Monday, February 22, 2016

Finding success through student involvement at HPU

It may surprise people who know Wesley Chai from any number of clubs or organizations to learn he wasn't always as outgoing.

"I was not as open my first semester," said Chai, a Hawai‘i Pacific University junior, majoring in Criminal Justice, with a minor in Writing.

Wesley Chai (right) at HPU's Light Up the Night 2015, with Aislyn Matias, former advisor of the Taiwanese Student Association (left), and Laurie Tam, vice president of the association. Chai was member of the year of the association.
Originally from Gainesville, Florida, Chai spent most of his life in Taiwan and Singapore, before coming to Hawaii in 2013. His brother Anthony was already at HPU, studying Tourism Industry Management, and he decided to follow him.

"He graduated my first year here," he said.

Instead of dwelling upon that his family was away, Chai immersed himself in the community of HPU. He was encouraged because of the "openness" he experienced here in Hawaii.

For example, he enjoys the ability to approach almost anyone and strike up a conversation. "In Asia, people usually don't talk to someone you don't know. Here, it's the Aloha Spirit feeling. It's more welcoming."

Chai started broadening his perspectives, becoming part of several organizations at HPU. He joined the Student Government Association in his second semester, where he now serves as Chief Justice of the Student Judicial Council. The council is the branch of the SGA that resolves electoral and constitutional disputes.

He has worked to introduce hearings for cases brought up to the council instead of only discussion. Hearings allow plaintiffs and defendants to participate in the process.

"That was my main goal as chief justice," he said. "We can have hearings and review evidence, talk to witnesses and deliver a judgment."

He is also president of the Taiwanese Student Association and treasurer of both the Criminal Justice Club and Sigma Tau Delta (English honor society) Alpha Omicron Eta Chapter. He holds memberships in Alpha Chi, Hawaii Beta Chapter; Kappa Mu Epsilon, HI Alpha Chapter; and Phi Delta Phi Pre-Law Society. He also works as a tutor at the HPU Center for Academic Success, for Chinese (Mandarin), Writing and Mathematics.

Through the Career Services Center, Chai also found a fulfilling internship with the Evan Guthrie Law Firm, where he was able combine two of his interests. He wrote legal articles during the internship, with six articles published on a national legal website. "It developed my writing and my legal writing."

When asked if he's too busy, considering he's still a student, Chai smiled and said, "College isn't just about about studying. It's about filling up your life with things to do."

He also does these things well. Last year at "Light Up The Night," HPU's event honoring outstanding students and organizations, Chai was recognized as a member of the year for the Law and Justice Administration Club and Taiwanese Student Association.

"The best part is I get to know people in specific fields and cultures. There are topics of interest that we can talk about," he said. He gets as much enjoyment talking about changes in law, writing or a new Asian pop song.

He's also made friends with people from many countries, which he said he wouldn't have been able to do as prolifically back in Asia. "You're expanding your network around the world."

He plans to graduate in Spring 2017 and then attend law school in hopes of working for the federal government. Until then, he has a lot to keep him busy — but enjoying his time at HPU.

Alpha Chi held its induction in November at the Hawaii Loa campus. It's among the groups Wesley Chai (left) has joined in his time at HPU.

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