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Faculty and student who participated in 2020 census ads invite BYU–Hawaii ohana to do their part

Hiagi Wesley stands in front of the mural at the David O. McKay Building.

An associate professor and a BYU–Hawaii junior participated in the 2020 census ads, and they encouraged BYUH faculty and students to take a few minutes to complete the census. A special instructor at BYUH also stressed the benefits of census records in family history research.

Hiagi M. Wesley, an associate professor in the Faculty of Culture, Language & Performing Arts, was referred to an advertising agency by his friend and became a participant of the United States 2020 Census advertisement.

“I was told that the agency was looking for someone from the Pacific with a ‘trusted voice’ to do the ad. Although the 2020 Census wanted everyone to complete it, the focus of the ad was towards the people of Hawaii and the Pacific, so I was invited to participate,” Wesley said.

In the ad, Wesley stood in front of the David O. McKay Building, an area he suggested to the agency.

The United States Census takes place every 10 years and is designed to count every single person living in the 50 American states and five U.S. territories, according to

A family stands in front of their home for a 2020 census ad.

Wesley said he believes it is important to count everyone in the country, including their appropriate ethnicity. “Pacific people have been misrepresented in the past by having them classified under ‘Asian/Pacific.’ When federal funds were distributed, the Pacific Americans were left out.”

Suzanne Bowen, an adjunct faculty in the Faculty of Religious Education, said, “Census records are very useful in family history. Census records can help you see where a family has lived or if they moved around. They also help in finding out if a child in the family has died.

“[The census] is also helpful in finding out who else may have lived with the family, like a mother-in-law or father-in-law. This information can help you add extra people to your family tree that you did not have before.”

According to Wesley, “Even in areas related to academic achievement and dis-aggregated data, Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in America were lumped with the Asian Americans who are excelling in education. This impacted the funding as well as its distribution,” he added.

This year’s census is very specific, asking for Pacific Islander’s ethnicity, such as Tongan/Samoan, Fijian/Chamorro/Other [for other islands in the Pacific.] Wesley expressed hope the 2020 Census would accurately count the number of Pacific Americans.

Bowen also shared, “In the 1800s and early 1900s when people immigrated to the United States, families sometimes lived in the same building. If you look at one page before and one page after the family of origin, you might see parents or other families listed. The census is like a blueprint that can track families from one place to the next. It can also tell you if the family stayed in one place for a long time.”

Wesley shared, “I hope Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders will complete the 2020 Census to give accurate numbers in the United States, as well as benefit from federal funding.” Wesley invited the extended BYUH ohana to complete the census, saying, “Everyone is required by law to complete it. It will only take a few minutes to complete.

“Foreign students living and attending school in the United States should be counted at the on or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time,” according to the 2020 Census website.

Meagan Crowell, a junior from Laie majoring in English, was in a census ad with her husband and four children. She said her sister-in-law invited them to participate in the census ad. “The commercial agent was searching for a local Tongan family with children to represent the Tongan community. The agent’s representatives thought we were a great fit.”

Like Wesley, Crowell said participating in the census is important because it gives an accurate account of the population, which leads the state to receive more funding and resources for all the communities.

“If you don’t apply for the census, which is just a quick survey, then you and your family don’t get counted as part of the community. Then, the amount of state funding will be inaccurate. Federal funding for the state covers many expenses for schools, roads, medical centers, housing and many more,” she added.

To provide information for the census, visit Participants can respond online, by phone or by mail.

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