Wailau Storytellers and Hosts: February 2021
Lee B. Dombroski - storyteller
Lee is the Performing Arts Center Manager at the University of Hawaiʻi, Hilo and is passionate about the performing arts. Professionally she has been a Producer, Production Manager, Costume Designer, Wig Master, Make-up Artist, Sculptor (of hair!), Costume Director, Costume Shop Manager, Wardrobe Mistress, and a Dresser. As an amateur she has tried everything from dance to carpentry. Lee has a BFA in Theatre from the University of Colorado Boulder and an MFA from California Institute of the Arts. She loves a good story!
Watch Lee's story: “For the Love of Gran
Randy Hirokawa - storyteller
Randy is a local boy, born and raised on the island of Kauaʻi. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Washington. Randy is nationally and internationally known for his expertise in small group communication and group decision-making. He has published three books and over 60 research papers, delivered numerous national and international lectures, including prestigious ones at Northwestern University, the University of Washington, and the University of Utah. In 2006, he was inducted into the University of Washington Alumni Hall of Fame for his academic and professional accomplishments. Randy served as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo from 2005 to 2016. Prior to returning home to Hawaiʻi, he served on the faculty at the Pennsylvania State University (1980-1984) and the University of Iowa (1984-2005). In his spare time, Randy enjoys fishing, playing softball, and rocking the electric bass.
Watch Randy's story: “The Electric Guitar
Rebecca Choi - storyteller
Rebecca, born in South Korea, immigrated to the US with her family when she was seven years old and grew up in Southern California. After receiving a B.A. in Political Economy from Princeton University, she worked in investment banking and private equity in New York and San Francisco, making investments around the world. Rebecca and her husband made Hilo home in 2006; she owned and operated a local okazuya while raising two young children. Among other things, Rebecca has been a Chief Operating Officer for a graduate university in Silicon Valley and a Chief of Staff for a national nonprofit that provides entrepreneurship training to people with criminal histories. Rebecca cares deeply about empowering people through education and economic opportunities as well as celebrating diversity and strengthening connections in our community. She currently contributes as a volunteer for Keiki Heroes, Vibrant Hawaiʻi, NexTech STEM Programs, Hilo Missionary Church, WASC Senior College & University Commission, and Princeton Alumni Schools Committee. Rebecca and her husband have three beautiful daughters - ages 12, 10, and 4 years old. Rebecca is an avid reader who enjoys feeding people and having dance parties with her girls.
Watch Rebecca's story: “Speaking Love ”
Jasmine Joao - storyteller
Jasmine was born on Molokaʻi and raised on Maui. She transferred to UH Hilo in 2019 and is currently a senior, majoring in Japanese and also pursuing a minor in History. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Hohonu, UH Hilo’s academic journal. In her free time, she likes to make crochet animals, read obnoxiously-long history books, and attempt to bake without burning her apartment down.
Watch Jasmine's story: “Friends I No Longer Talk To ”
Jeff Baumgardner - storyteller
Jeff started working at the age of nine as a paperboy. During his teen years, he served ice cream, made pizza, and worked at the local movie theater. Before attending college, he worked for several years at a mental health hospital. Since then, he’s done many things in life including teaching, research, and practicing medicine. He is a proud co-founder, along with his wife, of a nonprofit pay-what-you-can farm-to-fork restaurant in Colorado. If you grocery shop in Hilo, you may recognize him from Safeway. He enjoys hiking and exploring Hawaiʻi island. Oddly, he doesn’t like flying, unless he’s the one doing the flying. One flight stands out in his memory.
Watch Jeff's story: “Hitting the Send Button ”
Kuʻuhiapo Jeong - student host
Kuʻuhiapo Jeong is an undergraduate student pursuing his B.A in Psychology and Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo with hopes to enter the PR and advertising fields. He is passionate about the performing arts, specifically contemporary theatre and dance. He is a student of Kumu Hula Johnny Lum Ho at Hālau O Ka Ua Kani Lehua and a dancer of Center Stage Dance Alliance Hilo, focusing primarily on the style of hip-hop. Theatre was never a love in his life until being cast in the 2016 - 2017 touring Hawaiian opera cast of “Hāʻupu,” which was performed and received special recognition at the AHSTF Edinburgh Festival Fringe as well as NPR’s nationally syndicated radio show “From The Top”. Selected theatre credits include “Biloxi Blues” as Eugene M. Jerome; the title role of “Aladdin”; “Tale of a Tail: Moʻo Huelo” as Kama. Offstage, he served as a dance choreographer for the “Hawaiian Nutcracker” and “Moku Aʻe Ka Pawa”. His more notable personal achievements include earning the runner up Master Keiki Hula 2012 placement at the Queen Lili’uokalani Keiki Hula Competition and winning the title of Master Keiki Hula 2013 at the E Mālama Mau I Ka Hula Competition. He is an aspiring polyglot who enjoys learning languages and takes interest in the geological branch of volcanology. IG: @kuuhiapojeong
Dayva Escobar - student host
Dayva Escobar is a senior at UH Hilo, double majoring in Communications and Gender & Women’s Studies, and minoring in Performing Arts. She was born and raised in Hilo where she grew up surfing everyday at Honoliʻi, and avidly participating in local visual and performing arts. She is currently a writer for Ke Kalahea. She believes that we all hold a unique story just waiting to be shared and is passionate for finding ways to give back to her community. Besides social advocacy, she loves to act and perform. You may have seen her as Gypsy Rose Lee in the 2019 Hilo Palace Theatre Production of GYPSY or have heard her in an occasional commercial on thewave@92fm. She is currently a board member for the Hilo Community Players, aiming to help keep local theatre alive during the pandemic. Upon graduation, she hopes to pursue acting as well as a masters in Journalism or Law, and potentially go on to work as a broadcast journalist — but more importantly, she aims to do something to make the world better. IG: @dayvasummer
Dr. Ron Gordon - topic expert
Ron Gordon (Ph.D., University of Kansas) is Professor of Communication at UH Hilo, and teaches Interpersonal Communication, Seminar in Human Dialogue, Seminar in Listening, and Communication and Love. He has previously served as Chair of the Department of Communication at UH Hilo, President of the Pacific and Asian Communication Association, and recently authored the book The Way of Dialogue: 1 + 1 = 3 (published by Wipf & Stock in 2020).