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BYUH welcomes more than 1,500 new students in an in-person Malamalama ceremony after a year of remote school

landscape shot of the CAC filled with students standing by their seats, all wearing masks and new student orientation badges
Incoming students who attended the Malamalama Welcome Ceremony stand in the CAC for a photo.

While the Malamalama Ceremony normally welcomes a new batch of students each semester, this year’s ceremony welcomed students who began school within a range of four semesters, Fall 2020 to Fall 2021. Admissions Manager Maurice Mo’o estimated 1,500 first-year students to attend BYUH this Fall Semester.

New students masked up and filled the Cannon Activities Center for the Malamalama Ceremony and Holokai fair on Friday morning, Aug. 27, 2021. Excited chatter filled the gym from hundreds of new students. They were welcomed with leis, live music and the smiling faces of the President’s Council and their wives.

During the ceremony, Admissions Officer Eddie Maiava led students in a Samoan sasa dance. Students clapped, tapped and rowed from their stadium seats to the beat of a big, bass drum. Maiava introduced the crowd to pati po and got them moving in a fun, sitting rendition of the traditional dance.

Chantel Cook, a freshman majoring in business management from Utah, shared, “I loved the dance. It got everyone out of their shell.”

Man in red shirt and yellow lei stands at a microphone on the floor of the CAC with his arms up and a man with drums standing behind him
Admissions Officer Eddie Maiava teaches the new students a Samoan sasa dance.

She said she didn’t know the girls sitting by her at the beginning of the ceremony, but when they started dancing, they became quick friends. “All of a sudden we were laughing and talking, doing the chant.”

Cook said the ceremony helped her appreciate the new culture she just moved into. “We’re in Hawaii. We’ve got to feel the culture and learn the culture. I love it already.”
Mo’o, who oversees New Student Orientation, said, “Meeting in person for the first time in over a year has been a huge accomplishment on everyone’s part, including faculty, staff, students and administration.”

Jack Moimoi, a hospitality and tourism management senior from Fiji, was the “go-to guy” of the event, said Mo’o. Moimoi manages the New Student Experience team, which is a group of four employed students who worked with dozens of volunteer students to hold the event, he explained.

He chuckled, “How many hours did I put into planning it? A little bit too many hours.” Regardless of the difficult preparation, Moimoi said, “It’s worth it, especially in the end when you see everyone happy and excited to meet each other.” Moimoi said he does his job because he loves planning events, entertaining people and making them happy.

Moimoi said part of his job is to get feedback from the student volunteers who help run the orientation. The feedback, he said, helps his team make the event better year after year.

landscape shot of students gathered in lines outside the side entrance of the CAC
New students gather outside the CAC for the Fall 2021 Malamalama Ceremony.

He explained, “At BYUH, our mission is to be genuine gold, so we try to revamp orientation and build it up so when students come in, they feel like they’re part of that genuine gold. Then while they are going to BYUH, they feel like they have a purpose.”

Moimoi said one improvement his team implemented since the last event was the purple taro rolls served after the ceremony. They served dozens of trays of steamy, plastic-wrapped, purple rolls stuffed with kalua pork to the crowd of faculty and students.

“When we had them first, we only had the taro rolls,” shared Moimoi. “Then we got some suggestions, and they said to stuff the kalua pork in it, and that’s what we did. It looks like it was a hit.” He said small things like that are key to making new students feel excited and welcomed to BYUH.

President Kauwe stands at the microphone on the floor of the CAC with his hands together in front of his chest
President Kauwe opened the ceremony with the Hiki Mai Chant to welcome the new students.

Moimoi explained combining the Holokai fair and the Malamalama Ceremony was another new improvement Moimoi and his team introduced this year. He said combining the events brought everybody together, “not just the new students, but also the departments, the faculty and the President’s Council … It builds that official ohana bond,” he said.

BYUH faculty began the welcome ceremony, welcoming students with the Hiki Mai Chant. President John S. K. Kauwe III recalled one of his first blunders as University President, an embarrassing tale from a meeting with church authorities.

Cook shared she appreciated Kauwe’s story because it helped her feel like she could relate to him and other leaders. “I want to go and build a relationship with the leaders now.” She said she appreciated the leaders being lighthearted about the challenges students have faced on their way to Hawaii. “They were very loving and open.”

Lizzy Johnson, a freshman from Arizona majoring in elementary education, said she hopes to build strong relationships with her professors while she studies. “I liked how welcoming the leaders were. They all seemed so welcoming and nice about everything. It made me want to go and talk to them about things.”