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Home Pueo People Exemplary student among graduates at UH West Oʻahu's first in-person commencement in...

Exemplary student among graduates at UH West Oʻahu’s first in-person commencement in two years


Emma Lake at her Mililani High School graduation three years ago. Lake, now a senior at UH West Oʻahu, will graduate on Saturday. Image courtesy of Emma Lake

Emma Lake’s time at the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu has been bookended by notable achievements — from receiving a Regents Scholarship as an incoming freshman to recently being selected as a fellow for a prestigious local non-profit arts organization as a senior.

And to top it all off, the Mililani resident — who is majoring in Creative Media with a concentration in Video Game Design and Development — will be receiving her degree within just three years of enrolling at UH West Oʻahu.

“Being able to graduate early is a pretty big achievement to me,” Lake said.

This fall 2021 semester, Lake is among more than 300 students who are candidates for graduation, about half of whom will be participating in modified, in-person ceremonies on Saturday, Dec. 11, on campus at UH West Oʻahu.

The fall 2021 commencement is UH West Oʻahu’s first in-person commencement since fall 2019. It features two ceremonies: The morning ceremony starts at 9 a.m. for Business Administration and Applied Science candidates. The afternoon ceremony begins at 1 p.m. for Creative Media, Cybersecurity, Education, Humanities, Natural Science, Public Administration, and Social Sciences candidates. Candidates are allowed two guests each. (The events are only open to students and guests who already registered.) All attendees must be fully vaccinated and wear face masks throughout the ceremony.

Additionally, a separate virtual commencement ceremony can be viewed following the ceremonies and features Chancellor Maenette Benham, UH President David Lassner, Faculty Senate Chair Edward Keaunui, ASUHWO President Gabriel Navalta, and Keynote Speaker Candy Suiso.

Lake will be among the students who will be participating in an in-person ceremony Saturday on campus.

“Emma is an embodiment of the modern/emerging student who is not your typical learner,” said Sharla Hanaoka,” Director of the Academy for Creative Media at UH West Oʻahu. “She is both creative and self-disciplined and has an incredible outlook towards the learning process and is a dream to have as a student.”

Exhibition fellow at Hawaiʻi Contemporary

“Her go-to attitude was recognized by Hawaiʻi Contemporary,” Hanaoka noted.

The non-profit arts organization, which is dedicated to connecting Hawaiʻi and the Pacific through contemporary art, selected Lake to be an exhibition fellow. The fellowship takes place over several months.

“I applied to Hawai’i Contemporary as part of my senior capstone, since I was looking into interactive art installations as part of my research, and saw this as an opportunity to gain experience about the ins and outs of art installation,” Lake said.

As a Creative Media major, Lake’s capstone project examines online participatory art, leveraging platforms like TikTok to create a multimedia interactive exhibition.

As an exhibition fellow with Hawaiʻi Contemporary, Lake is assisting the organization with exhibition logistics, programming, and communications. She will help create artist bios, dossiers, and presentations, and answer public emails in regards to the Hawaiʻi Triennial 2022, the organization’s signature event.

After graduation, Lake said she hopes to continue to work with Hawaiʻi Contemporary, as well as to look for more opportunities to work in other creative fields.

“I think that the opportunity presented to me through my Hawaiʻi Contemporary Fellowship has given me more of an idea of the sorts of working environments that exist and which ones I am interested in,” Lake said.

From Regents Scholar to grateful grad 

Two people standing on stage and wearing lei.
Lake with UH President David Lassner at a ceremony honoring Regents Scholars on July 19, 2018, at the UH Mānoa Campus Center Ballroom.

Lake enrolled at UH West Oʻahu in fall 2018 after graduating from Mililani High School. She was one of 20 high school students awarded a Regents Scholarship, which is given to students with a record of outstanding academic achievement and whose extracurricular achievements are shown to be remarkable.

An exemplary and dedicated student, Lake also enjoys listening to music, drawing, and playing video games, especially Pokémon and Animal Crossing.

Like many others, Lake’s experience as a student throughout the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a big obstacle.

“I had to fight against my own procrastination and forgetfulness and push myself to work on time and set reminders in order to get things done,” she said.

Lake persevered and is now looking forward to her upcoming graduation.

“Graduation means that I can move forward and chart the course of the next chapter of my life,” she said.

Lake encourages other UH West Oʻahu students and future graduates to “keep going,” and added, “Don’t forget to make friends and have fun!”

Lake continued, “I would like to thank the amazing teachers, advisors and faculty who worked hard to help me and all other West Oʻahu students these past few years. Without them, my journey would have been impossible.”

Woman looking at a birthday cake with lit candles.
Lake at a recent birthday celebration.

Images courtesy of UH Foundation and Emma Lake