1. Where are you from?
Waiʻanae, O’ahu, Hawai’i and Kearns, Utah
2. What and where have you studied?
Bachelor’s degree in speech communication at University of Utah.
Master’s degree in counseling at University of Utah.
Doctorate degree in counseling psychology at University of Missouri.
Pre-doctoral psychology clinical internship at Duke University.
3. Where have you previously worked?
I am also currently, since 2019, an adjunct professor of behavioral science at Roseman University of Health Sciences.
I previously worked as an assistant professor in the Psychology Department at Southern Utah University for 2 years, 2011-2013.
I arrived at BYU in 2013 and still love it today!
4. What is your current job title? Please describe what you do in that position.
I am an associate professor in the PhD Counseling Psychology program in the Counseling Psychology and Special Education Department. I teach mostly doctoral students of counseling psychology, which consists of the following graduate classes: Ethical and Legal Standards in Psychology, Advanced Career Counseling, Counseling Multicultural and Diverse Populations, Introduction to Research Methods, and Group Counseling.
I also advise master’s and doctoral students with their theses and dissertation research projects. They also do research with me on my research team/lab called the Polynesian Psychology Education Research Team (The Poly Psi Team) in the McKay School of Education.
My research areas involve spiritual, cultural, and indigenous ways of healing in psychotherapy, including culturally appropriate psychotherapies and interventions for underserved populations. I also conduct research related to religiosity, perfectionism, scrupulosity, and psychological well-being among various diverse populations. I have focused much of my research on culture-specific counseling interventions and the intersections of religiosity/spirituality, coping/collectivistic coping, depression, anxiety, and psychological well-being/adjustment among Polynesians/Pasifika/Polynesian Americans.
5. Why did you choose to work at BYU?
To be honest, I didn’t really have interest in coming to BYU. In a way, BYU chose me. I mean that in a very humble way, I promise. While I was at SUU, some professors from the CPSE department reached out to me and encouraged me to apply to a faculty position in the doctoral program of counseling psychology. I felt very honored and humbled when I received a phone call from these colleagues. Frankly, I always admired BYU, their aims and mission, and excellence in education. I never really felt like I was a good fit for BYU. However, since starting my job to now, I have felt the Lord’s hand guiding me to this very consecrated academic institution. I have come to realize deep down inside that this was actually the place I always wanted to be, but just didn’t know it until I came here. I feel like I belong and am part of a greater, eternal purpose which is to bring my students closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ through my teaching and research in my field and through the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a dang, good gig! I am so grateful that BYU chose me and I chose BYU. I am grateful for all my colleagues and for those who mentored me along the way. I am thankful for my outstanding students who are constantly inspiring me to reach my highest potential in our work together.
6. What is your favorite thing about the McKay School?
My two favorite things about the McKay School are the beautiful people (faculty, staff, and students) I get to work with and the support I receive from them to do my job the best I can. I couldn’t ask for a better place to work.
7. Growing up, what teacher inspired you the most? How?
This one is difficult. I have two teachers who inspired me. The first is my father who was also an educator. He actually graduated from the McKay School of Education in teacher education here at BYU in 1956. Throughout my youth, he always encouraged and inspired me to further my education, specifically learning from the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The majority of the books you see in the family photo were my dad’s. The second teacher that most inspired me growing up was my 6th grade teacher. He was so supportive when I was experiencing challenges in my learning. He took time to work with me, to get to know me, who I was, what my interests and struggles were, emotionally supported me when I needed it, and laughed with me when I felt happy at school. He was truly an amazing teacher but most importantly a great friend.
8. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
My greatest accomplishment is actually the day I received my doctorate degree considering where and how I was raised in Wai’anae, O’ahu, Hawai’i and Kearns, Utah. Let’s just say that there weren’t too many PhDs (or any doctors for that matter) in these two locations, not to mention my learning difficulties during my grade school years. The fact that I received a PhD and am an associate professor in a PhD Program of counseling psychology at BYU is nothing short of a miracle and an amazing success story. I am very honored and grateful. I am grateful for the collective effort of so many who have mentored me and helped me to get to this point. This has happened because of those that came before me, my ancestors, family, and mentors. Their belief in me, constant encouragement, and guidance made all the difference. They are a large part of this success story. It truly is an improbable story of a boy born in Honolulu, raised in both Wai’anae, O’ahu, Hawai’i and Kearns (K-Town!), Utah, with significant academic and learning challenges and transitional difficulties throughout grade school. Again let me reiterate, this is nothing short of a miracle and truly an unlikely success story of someone who wasn’t supposed to make it, or fathom making it this far. Mahalo nui loa!
9. What do you regret not starting or doing when you were younger?
I wish I had started taking my educational pursuits a little more seriously when I was younger.
10. What was the first career you dreamed of having as a kid?
Actually, where I was raised, desired careers weren’t really discussed or explored as a possibility or a likelihood when I was younger. There just wasn’t really vision or outlook regarding higher education or a traditionally educated professional for anything beyond high school. I really didn’t think about it until right after high school.
11. Best Halloween costume you have had?
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
12. What stat for your life would you most like to see?
Most unanticipated, surprising achievements.
13. What’s the most exciting thing you’ll do in 2024?
Secure a Fulbright Specialist Program in Salvador, Bahia, where I served my mission.
14. What would you rate 10/10?
Makaha Beach where I grew up, or the view of the majestic mountains near my house.
15. What are you most likely to become famous for?
16. Do you collect anything?
Ancient artifacts of ancestors and the South Pacific.
17. If your entire life was a movie, what would the title be?
The life of an unexpected miracle and success story.
18. If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A delicious, tender, medium well, very buttered top sirloin steak!
19. What is your go-to weeknight meal?
20. What weird food combinations do you really enjoy?
Peanut butter, honey, and rice, or banana with spaghetti, or peanut butter with tomatoes on bread.
21. Where could we find you on most Saturday mornings?
With family members outdoors anywhere, exercising, or playing a sport.
22. Where is your favorite place to go on vacation?
Hawai’i, but I guess that’s not really a vacation since it’s going back home.
23. Would you rather spend a night out on the town or stay home inside with a book?
Depends on if it’s my anniversary or just a typical weekend evening. A night on the town for my anniversary! And you know the other!
24. Your house is on fire, you have 3 minutes to grab 3 things. What are they?
My wife and kids, journals, family heirlooms, artifacts that cannot be duplicated
25. Who would you like to swap places with for a day?
An astronaut in space or Kelly Slater, the GOAT former professional surfer.
26. What is one thing you can’t live without?
27. What movie quotes do you use on a regular basis?
Field of Dreams or Nacho Libre