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Koau Eni: It is me. I am here. I am ready.

The theme of this year’s Kaha Nui Summit was the phrase, koau eni, a common response in the Tongan language and culture when called upon. Translated to English, koau eni means, “It is me. I am here. I am ready.” By encouraging BYU’s Polynesian undergraduate students to achieve graduate-level education, the Kaha Nui Summit hopes that all attendees can respond to any call to action by saying, “koau eni.”

Students at booth visits
Photo Credit: McKay Creative

The summit, held on September 19, was sponsored by several departments and colleges across BYU campus, including the David O. McKay School of Education and organized by G. E. Kawika Allen, PhD, assistant professor in the department of Counseling Psychology and Special Education. 

For the first hour of the event, attendees were able to visit booths that were set up on the patio behind the Hinckley Center and learn about various BYU graduate programs. The BYU graduate programs represented at the summit included social work, neuroscience, business administration, nursing, exercise science, biology, marriage and family therapy, teacher education, law, counseling psychology and special education, and more.

During these booth visits, attendees were able to gain valuable information and make important connections with recruiters. Judy Cook, the graduate student manager in BYU’s Neuroscience Center, said, “The idea behind this is that we are here to help students make life-changing decisions.”

Logan Gillette, admissions and recruitment administrator for graduate studies at BYU, said he wanted the students in attendance to “realize the potential that [they] have and the opportunities that are here at BYU.” Gillette hopes that the Kaha Nui Summit will help BYU’s Polynesian students reach their full potential by providing them with information, helping them build connections, and inspiring them to be their best.

Students enjoying dinner and conversation
Photo Credit: McKay Creative

After the booth visits concluded, the attendees were ushered into the Hinckley Center for dinner. Not only did this dinner allow for the students in attendance to become better acquainted with their Polynesian peers, it also gave these students the opportunity to form personal connections with professors and other graduate school representatives at their table. By facilitating these connections, the Kaha Nui Summit helped transform what could have been a simple dinner into a meaningful opportunity for growth.

Once the dessert plates were cleared away, the keynote speaker, Melba Latu, JD, dean of students at BYU–Hawaii, began her address. She focused on how graduate education will help students respond to every call to action by saying “koau eni.” Latu said she strongly believes “your education is not your own. Your education belongs to your community and to your mission.”

“How you start is not how you are supposed to end,” said Latu as she encouraged attendees to use graduate studies as an opportunity to improve themselves and those around them. “Never curse any step of your journey because it is contouring you into the person that you need to be. Every step of your journey is inspired. Claim it, own it, and be proud of it.”

Dean Latu speaking to attendees
Photo Credit: McKay Creative

Dean Latu also encouraged the attendees to play to their strengths, such as the innate Polynesian ability to build friendships and bring people together.

At the conclusion of her keynote address, Latu had the following words of encouragement: “Right now, your people, your God, your community, your family, they’re going to ask you to lead, they’re going to ask you to fill vacancies, they’re going to ask you to represent. It is your education that will put you in the place and will make you the people that you need to be. When that call comes, you will be able to say, ‘koau eni.’”

Writer: Cole Witbeck

Contact: Cindy Glad (801) 422-1922