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Alumni express gratitude for time at BYUH and their daughter says she’s excited to follow in their footsteps

The Talenis smile together in their youth in a black and white photo.

Husband and wife duo, Jack and Lise Taleni, both BYU–Hawaii alumni from Samoa, said the challenges and lessons they learned at BYUH helped them grow and excel in their personal lives. Today, they are both leaders at the Church College of Pesega and Pesega Middle School in Samoa where they encouraged students to pursue an education at BYUH.

Jack Taleni, an alumnus from Samoa who majored in computer studies, is now the principal of the Church College of Pesega. Looking back on his time at BYUH, he said, “I was excited and had a lot of expectations for BYU–Hawaii.” He stated he enjoyed learning, the school’s atmosphere and the culture.

“After my mission, I came back to BYUH and I was more mature. I got my degree in time,” Jack Taleni said. He stated his mission helped him mature and change. He also shared he worked at the Polynesian Cultural Center in the Samoan Village.

“What I love about BYU–Hawaii is the opportunity to meet all kinds of people from different parts of the world.” He said when he first came to BYUH, he was a shy person and his job at the Center helped him gain confidence.

Jack Taleni explained he would greet guests in the Samoan Village by saying, “Talofa! Welcome to the Samoa Village!” That, he said, is how he started to gain confidence in himself.

He said another reason he loved BYUH was the many activities held on campus and said he specifically missed weddings. “I remember the weddings there. You don’t need an invitation to be invited. You just walk in and grab some food.” He shared his favorite weddings were the Tongan weddings because of the food.

Lise Taleni, an alumna from Samoa who majored in accounting and is now the vice principal of Pesega Middle School, was a recent convert to the Church when she came to BYUH in 1992.

She stated she focused on her education and knew other things would follow. “I love BYUH because of its peaceful environment and the opportunities it offers to meet and interact with many people from different cultures.

“What I loved the most about BYUH is I got to learn so many different things. I got to learn different dances from different cultures and much more,” Lise Taleni said. She added, as a student, she worked many jobs, from waiting tables to being a tour guide in the Samoan Village at the Center.

Lise Taleni smiles while putting her hands together in front of her lap while wearing a blue and black puffy-sleeved dress with the words "KANU O KA" in the background and chairs and a chair.

She added she learned a lot of new things from BYUH and the Center. “The people are friendly and it is centered around the gospel.”

Jack and Lise Taleni said they married in 1995, and Lise Taleni graduated in June 1996.

She went on to say, “There are people who have a negative mindset and think BYUH is a place of matchmaking, a place to find your soulmate, but that is not [what] BYUH is all about.” She encouraged and advised students to focus on their education in addition to dating. “I found my companion there and I am grateful and blessed that I have gone through BYUH. So, I would recommend [BYUH] to a lot of young people.” Lise Taleni stated.

Jack Taleni said, “BYUH is a wonderful place. You meet a lot of different people and if you prepare well to go there and go for your education, you will get a lot out of BYUH.”

“It is a wonderful place to be,” Lise Taleni added. “If you have your priorities straight and focus, you can have an education, family, gospel and everything to complete your life there at BYUH.”

Jack Taleni said, “When you prepare yourself well and have an open mind with a positive attitude and go there with a willingness to focus on your education and don’t forget to enjoy the many activities at BYUH, you will have a great experience.”

Lise and Jack Taleni, now educational leaders in Samoa, said they encourage the youth there to not miss out on the opportunities and experiences offered at BYUH. Lise Taleni said, “It has become a memorable experience we will forever hold dear to our hearts.”

Quadaela Taleni, a freshman from Samoa majoring in political science, is the youngest daughter of Jack and Lise Taleni. Due to COVID-19, she was unable to come to BYUH for her first semester in Fall 2020.

She said, “Hearing so many great things from my parents about BYUH made me want to go there someday and experience it for myself.”

She stated BYUH had played a big role in her parents’ life and career. “My parents shared how shy they were when they first went to BYUH. They became more confident and that helped them both in their future careers and still [helps them] today,” she said.

Quadaela Taleni said all three of her siblings are attending different universities, but said she wanted to be the one to attend BYUH.

“Even though I am not physically on campus, so far I am enjoying my online experience this semester. I am excited to start my journey at BYUH and experience what my parents experienced when they were at BYUH,” Quadaela Taleni said.

To watch their spotlight video, see here: BYU–Hawaii spotlight video: The Talenis.