Recognized as a caring professor and considerate member of the community by students and fellow faculty, Brent Yergensen said he loves BYU－Hawaii and considers it to be the “international station of Zion.” While he has been recently recovering from a facial nerve condition, Yergensen said he relies on the Lord to get him to become the best professor he can be.
Yergensen has worked as an associate professor of communication, media, and culture at BYUH since May 2018. He also works as the internship coordinator for the communication program. He teaches several courses including Media and Society, Media Writing, Organizational Communication, International Communication, and the Senior Seminar capstone course.
Yergensen said he has wanted to be a professor at BYUH for a long time. “I wanted to be here because of the international nature and population here. It is a diverse world that is the beautiful work of God. The growth of the kingdom of God has to do with the international strength of the Church members. I want to assist in growing that.”
One of his students Geena DeMaio, a senior from Illinois majoring in communications, said, “One thing that sets him apart from other professors is his care for his students. During his lectures, he pauses and collectively asks how well his class understands the lesson and if the pace of the class is too fast or too slow.”
His biggest obstacle has been his battle with a facial nerve condition - trigeminal neuralgia. Yergensen stated, “It is one of the key chapters of my life. I lost 90 pounds because of it. Happily, a surgery I had last month seems to be helping a lot. Now, I’m experiencing great joy as I feel the surgery is doing the trick.”
From this experience, he said he has learned the importance of prayer. “I’ve been desperate beyond explanation. The book of Job and Elder Hugh B. Brown’s biography were keys as I have dealt with it.”
Yergensen explained, “Elder Hugh B. Brown had this same condition. I feel a kinship with him as a result, and I have three copies of his biographies in my office.”
Yergensen’s hobby is journaling. “I love writing. I have a strong interest in making sure things are recorded. Most days I end up recording things in one of my numerous journals. I have a journal for funny or memorable things that my kids say and do. I have another journal for priesthood blessings that I serve as a voice. I also have a basic journal for my life’s history.
“Finally, I have my prayer and personal revelation journal. Any promptings or experiences where the Holy Ghost gives me direction are recorded in this journal.” Also, he likes to watch college football and NBA basketball.
Yergensen said one of the hardest challenges he’s encountered with teaching at BYUH is knowing how to communicate his ideas to learners of different backgrounds and languages. He explained, “It is different than other places because of how one-dimensional the background and students were at the other places I taught. BYUH is a much more interesting and meaningful challenge in numerous ways. I change my approach to teaching continually. The Lord will help me get there.”
His student, Diandra Mongan, a senior from Indonesia majoring in communications, said, “Even though he is struggling with health issues, he puts lots of effort into his teaching. He is a very approachable and simple person.”
Advice to students
Yergensen advised to BYUH students, “Know that your grades probably aren’t as important as you might think in most cases. Your professors’ recommendation letters are more important than your GPA, generally. Therefore, focus on being a good contributor in class and in respecting your professors. Also, take the idea of going to graduate school very seriously. I don’t think a bachelor’s degree makes people competitive enough when it comes to obtaining high-level positions.”
He also counseled, “Be very careful what you say and how you say it at work or class. As your family and friends forgive you for mishaps, your employer and coworkers will not. They will set aside mishaps and still work with you, but you’ve probably lost your chances at promotions and trust.” He said his [proverb] is, you will be hired or fired, promoted or demoted, trusted or distrusted, and loved or dumped based on the communicative decisions you make.
He said he wants to obtain the rank of full professor at BYUH, succeed as a teacher, and help students in many other ways. Yergensen said, “We decided to raise our children here in Hawaii because this is the international station of Zion.”
His colleague Mason Allred, a communication professor, said, “Brent is a very kind and generous colleague. He is always willing to share his ideas and work to help lighten others’ load. He is also very funny and very easy to get along with. It’s great having him here in the Communication, Media and Culture Program.
“Also, Brent is my neighbor at both work and home. In both cases, he is fantastic. I know he is always willing to help when I have questions or need a favor. I have also seen this play out with his students who often call on him for help and find the guidance they need.”
Yergensen got his doctorate in communication from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, his master’s in communication at Eastern Illinois University, and a bachelor’s in communication at Idaho State University. He also got the certification in Executive Leadership from Cornell University.
Previously, he was an Associate Dean at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah. While there, he shared how he had an unusual experience of entering academic administration rather early in his career. Yergensen said, “In 2011, I was only an assistant professor for 10 months at the time and was appointed to be the Department Chair of the Communication and Media programs. I went from teaching my own courses to immediately taking on the role of supervising 400 students, 12 staff members, 12 professors, and 15 part-time instructors.
“I learned quickly the politics and motivations of various competing camps in academia. I saw this opportunity as a major blessing.”
After four years, his department split in two, and he was voted in to serve as the first Associate Dean of Communication and Media. He also served on the Academic Council for the university, then worked as the university’s Curriculum Committee Chair.
He has been married to Celeste Yergensen for 18 years. She is majoring in communications with a minor in psychology at BYUH. They have six children. Brent Yergensen served his mission in the Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission from 1998 to 2000.