Dr. Rebecca “Becky” Ostertag, Professor of Biology and Associate Program Chair of the M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science, shares her love for the unique environments on the island of Hawai“i.
UH Hilo alumna, Megan Escalona, talks about her experiences at the School of Education. She is currently a second grade teacher at Waiakeawaena Elementary school. #VulcanVIBE
Jennet Chang, Tropical Horticulture student from Samoa, talks about her journey – “Unity in Diversity”
Greetings and Talofa! My name is Jennet Chang and I am an islander from American Samoa; the only U.S. territory located in the Southern hemisphere, southwest of Hawai’i. My journey to the University of Hawai’i at Hilo was never as smooth as a walk in the park or water off a duck’s back. Like many college students, I struggled with the decision of choosing a school whose vision and goals mirrored my dreams and ambitions. With guidance and suggestions from several mentors who are professors at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC), I selected UH Hilo. Choosing UH Hilo was no mistake for me because I felt right at home. Campus has a high percentage of diverse students with such different yet welcoming attitudes. The school campus also provided me with various options to explore: clubs, majors, job opportunities, recreational activities and friends. Tips for incoming students: do research on the school first. Look at the statistics of students attending, check out the different programs that are offered, talk to alumni, check out the campus and the professors. You’d be surprised at what you’ll find out.
Before UH Hilo, my interest in agriculture peaked during my senior year of high school. As a senior student, I had the opportunity to take part in a local program involving students to work study at certain local businesses. There, I worked on a hydroponic farm called “Hirata Hydrogarden” where I had the opportunity to learn as many techniques and problem-solving experiences humanly possible. Fast-forward to applying to UH Hilo. I was drawn to the Tropical Science in Horticulture Specialty major and was privileged to be accepted into the program. I’ve been in UH Hilo since Fall 2017 majoring in horticulture and not once did I ever think of switching majors due to the amazing staff at the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Management (CAFNRM) Department. The professors in the department are approachable, they care about their students academic journeys as well as their well beings and they encourage a feeling of camaraderie that I have never experienced before . In addition to that, the CAFNRM students and I always enjoy talking stories with the professors, which range in topic from our embarrassing moments to a weekend activity.
My major provides countless hands-on activities on campus, especially at the UH Hilo Farm. To be honest, I feel like my classes involve more fun lab activities than lectures. I chose this major because I am passionate about the need to help sustain our natural resources for future generations to come. If you really think about it, what’s there to eat if no one studies the sustainability of plants and animals affected by climate change? Aside from being a horticulture student, I’m also proud to be a representative for the Toa O Samoa and Pre-vet club. My experiences in those clubs have been fruitful and satisfying. Within those clubs I was fortunate to meet intellectual and fun students that made me feel like I belonged, and were also passionate about the same causes I hold dear to my heart. They are a source of continuous blessings to me that I would forever be thankful for. Therefore, the most important thing that I am excited to be a part of as a student at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, is “Unity in Diversity.”
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
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.
Dane “Malu” Dudoit, Mōkaulele Community Engagement Facilitator and Lecturer at Ka Haka ʻUla oKeʻelikōlani, shares glimpses into his academic, personal, and professional journey. #VulcanVIBE
Haley Ancheta, Administration of Justice major, Political Science minor, Pre-Law Certificate
Haley Ancheta’s favorite experience during her ten-week internship with the FBI Honolulu Division, was being snatched into a moving, bulletproof SUV. The SWAT role-playing exercise placed her just out of reach for safety, requiring three men to come to her rescue while using the car as a shield.
Although the situation was just hypothetical, the lessons learned are not.
“The FBI has a big unseen impact on the community. Their undercover operations catch people like pedophiles, making sure they get addressed,” says Ancheta.
The Hilo High School graduate applied for the internship program on a whim after her Hawai‘i Community College advisor recommended she consider a career in the FBI. Ancheta always had ambitions to become a law enforcement officer, so she started doing some research online.
After a competitive process involving thousands of applications nationwide, Ancheta was selected to be one of 13 interns at the FBI Honolulu Division for summer 2019. She is the first student to enter the program from a neighbor island, as well as a UH System school.
“Most people think of the FBI as just special agents, but there’s actually a lot of opportunity for growth in different fields.”
Growing up next door to her role model and “second mom” – Captain Aimee Wana at the Hawai‘i Police Department, Ancheta was inspired to pursue a career in law enforcement.
“Law enforcement itself is so male-dominated and I want to help reform the system, not just for female equality, but also to advocate for fairer sentencing of offenders and better treatment of victims alike. We’re all humans…sometimes that gets forgotten.”
The FBI Honolulu Division internship doesn’t provide housing or food for non-O‘ahu residents, however it is paid depending on one’s educational background. Ancheta earned her internship through a variety of experiences, including shucking oysters as an FBI volunteer for the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
“The oysters weren’t fresh and were vacuum-sealed in bags that were sitting in a garage for over a year. I had to take a very long shower after that,” recalls Ancheta. “The pearls recovered from the oysters were sold in auction and the money was donated for charity.”
The bulk of her time however, was spent on two research projects, one involving researching domestic extremists targeting religious groups, and the other examining the effect of the Our Care, Our Choice Act on medical aid in dying.
Ancheta presented her findings on domestic extremists at an event in June in the Neil S. Blaisdell Center, informing religious groups of potential threats. She also was able to identify external trends affecting her research on medical aid in dying, including the legalization of marijuana for recreational and medicinal use.
Ancheta admits that all of this would not be possible if not for the encouragement of her teachers and advisors at UH Hilo, and her family and friends.
Coming from a divorced household living paycheck to paycheck, she was at one time considering dropping out of college. However, people like Holly Garriques, Kurt Dela Cruz and Keian Shon at UH Hilo’s Advising Office wouldn’t allow it, convincing her to stay the course.
When she was 16, Ancheta lost a close friend to an overdose. Her grief was extremely difficult to get through, but she managed with the support of her family and friends. She wears a tattoo to remind her to keep going – waves that rise and fall without breaking – nalu ʻaiō.
Ancheta will soon be starting another internship, this time with the Hawai‘i Police Department. Her advice to her fellow students? “Don’t be afraid to take the plunge, to reach out to others around you. Take chances and apply for opportunities that come your way – you never know where it may lead you.”