A new beginning for graduates, a celebration for the community

Sometimes during the academic year, in the midst of project deadlines, homework, exams and competing commitments, it’s not uncommon for students to wonder why. Why are they working so diligently to complete that degree or certificate? Why are they sacrificing time and money to pursue their dream? The answer last Sunday was very simple. Joy.

There was a tremendous sense of joy at the University of Hawaii Maui College and UH Center, Maui joint commencement. Students pursuing a wide range of degrees had their moment to walk the stage, wave to their family and supporters, and enjoy the acknowledgement of the entire community for their accomplishments. This year over 800 degrees and certificates were awarded by UH-Maui College, with another 88 Maui County students receiving advanced distance-learning degrees through the support of the UH Center, Maui.

They come from different walks of life, with different needs and goals. Breeann Fuentes received her associate degree in accounting from UH-MC two years ago and wanted to get her bachelor’s degree without leaving Maui County. Through the UH Center, Maui, she was able to earn her BA in business administration from UH West Oahu while still receiving support from the UH-MC campus, like the college’s CareerLink office. As a result, she’s graduating with a job already in hand.

“When my employer contacted UH-MC looking for accounting candidates, CareerLink was able to refer them to me,” said Fuentes. “Students and Maui employers should take advantage of CareerLink because they have connections with the community. Students are used to and like to learn, which companies should see as an asset: teachable and moldable employees.”

UH-Maui College’s valedictorian, Jonathan Garcia, graduated from Maui High School in 2013 and was awarded his AA in Liberal Arts this year at commencement. He plans to continue his education in Oregon with the goal of becoming a medical doctor, a dream he wasn’t sure he’d be able to achieve before attending UH-MC. “Family, friends and UH-MC were supportive by believing that whatever I want to be, it is possible. I had hands-on experience working within the labs in ‘Ike Le’a, and the courses I took as electives were science classes such as chemistry and biology. I’ve also had the opportunity to perform biomedical research and present our research at John A. Burns school of Medicine.”

Malatone Bouasym, an enlisted Coast Guard member, graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Engineering Technology from UH-MC. “It is a great opportunity to learn not only about engineering, but how the world depends on such a vast, complex amount of knowledge. It’s an endless cycle of education that keeps you wondering and curious about the possibilities of combining what you know, what you want to know, and what you can do with what you know.”

About Sunday’s commencement she added, “I loved the feeling of completion and accomplishment so much, that I am craving the feeling of completing my master’s, Ph.D, taking over the world! Graduating was like getting a brand-new car, and deciding where to drive to next. It was absolutely awesome!”

Patty Stemmle started taking continuing education courses at UH-Maui College to advance her computing and digital media skill sets, and learned that she could pursue a master’s in education – Learning Design and Technology Program – from UH-Manoa through the UH Center, Maui. She hopes to work in instructional design and develop media-rich online courses that will help other adult learners transition into living-wage, high-skill jobs.

She said, “UH-Maui College has played a central role in my development as a person and in advancing multiple careers for many years. Early on I found that I was curious and enjoyed learning new things – mostly for what I could do. If I wanted to explore something new, I would learn about it. That was fun to me, and the beginning of a new habit – lifelong learning. My experiences at UH-Maui College have been invaluable. We are lucky to be able to study here on Maui at the college and then move on to advanced degrees through the UH Center, Maui.”

To learn more about UH-Maui College’s innovative programs, visit maui.hawaii.edu/programs-of-study. Registration for summer and fall classes is now underway.

* Dr. Lui K. Hokoana is Chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka’ana Mana’o, which means “sharing thoughts,” is scheduled to appear on the fourth Sunday of each month. It is prepared with assistance from UH-Maui College staff and is intended to provide the community of Maui County information about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and its education centers.