Professors awarded for being exemplary employees and citizenship, teaching, and scholarship

Written by: 
Mariah Hunt


BYU–Hawaii faculty and staff came to celebrate outstanding and veteran employees at the Ho‘omaika‘i Employee Appreciation Night on Jan. 31. Among other awards and accolades, there were four Exemplary Employee awards and three faculty awards for scholarship, outstanding faculty, and teaching.

The recipients for the Exemplary Employee awards are as follow, along with what was said by emcees Laura Tevega and Eugenia Soliai with their award announcements:

President’s Appreciation Award Recipient:

Charlene Feinga Latu

“Charlene brings a Christ-like spirit to our department. She loves the students and she loves to make sure that everyone is taken care of. She is firm when she explains to the students why the aid is not forthcoming, and she gives them options to get other aid that is not available through FAFSA.

“She helps the students to get their verification done on time and if students need help she takes the time to explain. Love her spirit.”

President’s Appreciation Award Recipient:

Thomas Adolpho

“Uncle Tommy pretty much has a lot of knowledge and skills in construction carpentry, masonry, etc. He has worked on all types of projects on campus, big or small. He helps other areas with their work.

“One example: He helps grounds by operating the backhoe to clear and dump trash into the big trash bin weekly when they ask and also when he sees it needs to be done. At 72 years old, he's still going strong and I trip out how he can still lift and move heavy furniture that even I get a hard time moving.

“Anyways, I feel he deserves this award for all he has done to build this campus over the years.”

Sione Feinga Performance Award Winner is:

Carol Peterson

“Carol is one of the most professional individuals I have ever met. In particular, she has a gift for speed in work that yet still entails high quality. Students are in need of approaches like this because the staff makes teachers better. Carol is one of the best staff members on this campus, and her professionalism is worthy of celebration.”

Napua Baker Management Award Recipient is:

Vika Vimahi

“Vika is efficient in assisting us with our work as IWORK counselors. She makes it easy to communicate with her when we have a problem. She sees the details in the job and if something does not sound or look right, she will question to make sure the problem is resolved for a win-win for the student and the university.

“I believe she deserves this award for her efforts in fulfilling the mission of the school to help students receive the help they need to be able to learn, so they can leave to lead in their communities and families.

“Vika constantly and consistently goes above and beyond in her job.  She meets a tremendous daunting workload with a positive attitude and never complains about it.  This year she has really shown an amazing depth of understanding and insight as she has performed a key role in the design and implementation of the Workday Financials system. 

“She is a leader and role model in her department and to those who associate with her.  I appreciate her quick, patient, acknowledgment of efforts being made by others and offers her support to resolve issues.”

The recipients for the Faculty Awards are as follow, along with what was said with their award announcement:

Faculty Award for Citizenship

Jennifer Lane

“Jennifer Lane has been in high profile university positions for the past several years, which has perhaps made some of her contributions a bit more visible. The number and scope of her contributions to the university have indeed been great, especially in areas related to curriculum.

“However, one of the many unique things about Jennifer is that she is willing to perform that service for genuinely altruistic reasons. She believes in the mission of the university and is willing to do whatever is asked of her in order to contribute to that mission. She is an extremely passionate and capable scholar in her discipline but she has put her own interests on the back burner for many years in order to serve the university.

“The length and intensity of her service and her humble willingness to do what is asked of her are admirable, valuable and deserve recognition.”

Faculty Award for Teaching

Mark Wolfersberger

“Mark has never taught a course the same way twice. He carefully examines the learning outcomes for each course he teaches each semester. He refines the outcomes based on the input he receives from learners in previous semesters to clarify exactly what they should know as a result of taking the course. He always finds something that needs improvement.

“When teaching, he uses strong active verbs to describe how he wants learners to move from remembering and understanding key concepts and ideas to analyzing and evaluating the concepts and ideas.

“When opportunities have arisen to take a teaching assignment with a new course, he has always taken those opportunities. This has stretched him as a teacher, pushing him outside of his comfort zone and allowing him to find new ways to approach the course.

“Mark has been working in the Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT) for the past two years. In this assignment, he has shown many faculty members more ways to strengthen their own teaching and effectively reach our diverse students’ learning needs. Mark’s expertise in delivery, assessment, engagement, and treatment of students have been inspiring and instructive to all of the faculty involved in the CLT.

“Mark is a role model for all faculty to follow. He contributes in significant ways to improving learning and teaching on this campus.”

Faculty Award for Scholarship

Joel Reece

“Joel Reece has been an active scholar since he arrived at BYUH but in the past year, he has been especially productive. In 2018 he produced a variety of scholarly works including multiple peer-reviewed journal articles and abstracts as well as several national and international conference presentations. He has mentored 31 different BYUH students with independent research projects; several of which were accepted to present their research at international conferences.

“He also mentors a Ph.D. student in collaboration with colleagues from another university which is not very common among our faculty. He launched the Seasider Wellness Project through the support of the Exercise and Sports Science program. This is a creative work to improve the wellness of our BYUH ohana and it is projected to develop into scholarship opportunities in the future. He was a section editor for the International Journal of Exercise Science, a manuscript submission reviewer for the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

“Joel’s excellence in scholarship has come while successfully teaching a full load of courses and also engaging in university citizenship. We are not sure where he finds the time but we feel fortunate to have him as a colleague and member of the university ohana.”

Comments and reactions

Dr. Jennifer Lane, a professor in the Religion Department and the dean of the College of Human Development, was awarded for her exceptional work in citizenship. Lane explained her work at BYUH is closely tied to the community of both the university and Laie.

Lane said, “The sense of unity and shared mission between faculty and staff members is much stronger here than other places because we are all so interwoven in fulfilling the prophetic mission of BYUH as well as living and serving together in our local wards.”

As a faculty member, she has served in administrative positions, worked diligently to foster the intellectual and spiritual growth of her religion students and continue to develop her research interest.

Lane noted how working as a faculty member at BYUH, where there is a focus on Asia and the Pacific, has influenced her research. “My Ph.D. research focused on the role of the Franciscans in late medieval Jerusalem pilgrimage, but since coming here I have had a chance to write several papers for national and international medieval conferences that have explored the role of the Franciscans in their travels in the Mongol empire in the thirteenth century.

“I don’t think I would have ever explored these fascinating issues without being a faculty member here.”

Having an initial response as a surprise, Carol Peterson, administrative assistant of Arts and Letters, said she had received several texts and photos after receiving recognition for her award.

She said, “I was completely unaware of the award. However, I felt such gratitude for those I work with who lift me and make me better than I am. I am so grateful but so undeserving of this award.”

Peterson did not attend the appreciation dinner because she had the opportunity to go to her mission in Rome, Italy, to attend the temple open house for the newly completed Rome Italy Temple.

She said, “I love working at BYUH because of the wonderful faculty/staff/students that are committed to making this a great place to work and learn. The faculty, staff, and students often feel more like ohana than work associates. It’s easy to enjoy your workplace when so many people love and help you.”

Peterson expressed one of the perks of working at BYUH is the opportunity to take classes as well. “The faculty [are] so willing to share their knowledge and insights, and they do so in a way that makes each student feel the true joy and inspiration gained from learning and discovering something new. Thank you to all who make this a great place to learn and work.”

Honored and humbled by the award, Peterson shared, “This recognition award should not be mine but should include so many people on campus who give selflessly of their time and talents, not caring who receives the recognition. These people make me appear far more efficient and hardworking than I am. They are the backbone of this university. They are the ones who make everything run well and care for our students. I could not possibly do my job alone and cannot find words to adequately thank those to help me every day.”

When it comes to research and improving his classes, Mark Wolfersberger, an associate professor of TESOL, said he enjoys being pushed to deepen his discipline. He said, “I find that in order to be the best teacher that I can be, I must make time for research. This keeps me grounded in my field and helps me to maintain my expertise.  

“I have been particularly fortunate in that over the years. I have observed the classes of many different teachers across campus. There are a lot of wonderful teachers at BYUH. And my teaching has benefited immensely from the insights that I have gained from watching these teachers. I have seen more great teaching ideas than I can possibly implement in my own class in my lifetime. But I have tried.

“I believe that the teachers around me have been one of the greatest sources of improvement for my own teaching. If any teacher at BYUH is looking for new ways to teach, they are only one classroom away from some terrific ideas. Just look next door.”

Delighted to have come to the dinner, Joel Reece, assistant professor of Exercise and Sport Science, commented, “Those that put on the Ho’omaika’i always do a good job bringing everyone together. It is fun to have a date night in the middle of the week, eat good food, socialize with friends, be entertained, and be appreciated as an employee. I am grateful they put on this event every year.”

Reece said he loves working at BYUH because there is so much potential to grow.

“I learn more every semester about what BYU–Hawaii has to offer. We are in a very unique and exciting position. It is fun to celebrate accomplishments with friends and family."

Reece expressed his gratitude for the award and congratulations he received. However, he wanted to give credit to those who helped him receive this recognition as well. “Scholarship is rarely done solo. I just happen to be the common denominator among this scholarship. There are a lot of people in different social circles I worked with this past year that also deserves recognition.

“Our own BYUH students, Scott Davis, Chelsea Orduno, and Christopher Chandroo all had the ambition to take our research findings to the next level and present at international conferences.

“Colleagues from my past, now working at BYU, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Mississippi, and other places, are still willing to do research and publish with me. Also, I am forming new networks all the time from people I meet at conferences. New colleagues from UNLV, Montana State University, University of Hawaii, and other places have helped contribute to my scholarship this past year.

“Our most current endeavor, Seasider Wellness, is possible because of our growing team, Elder Vance Smith, Celeste Kaka, and the Exercise Science program. This award reflects the scholarship efforts of all these individuals coming together."

Reece explained some people might wonder, “What is scholarship?” He said, “I view scholarship as the demonstration of learning that takes place by executing an idea and/or answering a question.”


Date Published: 
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Last Edited: 
Wednesday, February 13, 2019