Monday, February 15, 2016

Sharing a sense of ‘ohana

When former students get in touch with Katie Scott, Residence Life Area Coordinator, Hawaii Loa Campus, it’s no surprise what they remember about their time at Hawai’i Pacific University.

“My students who come back mention they feel that family feeling,” she said. “We promote an ‘ohana.”

Scott has been with HPU since 2011. She previously worked with student residents at Oregon State University for several years, before coming to Hawaii. Once she got here, she knew she wanted to stay and “put down roots.”

“It was an opportunity to have an adventure. I never dreamed about going to Hawaii, not even a vacation,” said Scott, originally from Southern California.

Katie Scott, third from left, says that she stays in touch with HPU alumni who still feel connected to the university.
She earned a Bachelor of Science in Cultural Diversity from Oregon State. She said the diversity of Hawaii and at HPU  impressed her. “Being Native American myself, to learn about Native Hawaiian culture appealed to me.”

She notes that in Hawaii, there’s an emphasis on having a strong sense of community, knowing one’s personal responsibility in relation to others, and ‘ohana. Those values are shared with residents.

“We stress that you need to learn to be responsible as a community member. Your choices impact other people,” Scott said. “These are key to being successful in Hawaii.”

Adjusting to the local culture can be challenging to new students from outside of Hawaii, who may be living away from home for the first time.

"We need to understand the huge amount of transitions for our students, not just to college," she said.

These students are leaving their family units and structures. They also are trying to find their place in the community as adults. This is all happening while they are adjusting to demands of college, when they discover "this isn't high school," Scott said.

"Each transition needs to be taken into consideration when we're working with students," she said.

Each student handles transitions uniquely. That’s when staff and faculty members can make a difference, by being open to talking with students so they don’t feel isolated and reminding them they are part of a community.

“Take the time to have these conversations with students,” she said. “They want to talk story.”

“We need to emphasize to students that they make the choices to take advantages of resources,” she said.

These may include programs that bring students to cultural sites or community service, leisure activities offered on campus or even informal arts and crafts in the residence halls. Scott and her colleagues notice that something special can happen once a student goes to an activity or two.

“Those who attend, they make buddies. They make friends, connections … and get involved in the future.”

Those are the students who successfully adjust and take advantage of learning in Hawaii. They become alumni who stay in touch with Scott years later, feeling part of the HPU ‘ohana. 

In the case of Da Freakshow, HPU’s annual talent show, students also have the chance of self discovery, while being part of something bigger than themselves. Held at the historic Hawaii Theatre, the show is carried out with professional production values and the public can attend.

“It links us to the community,” Scott said.

She’s especially touched by performers who know they wouldn’t place competitively yet go on stage to share their talents in front of their friends.

“They want to push themselves to get beyond their stage fright, put their heart and soul on stage,” she said. “We’re providing them that opportunity to share their talents, their true selves. That’s the value of Da Freakshow.”

Students (and faculty and staff) can still get involved in Da Freakshow. Limited audition times are available but must be confirmed as soon as possible with Scott. Email her at Da Freakshow is March 22 and is free and open to the public. See

Da Freakshow is HPU's annual showcase of the university's talented community.

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