Hannah Wallace

Hannah Wallace's photo

Name: Hannah Wallace
Degree: Teaching/Education Certificate 
Year Graduated: 2016
High School: Frederic Remington High School 
Hometown: Lubbock, Texas
Current Employment: Access Services Associate, Texas Tech University
Previous Employer(s): Research Analyst/Braille Collection Lead, Hutchinson Public Library; Disability Services Coordinator, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo

What is your passion?
My passion is cultivating equal opportunities and experiences for students who may face unique challenges while managing disabilities as they learn to navigate through their academic journeys, and develop a sense of independence as they discover what the world has to offer! Above all, my most intense interest is making sure each individual has an equal chance at whatever he/she/them chooses to do, because it is my biggest belief that there is truly no limit to what one can accomplish!

What are you most proud of? 
I’m most proud of my parents and siblings. As someone with disabilities myself, my parents always set expectations for me. They had clear, consistent and concise rules, and this left no room for guessing on what was expected. Because of this, I never made excuses for myself when I met my match at something. I knew my abilities, I knew I was different, but I knew and still know I am more than capable of doing anything in this life that I set my mind to.

And to my siblings…if you ever want to know how to treat the disabled, look no further than the siblings of a child with disabilities. They’ve sacrificed so much, they’ve given time, blood, sweat and tears. Compassion isn’t a word that comes close to describing them. I can only hope they understand how much I look up to and admire them.

What is your personal motto?
I set high standards for myself because I know I am capable of absolutely anything, and that is what the people I help deserve, nothing less.

What are your hobbies?
Doing research and traveling. 

How would you describe your personal journey in life?
I’d describe it as a dream. Sometimes when you wish long and hard enough, not for yourself but for others, dreams really do come true.

Why did you choose to attend UH Hilo?
I wasn’t going to continue college, but I applied to the one college furthest away from home, really not expecting I’d get in. But I did, and the adventure began!

What is your favorite memory of UH Hilo?
I was paired with Baloo, my service dog and I met my best friend Natty.

How has UH Hilo benefited you?
Working under Susan Shirachi in Student Disability Services prepared me for my area of focus in my graduate studies program. Susan really opened the door for me to realize my passion for helping students with disabilities, especially at the college level. She harnessed my interest and helped me get a student academic advising position in the teaching certificate program my senior year. Even after I graduated, Susan has kept in contact with me, helped me develop research ideas and has aided in launching grad research in my area of interest as well. She even went as far as helping me gain placement at Texas Tech University. She’s one of my dearest colleagues to this day and I am forever grateful for her guidance within the field of academia and scholarship. UH Hilo prepared me for my MED-PhD, but UH Hilo most importantly gave me leadership such as Susan that will carry over, and I am so grateful for that!

How did your program prepare you for the workplace?
It prepared me to help a wide spectrum of students in a large capacity in many different ways. To be able not only to bring out their academic strengths, but their individual passions as well.

What are you currently pursuing, both in your career and community?
I am currently working at Texas Tech University on my Graduate Degree in Deaf/Blind Studies in Special Education. I also work at the Academic Library on campus helping students navigate through their academic experience at Texas Tech. In the community, I love to dedicate my time to ensuring that students coming into college are as prepared as possible in receiving the services that they may need after being on IEPs due to visual impairments. Making sure that resources are available to not only the students, but the families as well, in order to help them make that transition to college is something that I love to assist with. Making sure that we can and do offer materials equipped for the visually impaired is something I take pride in making a priority. 

What are the most important lessons that you’ve learned in life?
I think the most important lesson that I’ve learned is that the foundation of good knowledge is the acknowledgement that one must never stop learning. It is through open reception that we receive the most. 

For future UH Hilo students, is there any wisdom that you would like to pass on? 
Submerge yourself deeply into the culture around you, whether it is already your own or something completely new. Hawai‘i has so much to offer and the lessons that the Island will teach you will be ones that you will carry with you the rest of your life.

How does UH Hilo connect learning, life, and Aloha? 
I feel that Aloha is the root of learning and life itself at UH Hilo. When this is the case, I feel that students become more receptive to what is being offered, and in turn become more passionate about their interests.

What does your future hold? What are your goals and dreams?
My goals and aspirations for the future are to make higher education as accessible as possible for students with disabilities and their families. It is my strongest belief that higher education is something that should be experienced by all without boundaries or limitations. Just because a student may be lacking in sight or hearing does not mean they can lack opportunity within the classroom or college experience. My dedication and devotion is to ensure that higher institutions of learning are as prepared as possible to help not only students, but educators as well find purpose and passion in all they do.     

Hokulani Fortunato and Uilani Kualii

UH Hilo alumni, Hokulani Fortunato and Uilani Kualii, share their passion for ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi and how #UHHilo led them to their current path as County of Hawai‘i advocates, focused on developing youth leaders to help revitalize the Puna area.

If you’re interested in joining their Youth Resilience Action Team, contact Hoku at hokulani.fortunato@hawaiicounty.gov, Ui at chelsie.kualii@hawaiicounty.gov, or fill out their online form at: http://go.hawaii.edu/geV

#VulcanVIBE #MyHiloJourney

Video by: UH Hilo student Sycamore Mitchell

Joshua Tarbox

Joshua Tarbox, Communication Alumnus

Alumnus Joshua Tarbox was attracted to the beauty of Hawai‘i Island and its slower-paced lifestyle that allowed him to focus and thrive. A graduate in Communication and a former Global Vulcan, he describes how being immersed in UH Hilo’s diversity and spirit of aloha, set a foundation for learning unlike any other place in the world. #VulcanVIBE

Mikolaj Walczuk

Mikolaj Walczuk, Japanese Linguistics Alumnus

What is your name, title and relationship to UH Hilo?

My name is Mikolaj Walczuk, but everyone calls me Miko. I’m a Sr. Creative Producer at Tesla. And I went to UH Hilo and participated in study abroad programs.

Where are you originally from (your hometown)?

We moved from all over the place so we didn’t really have a place to call a hometown. We moved from Pukalani, Maui before coming to the Big Island.

What attracted you to UH Hilo?

The ability to study abroad and all the diversity at campus.

What’s your favorite memory or story that you’ve experienced here at UH Hilo?

On my second day of school I picked a random table at the cafeteria to sit at. It turned out it was full of Japanese students. After talking with them, I signed up for Japanese class, studied abroad in Japan, and got a degree in Japanese linguistics. When a butterfly flaps its wings…

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life or at UH Hilo?

Life isn’t necessarily about happiness. Life is about vitality. Because if you are healthy and energetic you can tackle any ups and downs that life throws at you.

What are you passionate about?

Art and design. You don’t need language to communicate all the time.

For future UH Hilo students, is there any wisdom you would like to pass on? What would you want them to know?

Study abroad if you are able. Don’t worry about missing a semester or two, life isn’t going anywhere. This time will transform everything you know about yourself and is the ultimate time to do it.

What are your dreams and what does your future hold?

My dream is to help the community. I hope to create a makerspace or studio to give accessible design and art to all.

How would you describe your personal journey in life?

It is a mix of exploration and de-programming.

What is your personal motto?

Trust that the dots will connect.

How did UH Hilo impact your life?

Lifelong friends, and a career doing what I love.

What do you feel is UH Hilo’s niche – what makes us special?

So much diversity, really like a melting pot. And the diversity is full of Aloha.

Did UH Hilo prepare you for the workplace and your current career?


What does “journey” mean to you?

Throughout the ups and downs, you still put one foot in front of the other.

If you could say one thing to a prospective student who is undecided about coming to UH Hilo, what would you say?

If you want to be surrounded by diversity, aloha and an amazing culture look nowhere else.

Ariel Moniz

Ariel Moniz

Ariel Moniz, English Alumna

Degrees: AA in Liberal Arts (HCC), BA in English, with a minor in History (UH Hilo)
Graduation Semester/Year: Summer 2016
High School: Connections Public Charter School
Hometown/State: Maui, Hawai‘i (or Kalapana, Big Island)
Job Title: Freelance Writer, Editor, and Blogger
Employer: N/A

What was your path to UH Hilo?
I attended Connections Public Charter School for my high school career, where I  was able to apply to take several courses at Hawaii Community College through the Gear Up Program. This was a great opportunity for me to get an idea of what life in college would be like, and allowed me to earn college credits before I officially entered college in the Fall of 2011. I always knew that I wanted to attend university, so I went straight from high school to Hawaii Community College, where I earned my Associates Degree in Liberal Arts before transferring to the University of Hawaii at Hilo to pursue my Bachelor’s degree.

Why did you choose to attend UH Hilo?
I chose to attend UH Hilo because they had an English program that appealed to me and because it allowed me to stay near my family, which was very important to me at the time. I’m thankful that I was able to complete my dream of earning a degree while remaining in my home community.

What were your favorite things about UH Hilo?
The opportunity to connect with others who shared my love of learning and literature was a great gift for me, not only through the English classes themselves but also through extracurricular opportunities like the English Club, the Board of Student Publications (BOSP), and the tutoring centers.

What are some extracurricular activities or clubs that you were a part of while attending UH Hilo?
I wanted to be a part of everything English or literature related while I was in university. This led to me working as an English tutor for The Learning Center through Hawaii Community College, and as an English tutor for the Kupa ʻĀina Summer Bridge Program in the summer of 2017, the year after I graduated.

While attending UH Hilo I also served as a literary editor for Kanilehua, which is UH Hilo’s art and literary magazine. The following year I was honored to become Kanilehua’s Editor-In-Chief.

These experiences allowed me to use my writing skills and my interest in the English language in ways that helped others and which gave me the opportunity to prepare myself for my future professional goals.

My love for English and the community committed to it at UH Hilo also motivated me to help spearhead the English club during my time at university. Many of my fondest memories were shared with others who also benefitted from these extracurricular activities.

What were your experiences with the UH Hilo faculty like?
Some of the highlights of my time at UH Hilo were the interactions that I had with the staff of the English Department. Kirsten Mollegaard, Seri Luangphinith, and Mark Panek had a large influence on my writing and how I perceived writing as a craft. They encouraged me to hone my writing skills, challenged me to expand my literary horizons, and they all made me feel like a valued member of the UH Hilo community.

What was the best thing about your time at UH Hilo?
One of the best things about my time at UH Hilo was entering the English degree, which allowed me to meet so many people who shared in my goals and life dreams. I had never been surrounded by so many people passionate about literature and the written word before my time in university. It was the English program that helped me create a community for myself, and nearly all of my closest friends to this day are people who I bonded over literature with in an English class.

How did your time at UH Hilo benefit you?
UH Hilo benefitted me in many ways, both in my personal and professional life. Besides its valuable role in helping me improve my writing and expand my social circle in a meaningful way, my time at UH Hilo also expanded my horizons and helped me discover new passions and goals that I had not thought feasible previously. The most influential of these I discovered in my last semester of my time at UH Hilo, when I was a part of a study abroad program through Hawaii Community College which took place in Ireland. This was my first time traveling outside of the country, and it was through this that I realized how much more of the world there was out there to see. I have been traveling regularly ever since, and I have now been to eleven countries and hope to visit many more.

Do you have any advice for current or future UH Hilo students?
I feel like the best advice I could give to anyone entering or currently attending university is to enjoy your time as a student. Be passionate about your studies, but also embrace and make time for friendships and meeting with like-minded people, pursue moments of personal happiness, and truly care for yourself and pay attention to your needs. Your grades and your future are important, but so is this moment and these memories that you are creating.

What has life been like for you since graduating?
Since attending UH Hilo my life has gone in a much different direction than what I expected when I was first began attending university. After discovering a love for travel I made it a priority to see more of the world. By working at two bookstores in Hilo for a year and a half I was able to save up enough money to travel through Europe, where I had many wonderful experiences and met some of the most amazing people, including the man who is now my husband. I now live in Germany— still traveling when I can, blogging, editing, writing, and currently attending a German integration course which will allow me to speak a second language and hopefully enter the field of translation in the near future.

What is your personal motto
My personal motto is to try your best in all that you do, especially in the pursuit of your passions.  Regardless of the outcome, when you try your best you are investing in your best self.

Who are you most influenced by in your life?
I am most influenced by those for whom I have great respect. This includes great figures whose footsteps I hope to follow in, such as the writers Maya Angelou, Neil Gaiman, and Ray Bradbury, as well as those closer to my heart but no less impressive, such as my grandparents who instilled in me the values of hard work and kindness, and many of the teachers who made school and later university such a refuge for me through their dedication and passion for education.

What are your greatest accomplishments? What are you most proud of?
I was honored to be awarded the Matthew Therrien Award and to win the Droste Poetry Competition during my time at UH Hilo. I am also thankful that I was published in the Kanilehua Art & Literary magazine as well as the Hohonu Academic Journal. These publications gave me the confidence in my writing which allowed me to pursue and achieve other publications later. All of these accomplishments made me feel like a valued member of the UH Hilo community and also instilled in me the belief that the goals I was reaching towards were in fact possible. This is why I consider them some of my greatest accomplishments.

What are your passions?
I have always been happiest while I am writing, reading, spending time in nature, or studying one of the things I’m fascinated by, which include ancient history, anthropology, many branches of psychology, the occult and other esoteric studies, and of course, literature.

What causes do you care most about?
I am very passionate about social justice, nature conservation, and mental health awareness, and I like my writing to be reflective of that. Some of the causes that are particularly close to my heart include the protection of the rights of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community, women’s rights, body inclusivity, the LGBTQ+ community, and raising awareness about the struggles of mental illness.

How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as someone who loves deeply, smiled often, and who created works that touched the hearts of people who needed it.

What are your dreams?
My dreams are always evolving, but remain the same at their core— writing, traveling, and helping others are the bones of the life that I want to live.

What does your future hold?
My current professional goals for the future involve entering the publishing industry—possibly through translation or other editing services— and one day publishing my own books as an author and poet. I am also interested in pursuing a Master’s degree in an English related field.

My personal hope is that I will travel extensively, see my writing in many more publications, and become an inspiration to those who need to be reminded that dreams are worth pursuing.