Despite not being able to accomplish her dreams of joining the military and attending a Californian university because of an unexpected diagnosis, Beka Frome said attending BYU-Hawaii was the best decision she has ever made. Now that she is graduating, Frome said she plans to pursue a career in conservation biology.
Frome, a senior from Bozeman, Montana, majoring in biology and minoring in biochemistry, said the journey of attending BYUH was not always clear from the beginning. As a high school student, she was competitive and ambitious. She applied to a lot of universities and was accepted to several of them, including her dream school, University of California at San Diego.
She said, “I was so excited when I got in, but I was like ‘Whoa, I’m not a California resident.’ The [cost of attendance] was like $55,000 per semester, so I thought maybe I should rethink this for my undergrad. So I went through a lot of different options.”
One option that seemed the most viable was joining the military. “I always loved the military and I would love to be a part of it and serve my country,” said Frome. “I was talking to recruiting officers and starting that whole process because that was going to help pay for school and go to UCSD at the same time.”
However, during Frome’s senior year, she was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder that prevented her from eating gluten. She said, “I know people make fun of it, but it’s a real thing.
“When I got Celiac Disease, I was so frustrated because it also meant that I was no longer eligible to be in the military due to deployment and ration regulations. It was really hard for me, but I see now in hindsight that was the way of Heavenly Father showing me [I wasn’t] supposed to go to San Diego.
“Then after that, I decided I was going to BYUH because it was my second choice and I could afford it. It turned out being the exact perfect thing that I needed to do. I’m so grateful that it happened now. It’s hard still to have Celiac, but I know that I got it at that time so I could come here and have all the experiences that I’ve had here.”
Frome said her favorite thing about BYUH has been the people. “I hope that’s not cliché, but I look back and I think about the people I’ve met here and the friends I’ve made and I can’t imagine where I would have been without them. I have all these different cultures that I’ve fallen in love with. I’ve fallen in love with the islands. I’m so grateful and blessed that I could come to this school,” said Frome.
During her time at BYUH, Frome said being a teaching assistant has been her favorite job. Job Greenall, a freshman in biochemistry from California, is currently enrolled in BIOL 112 this semester, and said, “She took the time to meet me outside of her tutoring hours to help me. I’ve watched how busy her schedule is. She manages her time so well and she is able to knock out each item each day.”
Frome said she loves helping the students she tutors, and getting to share something she is so passionate about is what makes it all worth it. “A lot of the times there’ll be students who come in and they just can’t get something. I’ll feel myself starting to get a little frustrated. But the best part about my job is when they’re sitting there - and I’ve seen them struggle for hours or even weeks on a subject - and then finally they’re just like ‘Oooooohhh! I get it.’”
Frome said majoring in biology was not something she originally planned on pursuing in college. She said, “When I was in high school, history, English, and other subjects came really easily for me. As for math and science, I did it because they were challenging to me, but I didn’t really see a future in them for me.
“I guess I chose to be a biology major because it is challenging for me, but it is also so interesting and so rewarding. I want to do conservation biology because I believe we can’t, as humans, exist if our earth is not healthy and taken care of. It’s like malama ‘aina: taking care of the land.
“I love the ocean and I love the ecosystems there. I love protecting the reefs. If I ever see anyone snorkeling at Hanauma Bay or anywhere and they’re standing on the reef, I’m one of those annoying people who are like, ‘Hey, you know you’re not supposed to stand on the reef.’”
She said if more people respected the plants and creatures of all of earth’s ecosystems, there wouldn’t be as many problems with conservation.
Dr. Michael Murdock, an associate professor in the History Department, has had Frome in his classes and said, “She lifts everyone around her. All you have to do is get within 20 feet of Beka Frome and your day is better. Even if she’s having a bad day, she lifts others.”
This semester Frome enrolled in Murdock’s HIST 485 class but realized there was a scheduling conflict with her biology labs. Murdock said he changed his former syllabus and created a “Rebeka-Friendly Syllabus” so she would be able to attend the class and her labs. “She has an excellent work ethic. It makes me happy to see her. That’s why I adjusted my syllabus. I knew it’d be better with her in it,” he said.
After graduation, Frome said she wants to pursue a graduate degree. She said, “I’m thinking about going to school at UCSD or University of Hawaii and staying here on the island. I really just want to do research and work in conservation biology.”
Frome said she would like to be a professor or teach biology at her high school in Montana. “It will be a way to share my love of biology and my love of the earth with other people. I want to help the world. When I watch the sunset or when I stare out at the horizon and the waves, I just feel like I really want to protect things.”
NOTE: This story's online publishing was delayed because it was featured in the June 2017 print issue.