning the different dances was quite a challenge, she remembers it being so fun and thrilling. One of the greatest blessings that she received came through her friendships while attending BYU–Hawaii.
Aaron was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was always taught by his lovely parents the importance of the gospel. He and his family had moved many times. They lived in Australia, New Jersey, Florida, and California.
Before he started his undergraduate studies at BYUH, he was blessed to serve a mission in Geneva, Switzerland. Aaron chose BYUH because a church university was always attractive to him so that he could meet and gain his education among others who shared a similar faith. He also had two siblings who attended BYUH and fell in love with the university, the culture, the island, and all there is to experience. Aaron said, “It wasn't hard to choose beautiful Laie and BYU-Hawaii as the place to gain my undergraduate degree.”
A few of his favorite memories of his time in BYUH includes time in the Biochemistry lab working on his research projects, singing the Men’s choir at a combined concert with the Women’s and Concert Choir, attending and working at the Laie temple, playing ultimate Frisbee on the front field with friends and one of his Biochemistry instructors, running all over the islands on the BYUH-H Cross-Country team, snorkeling and surfing with friends along the north shore, mountain biking the Laie Falls trails, and visiting the beautiful PCC. But, of course, the best of all was meeting, dating, and getting married to his lovely wife, Keri.
Aaron explains what the mission of the school means to him. He said, “The mission of the school to educate the rising generation of the church particularly among the Asian and pacific island populations and subsequently to proclaim the gospel, strengthen the church and each member in these areas is exciting and invigorating! I feel blessed to have gained my education in such a diverse population and to be part of the Lord's work moving in and opening doors in these countries”.
Aaron also shared, “I'm so grateful for the friends from all over the world that my wife and I met. I gained so much understanding and respect for so many diverse cultures from around the world. My education was excellent. I was able to hone academic skills that guided me through medical school and residency in pediatrics. My faith and gospel learning was fortified in my religion courses, service in the wards, and service in the temple. I was blessed to meet my faithful, amazing, and beautiful wife. She has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. Our family was founded at BYU-Hawaii”.
Keri (Blaisdell) Johnston
Keri Johnston was born in Mexico Viejo, California, to her wonderful parents Ken and Sharalee Blaisdell. She has four siblings- Jeff, Misel, Brianne, and Salisha. Her family lived in Utah for a couple of years while her dad attended BYU Provo, but otherwise, she grew up in the same area of California that she was born.
After graduating high school, she went through a challenging time. A friend of hers attending BYU–Hawaii at the time invited her to come and visit. She loved the place, the school, and the people. She applied as a continuing Education student a couple of months later and spent six months there before serving a mission in Mississippi from September 1999 to May 2001.
Towards the end of Keri’s mission, she applied to schools (including BYUH) to be a full-time student. She was hoping to move to Utah, where she can live with relatives and stay close to her friends, but immediately she was accepted to BYU–Hawaii. After many prayers, she knew that BYU–Hawaii is where she needed to go. So she moved back to Laie to finish her education.
When Keri returned to Hawaii, she met Aaron right away since they were in the same ward. They started dating and were married in December 2002. Aaron graduated in 2003 and took a job teaching Special Ed at Kahuku High School for 2 years so that Keri could finish her degree.
Their first daughter Jada was born a year before Keri graduated in 2005. Keri said that one of the most treasured things she learned from attending BYUH was the value and beauty of diversity. She said, “I loved meeting people from all over the world and seeing how the gospel can be lived in every culture. This has been a great blessing as we have lived in so many different places during the last 18 years, including two countries other than the United States, where we are both from. I loved seeing the gospel in action as people with all different ideas and backgrounds could come together and create such a beautiful place to be”.
The mission of the school ‘Enter to learn. Go Forth to serve’ means a lot to Keri. She shared, “To me, this is what life is all about. Each person, no matter where they are from, or their circumstances are, has gifts that have been given to them to make the world a better, more beautiful place for ourselves and others. Educating our minds and spirits can help us learn what those gifts are and how to use them for that purpose”.
Aaron Shumway was born in Charlottesville, Viriginia, on June 8, 1971, while his father was on a two-year leave of absence from the Church College of Hawaii to study for a doctorate at the University of Virginia. The family moved back to Laie when Aaron was 1 year old. He grew up in Laie, running around the community barefoot with the other neighborhood children, buying candy at Goo’s Store, and playing Little League baseball at Laie Park. He attended Laie Elementary School and Kahuku High School up through ninth grade. The summer he turned 15 his family moved to Tonga where his parents had been called to oversee the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission. He attended Tonga High School and Liahona High School, graduating from Liahona High School in 1987. He received the David O. McKay scholarship to attend BYU-Hawaii, but decided instead to attend one more year of high school in California to take subjects like U.S. History and U.S. Government that were not taught in Tonga. He graduated from Pinewood High School in Los Altos Hills, CA, in 1989.
Aaron attended BYU-Hawaii his freshman year and worked as a canoe guide at the Polynesian Cultural Center before being called to serve in the Taiwan Taichung Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Following his missionary service, Aaron returned to BYU-Hawaii where he met and fell in love with Eliza May Villanueva, a student from the Philippines. They married in the Laie Hawaii Temple in 1993. Aaron worked for another two years at the Polynesian Cultural Center, this time as a tour guide. Following their graduation from BYU-Hawaii, Aaron and May moved to Virginia where Aaron attended Washington & Lee University School of Law in Lexington. Upon graduation in 2000, Aaron began practicing business and real estate law at Ashford & Wriston LLLP in Honolulu. He and May settled in Ewa Beach and lived there for seven years before moving back to Laie in 2007.
In 2012, Aaron left the practice of law to take a position with Seminaries & Institutes for the Church. He taught religious education classes to college-aged young people, trained volunteer teachers who taught religion classes to high schoolers before school and worked with church leaders to strengthen young people in their faith. Since 2013 he has also taught a “Fundamentals of Gospel Teaching” class at BYU-Hawaii as an adjunct professor in Religious Education. Beginning August 1, 2021, Aaron will begin serving as the Associate Academic Vice President for Religious Education at BYU-Hawaii.
Aaron and May are the grateful parents of six children – Kenner (Brinley), Reyna (Sam), Regina, Rachel, Rhiannon, and Gabriel. Aaron enjoys spending time with his family at the beach, eating together, playing board games, or just lying on the grass looking at the stars. When his body can handle it, he also like to play basketball.
I was born and raised in the Philippines. I’m the 6th of 10 children. My family moved around in the Philippines because of my dad’s work with Church Educational System (CES). I went to an all-girls Catholic school from Pre-school to High School. I learned to play the piano when I was 5 years old and played the church hymns at age 8.
After 1 ½ year of college in the Philippines, I was accepted to come to BYU-Hawaii. I finished my Associate degree in Music (in piano emphasis) and pursued a degree in Elementary Education. When I first arrived at school I jumped around looking for my ideal job. I started as a food and services worker at the cafeteria, a post office worker, and then finally working as an RA (Resident Assistant) in Hale 3. My sophomore year, I met Aaron after he returned from his mission. We were in Concert Choir together, dated, fell in love, and were married in the Laie Hawaii Temple on Dec. 15, 1993.
After graduating from BYUH, my husband and I, along with our 4-month-old son moved to Virginia where Aaron attended Washington & Lee University School of Law in Lexington while I taught piano lessons to help make ends meet. When Aaron graduated from Law school, we decided to move back to Hawaii. We settled in Ewa Beach and lived there for seven years before moving back to Laie in 2007. I taught piano lessons wherever we’ve lived and also direct a couple of children’s choir groups.
We have 6 children ~ Kenner (who married Brinley Berrett) both graduated from BYUH, Reyna (who married Sam Workman) going to BYU-Provo, Regina and Rachel both attending BYUH, Rhiannon a Junior in High School and Gabriel a 5th grader in Laie Elementary school.
I enjoy playing the piano, singing, being with my family, date nights with Aaron, and watching movies.
Rebekah Matagi Walker
Rebekah Matagi Walker attended BYU–Hawaii from 1995 to 1999. She graduated with a B achelor in Pacific Island Studies and then received her Master in Anthropology from the University of California Santa Barbara. She has been teaching Anthropology at BYUH for the past 14 years and has done years of community work at Ko’olauloa.
The school's mission means that there is a recognition that it is important to have different spaces to educate and help grow testimonies from different places. This is one of the things that Rebekah enjoyed about attending BYUH because it helped strengthen her testimony of the gospel. She also loved that BYUH helped her receive higher education, and she also met her husband here in school, which was a huge blessing for her.
Elder Frederic Riemer
Elder Riemer enjoyed attending BYUH from September 1992 to June 1997. He graduated with a degree in information systems and business management. He was born in Papeete, Tahiti, on April 20, 1967. He married Jenny Hinanui Tefan in 1994. They are the parents of five children and currently live in Papeete, Tahiti. He was named an Area Seventy and a member of the Eighth Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the April 2021 general conference. He has worked for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in various positions, including MSR supervisor and service center manager. He currently works as a leader and member support coordinator.
Elder Riemer has served in several Church callings, including full-time missionary in the French Polynesia Mission, ward mission leader, bishop, high councilor, and counselor in a stake presidency, stake president, president of the Tahiti Papeete Mission from 2020 to 2021, and more.
When he was a full-time missionary, his Mission President invited him to apply to BYUH. Along with the invitation, he challenged him to read the Book of Mormon in English. Elder Riemer accepted the invitation and read the Book of Mormon in English, which helped him sit and pass his English exam. Elder Riemer is forever grateful that his Mission President was inspired to extend the invitation. Because of this, he was able to be in an environment where he not only received education but was able to move, grow spiritually, and start a family. Thus, he unleashed the potential that Heavenly Father gave him and better prepared himself to fulfill the blessings he was promised in his Patriarchal blessing that he receives through serving his people.
The BYUH mission also helped Elder Riemer better prepare himself for fulfilling his duties to his family and the Lord. He said, “The mission of Brigham Young University–Hawaii is to integrate both spiritual and secular learning and to prepare students with character and integrity who can provide leadership in their families, their communities, their chosen fields, and in building the kingdom of God. I like the mission of the school. It really supports the Church's mission: For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”.
Add on to what Elder Riemer loved about BYUH. He liked that he was surrounded by good people who had the same goals as him, and it made his journey easier. When he was in school, he knows there are always other people he can turn to when he needs help. He loved participating inwards service projects, especially when it was at the temple ground. He also liked other activities such as the food contests because he eats his favorite food, the Tahitian raw fish and the banana Po’e.
Leialoha's decision to come to Brigham Young University–Hawaii was influenced by the fact that she was a recipient of the David O. McKay scholarship. The David O. McKay scholarship is a recruiting scholarship offered to admitted students.
Her parents also attended BYU–Hawaii, and it was her dream to perform at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Her favorite memories include club participation, culture night, ward activities, inspired learning experiences, and finding an eternal companion. Being involved in the ward helped to fortify her testimony. The classroom experiences molded her preparation for a career, and the social environment on campus helped shape her for motherhood.
After graduating, she moved to Utah with her family, where she lost her husband to cancer. After losing her husband to cancer, she was given a job opportunity to work for the Church Education System in Tonga, where she was blessed with the opportunity to remarry.
After living in Tonga, the family moved back to Hawaii, where she taught as an adjunct instructor, raised their 5 children, and then worked in HR and the Career and Development Center. Other career moves include teaching at Utah Valley University, corporate training and development, philanthropic fundraising for the Church, and owning their own construction and landscaping business.
She currently works as an HR Business Partner at Philanthropies and Family History for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a department that reports to the presiding bishopric.
For more information on the David O McKay scholarship, click on the link below.
Tuvshinjargal, who is also known by many as Tom Che, came to BYU–Hawaii to get a good education. The I-WORK program seemed like a perfect choice for him and his wife as it allowed them both to further their education in an environment that would help them academically, physically, and spiritually.
Tom Che graduated from BYU–Hawaii with a Bachelor in Information Technology and was able to work as a technical analyst and video editor with the Ho'okele department before graduation. He hopes to go back home and apply the knowledge and inspiration he received from BYU–Hawaii and find opportunities that will allow him to further his education.
He thoroughly enjoyed attending the events on campus, especially the ones where he could share what he loved with students from all over the world. He tried his best to attend as many activities on campus but found that his favorite memories were created when he took his 3 children around on campus, to the temple grounds, as well as the beach days he would have with his family.
She was first introduced to BYU–Hawaii when her High School Show Choir visited the school as guest performers by inviting the Choral Director. He was so impressed by them individually that he invited them to attend BYU–H on a music scholarship. She was the only one who took the offer, a nonmember who had never had associations with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints other than 3 girls in the choir: LDS members and kind school friends.
After riding the bus for over an hour several times to get to a Lutheran Church on Sundays, she found it extremely inconvenient. Hence, she accepted an invitation from her roommate, Jenni, to Relief Society. Feeling the sweet spirit of the sisters, she eventually started attending church on campus regularly, joined the FHE group, and began taking missionary lessons.
She loved working as a VIP tour guide at the Polynesian Cultural Center, where she met many dignitaries in her position. She was privileged to be the tour guide for one of the apostles, Marvin J. Ashton, with his son and family. She remembers being welcomed into their home and even sharing a seat at their Thanksgiving dinner table as she did not return home to California for the holidays that year.
As you would expect, these wonderful, life-changing experiences brought her to accept the invitation to join the church. She was baptized in December of 1982 on the beach just outside the campus with her Showcase Hawaii choir members and friends witnessing the love they shared with her through their missionary work.
Two years after she was baptized, she served a mission in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission. She married another returned missionary from Hawaii. She has served in several leadership positions in the church, including Primary, Young Women, Relief Society in both ward and stake levels. Her favorite calling has always been as the Primary Chorister, bringing the joy of music to the children.
She works as a Neonatal ICU Transport Nurse and finds it a privilege to witness the miracle of newborn life during every shift. Her team transports babies throughout Southern California and makes sure to take the time to pray with the family.
She counts herself blessed with the gospel of Jesus Christ in her life as she has lived an abundant life in the church. She believes that these eternal blessings all started at the BYU– Hawaii campus.
Aotearoa graduated from BYU–Hawaii in spring 2021. She graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies with hospitality tourism management and exercise science- fitness with a minor in Pacific island studies.
Although BYUH was not the first on Aotearoa's list of colleges to attend, she was very grateful for her older sister. She was a BYUH student at the time and had been the one to encourage her to come here. Once Aotearoa made up her mind to attend BYU–Hawaii, she knew that she would never regret her decision because it was the right one to make.
Attending a very diverse university was a great experience for Aotea. She has been blessed to make so many friends from different countries and learn about the different cultures where she learned to accept differences. Aotearoa said the influence and great examples of those she has met here have allowed her to grow spiritually, mentally, and physically as an individual.
When Christoph had first heard about BYU–Hawaii a few years after his mission, he felt a strong impression that Brigham Young University–Hawaii was the university he needed to attend to further his education.
He was quite impressed to learn about its unique, diverse environment, its connection to the Polynesian Cultural Center, as well as its intimate academic environment. Through a series of undeniable miracles, he was accepted and found himself on campus only three months after learning about the school's existence.
His favorite memory of BYU–Hawaii was his very first day of school. He found himself standing in the registration line where he first met his wife. A year later, they were married and sealed in the Santiago Chile Temple. Today, three of his four children have been able to attend BYU–Hawaii and share the same love and appreciation that they have for the school.
Yusook Kim Ohira
Yusook's first contact with the school was through the stories that a post-graduate student had shared with her about Brigham Young University–Hawaii. After that, however, the idea of attending a university that was located abroad seemed impossible due to financial reasons.
The joy and peace that she felt while taking lessons from the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints influenced her decision to make two goals. The first goal was to serve a mission, and this was achieved when she was called to serve in the Temple Square, Salt Lake City Mission.
Her decision to serve a mission allowed her to receive multiple blessings, which helped her work towards her second goal: financially able to attend Brigham Young University–Hawaii.
Her favorite memories at BYU–Hawaii include working as a hostess at the Ali'i Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center and making many friends worldwide. However, her greatest blessing was meeting her husband.
Louell attended BYU–Hawaii from 2013 to 2016. She currently works as a real estate agent at a local firm in the Philippines. It was always a dream of hers to study abroad, and after learning about the opportunity to attend Brigham Young University–Hawaii, she set a goal to make it happen.
Having the chance to be educated in a church institution was a great blessing. Being a part of the prophetic vision to "Enter to Learn, Go forth to Serve" helped her see how blessed she was to be a part of a program that would help her return home to serve her people.
One of her fondest memories of being in school was a trip to the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York. It was her first time attending a forum amongst indigenous peoples, and it was such an eye-opening experience for her. This trip allowed her to be more aware of the political and social issues that concern indigenous groups worldwide.
Working at the Polynesian Cultural Center has allowed him to meet people from all over the world. His first job at the Fiji Village allowed him to show and teach tourists about his love for his culture and identity. He continues to work at the Polynesian Cultural Center, where he performs for the evening show called Ha, the Breath of Life show. This allows him to learn more about other cultures and do what he loves doing - dancing.
His favorite memories of BYU–Hawaii includes meeting and making friends from all over the world, participating in the culture night performances during the winter semester. Most of all, being able to meet his wife.
Her favorite memory of attending BYU–Hawaii can attend the career fair. Every year, the school conducts a career fair called the Asia Pacific Career Conference, where the students meet with different employers worldwide. Attending the career fair has been a great opportunity to network and learn more about the different careers and future internships or employment.
Ma was attracted to BYUH because of its culture, the iwork program, and the fact that he also felt God guided him. He loves the class environment, cultural diversity, and the Polynesian Cultural Center as the three things he will remember forever about BYU-Hawaii.
"This school has been a fantastic training place for me. It has helped me gain more knowledge and skills and also taught me to enjoy my life while accomplishing my accountabilities."
Ma currently works in the Ho'okele Department as a Career Mentor and, after graduation, plans to live in Taiwan (where his wife is from) and work for a company where he interned last year.
He is currently majoring in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TESOL) with minors in Education and Mathematics. He chose this major and minors because he enjoys languages and interacting with others. Atea loves the size of the campus as it makes him feel safe and provides a spirit-felt environment. The many different cultures found at BYU–Hawaii are another unique characteristic that he loves about the school.
When he graduates from Brigham Young University–Hawaii, he plans to either pursue a master's degree in France or choose to develop his talents in photography and create his own business.
He chose to come to BYU–Hawaii because he knew it was one of the few colleges that would give him both the spiritual and academic education that he needed. Moreover, the IWORK program was another opportunity that he could not miss out on.
One of his fondest memories of being here at BYU–Hawaii would be participating in and watching the Culture Night performances. Although he did not get the chance to participate in this year's Culture Night, he thoroughly enjoyed watching other cultural dances and creativity.
After graduating, he plans to return home to Kiribati and apply all he has learned to help his people.
Some of her favorite memories at BYU–Hawaii include receiving and opening her mission call after the 2016 Culture Night, meeting general authorities such as President Uchtdorf and Elder Christofferson, helping out with the Asia-Pacific Career Conference (APCC), and most importantly, meeting her spouse.
Coming to BYU–Hawaii played a huge role in influencing her to serve her mission at the Salt Lake Temple Square Mission. It has also helped her learn how to live independently without her parents and how to be successful in life. Coming to a school that valued her spiritual life, as well as her temporal life, has been such a great blessing. Marissa says that her memories here at BYU–Hawaii are ones that she will always hold dear to her heart.