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UH West Oʻahu first-year students welcomed at Lā Pūnua event


UH West Oʻahu first-year students welcomed at Lā Pūnua event

Image courtesy of UHWO Staff

Wai‘anae resident Franchelle Gudoy, 18, paused at an informational table set up at the University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu Campus Center because she was interested in learning more about UH West O‘ahu’s student newspaper, The Hoot.

The table was one of several the recent Wai‘anae High School graduate visited for details about the various campus-life opportunities at UH West O‘ahu.

“It’s very good for branching out — learning about different clubs and organizations that you can join here,” said Gudoy, an incoming freshman this fall at UH West O‘ahu who plans to major in Business Administration.

Gudoy was among about 150 students who attended Lā Pūnua, an orientation event held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 4 at UH West O‘ahu. Before fall classes begin on Aug. 21, Lā Pūnua allows first-year, first-time students to learn more about the services, programs, and people committed to supporting their journey towards graduation.

“This event is important because we‘ve learned that during the pandemic, students were missing the ‘relationship building’ and ‘campus connection’ pieces of their college experience,” said Joseph Mareko, UH West O‘ahu College Success Advisor. “Students are going to meet more than their classmates. They’re going to meet faculty, staff, clubs, organizations, and hopefully lifelong friends.”

The Lā Pūnua program began with students learning and singing “Mele Honouliuli,” followed by a welcome by UH West O‘ahu Chancellor Maenette Benham.

“My suggestion to you to be successful here at UH West O‘ahu is just to open your mind, be available, be fluid, and just soak it all in,” Benham told the students in attendance. … “This campus and these people, just embrace them. They will take you on a wondrous adventure.”

Benham added, “And if you need anything, remember, today’s your day to be oriented — take advantage of it, learn everything you possibly can. To be successful, absolutely, make friends. Make a lot of friends.”

Building friendships was just what John Taasan did. The recent graduate of Leilehua High School said he enjoyed getting to know and becoming closer to some of his peers during the orientation event.

“I like this campus because everyone seems super friendly,” said the ‘Ewa Beach resident, 18. Taasan plans to major in Creative Media with a concentration in Video Game Design and Development this fall.

The Lā Pūnua program included three workshops that all participants attended, lunch, a Pueo Pā‘ina where students participated in fun activities and met different UH West O‘ahu clubs and resources, a mentor-mentee hui, a class photo, and free boba for all participants. The featured workshops were the following:

  • “Meet Your Match” with various UH West O‘ahu faculty and staff. Students met and talked story with faculty and staff to know them beyond their title. Through this, participants were able to “meet a match” who could help guide them through their educational journey, and build pilina (relationships) with a familiar face on campus.
  • “Career Activity” with Dr. Loea Akiona, UH West O‘ahu Career Services coordinator. The workshop helped participants understand how important it is to align their lifestyle interests with their degree and career goals.
  • “Pūnua Pass” with PUEO (Peer Undergraduate Engagement and Orientation) Mentors. Students learned firsthand from their PUEO Mentors about various ways to be successful in their first year in college. Various topics covered academic, social, and interpersonal skills for success.

Of the sessions offered, Yuri Luczon, 18, of Kalihi, especially liked “Meet Your Match” and getting to know some of UH West O‘ahu’s faculty.

“Just in case you need help, you know who they are,” said the recent Farrington High School graduate. Luczon plans to major in General Creative Media.

Lā Pūnua is part three of First-Year Student Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR). At UH West O‘ahu, welcoming first-year, first-time students to campus involves three parts: an online ‘ike session covering registration and academic requirements, po‘okela sessions offering the opportunity to meet key individuals who will contribute to their first-year experience and their college success, and finally, Lā Pūnua.

First-year, first-time students are strongly encouraged to participate in all three events prior to their first day of class.

Gudoy reflected on the day’s offerings and emphasized how much she found Lā Pūnua to be helpful for her.

“I like how we got to learn a lot about resources that are available to the students and that we got to meet with advisors and people who could actually help us on our journey with college,” Gudoy said, “and then also interacting with our peers and other students who are also going through the same things as us.”

Thanks to Lā Pūnua, Gudoy said she feels prepared for the upcoming fall semester.

“Yeah, I feel ready just because I feel more connected with the campus, the community, and the people here — so I feel more confident,” she said.