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Graduating senior says combination of spiritual and secular learning at BYUH provides a unique educational experience

Serena (left) holds a baby wearing green in one arm while holding a sign with Justin that says "Class of 2020" while Justin (right) holds his son with a leaf lei on. They're both wearing graduation caps and gowns and their son is wearing a cap.

From getting married and becoming a father to losing his father and graduating summa cum laude, Justin Ioane said BYU–Hawaii provided him with a meaningful academic experience. Ioane’s wife, Serena Dugar Ioane, described his time at BYUH as an amazing journey.

A house of faith and learning 

“I love that our school is under the Church Education System,” said Justin Ioane, a senior from Samoa majoring in accounting and marketing. He said the pairing of secular and gospel learning helped him understand important gospel principles, which enriched his studies at BYUH. “I thought secular and religious knowledge were separate things, but I learned all knowledge is part of eternal knowledge.”

Justin Ioane also learned the importance of utilizing all the resources available on campus, he said. “I received the scholarships in my departments several times, earned the trust of my professors and got mentored by some of them. This university is full of resources that can help students reach their potential.”

While studying at BYUH, Justin Ioane met his wife, who a April 2020 graduate from Mongolia. She said they attended the same ward, and he was assigned to be her home teacher.

“There is no other place on this earth we could meet except BYUH,” Justin Ioane said.

The couple married in 2017, he said, and together have two children. Justin Ioane said being a father of two while studying and working was hard, but it increased his capacity to study and work harder. “It may sound illogical, but after I had my first son, my grades got better. I became a better and [more] focused student after I became a dad. I know I will never be alone because I have two beautiful children and a supportive wife.”

Serena Ioane said, “Raising two children while both working and studying far from our families was tough. Yet, this journey was amazing because of his love and care. He prioritizes his family and does most of our chores. I am forever grateful to God for sending me such a great husband.”

Serena Ioane described her husband as a dedicated student and praised him for graduating with double majors with the highest academic recognition, summa cum laude. “I am very proud of him because I know his many nights of sleepless study paid off.”

As a full-time student, Justin Ioane also said he made time to serve as a temple worker. While doing so, Justin Ioane said he made an effort to learn the meanings and symbolism of temple worship. “Serving and learning temple symbolism enhanced my temple experience.”

Justin holding a brown sign saying "Class of 2020 quarantine," wearing wearing blue gloves and a mask and a graduation cap and gown with the beach in the background.

Heeding a parent’s counsel

Justin Ioane’s father passed away in April 2020. Due to border closures, he was unable to attend his funeral but watched it virtually, he said.

When preparing for college, Justin Ioane said his father encouraged him to work hard in school to qualify for the IWORK scholarship at BYUH. Ioane said, “He knew my family couldn’t afford my education, but if we do our part, Heavenly Father will provide.”

Serena Ioane said her husband remained strong and was always faithful to God despite his trials. “We truly see God’s hands in our lives and are grateful to Him forever for letting us be educated here at BYUH and for finding each other and having our children.”

Justin Ioane said his mother influenced his decision to major in accounting. As an accountant herself, his mother told him there would always be a demand for accountants in the job market. Through a field study for one of his classes, Ioane found marketing worked well with accounting, which led him to double major.

Justin Ioane minored in political science and business enterprise systems and is SAP (Systems, Applications & Products in Data Processing) certified. He said he is satisfied with his academic growth and grateful to gain knowledge in different fields.

James Watkins, a professor in the Faculty of Business & Government, said he appreciated his time working with Justin Ioane. Watkins said he has a “quiet competence” about him. “Justin is open to new ways of learning, as well as new topics and information. He has thrown himself into his studies.”

Watkins continued, “Justin is very good at dealing with heavy responsibilities and is improving himself and his performance all the time. He is not satisfied with his current performance and is always looking to improve.

“I believe he will be very successful at whatever he chooses to do and, more importantly, he will choose the right goals,” Watkins added. “Justin is an excellent example of the kind of graduate we strive to produce here at BYU–Hawaii.”

Ioane’s former manager at the Polynesian Cultural Center, Bobby Akoi, described him as a team player. “[Justin] got along with everyone. Our team trusted him because he trusted them.” Akoi said Ioane was an active listener who communicated his thoughts and ideas clearly and directly in a positive manner. “He absorbed, understood and considered ideas and different points of view without debating or arguing. He not only had the respect of his subordinates but also had the respect from upper management.”

Serena and Justin stand in black graduation caps and gowns standing in front of BYUH campus by the sign that says "Enter to learn go forth to serve" while wearing white and red with leis.

An instrument in God’s kingdom

After graduation, Justin Ioane said he plans to go back to Samoa to fulfill his IWORK promise and said he wants to be a successful businessman in the future. “I want to learn more about problems on my home island and provide innovative solutions to add value to our local economy.”

He expressed love for BYUH and Laie and said he would miss the people most.

“I will miss being around people who have similar aspirations and goals. I will miss my professors and great mentors here. They really care about their job and truly love their students.”

Justin Ioane advised current students to value their time at BYUH and to work hard. “Do your research and choose a major and minors that will be in demand in the foreseeable future. ... Do your best to attain all the necessary skills to be an instrument in God’s kingdom in the future.”

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