Pizza with Professional Fall 2018 Recap

Our final event of the semester sparked great conversion with out panel of professionals!

Puna spoke first, sharing about his personal struggle with finishing school. After his first year at in school he took a 10 year break! One student asked how that long break affected his focus when returning to which Puna replied, “I was finally ready to engage,” which is what made all the difference the second time around. What made such a big difference was asking for help, not just from professors, but from campus resources too. Going out into the world to work for an extended period of time also helped Puna decide what he wanted to study and pursue beyond college. Puna recommends that students diversify themselves in order to discover what they are passionate about. Volunteering part-time could be the first step for so many career options.

Taysia, a very recent UHM graduate, thought she would be working a 9-to-5 job straight out of college, but instead has continued with her passion for entrepreneurship. Currently working “anywhere there is WiFi” as a hair consultant, she has been able to break the mold of the traditional work to school path. During her time at UHM Manoa, Taysia spent her free time starting her own small business. She said it was her will to be her own boss someday that pushed her to follow through with research and ultimately logistics for her online store. Taysia, like Puna, stressed the utilization of on campus resources. Experience is essential when entering the work force and taking any opportunity to learn outside the classroom or apply what you have leaned will ultimately help you succeed post-college.

Pizza with Professionals Fall 2018

We look forward to hosting our final event of the semester!

MSE is delighted to have the following guest speakers:

Puna Sabagala

Puna Sabagala was raised on the Leeward coastline of O’ahu in the moku of Wai’anae.  He graduated from Kamehameha schools in 1998.  At the University of Hawaiʽi, he was a first-generation/non-traditional student that earned his BA in Art Studio/Photography and then went on to earn his Master of Public Health degree specializing in Epidemiology. His experiences as a first-generation/non-traditional student was the driving force behind his interest in helping other students reach their full potential. As an undergrad and grad student, he worked as a Mānoa Peer Advisor for four and a half semesters.  Currently, he works for two projects in the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work.  He serves as the Project Manager for the Impacts of Social Proximity to Bias Crime Among COFA-migrants in Hawaiʽi project.  And is also the Project Assistant for the Hawaiʽi Child Welfare Education Collaboration (HCWEC).

Taysia Gomes

Pizza with Professionals Spring 2018!

Our final event of the semester.

We will be featuring a panelist of UHM Alumni who have entered the professional sector. They will be sharing advice on how to shape the career you want!

Our panelists:

Lana Barrett

I graduated from Shidler College of Business with a Bachelors degree in MIS and Marketing. I completed an Honors Senior Thesis with a focus in Marketing through the Honors Program at UH Manoa. After graduating, I worked at UH for Sodexo (Manoa Dining Services) for 2 years and currently work at the Girl Scouts of Hawaii as the Product Marketing Coordinator for the Girl Scout Cookie Program.

Derek Wong

After obtaining my Bachelor of Science in Biology, I worked for a few years as an academic advisor for the Department of Biology, formerly known as the Biology Program.  Wanting to work in healthcare administration, I enrolled in UHM’s MPH and the MBA graduate programs where I learned program assessment and evaluation, social change theories, and bio-statistics.  As a graduate student, I gained experience in project management, working with groups, and research design while working at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research.  Currently, I  manage the Central Billing Office at the University Health Partners, which supports the clinical, educational, research, and community service activities of the University of Hawaii Health sciences – including the John A Burns School of Medicine, and the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene.

Aubrey Thomas

While attending UH Manoa for a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Political Science, I was a: Resident Assistant (Sophomore year), an intern at Senator Mazie Hirono’s D.C. Office (Junior year), an intern at the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (Junior year), as well as a TA for Sociology 100 (Senior year). I worked as a Staff Assistant in Senator Hirono’s Honolulu Office after graduating in the Spring of 2016. I worked there for about a year before starting my current role as a Fund Development Coordinator for Girl Scouts of Hawaii in which I handle fundraising and grant management.

Pizza with Professionals Fall 2017 Recap

Thank you for coming out to our Pizza with Professionals event!

Here is a little recap of our speaker’s stories.

Kapiʻolani Ching

Though she has found success in her current professional path, Kapiʻolani was interested in a lot during her early years in college, not sure of the direction she wanted to pursue. By taking exploratory courses, like journalism, she finally found something that struck her interest. Kapiʻolani also held two part time jobs on campus, which helped her find a mentor. Through her mentor, she decided to pursue a career in communications and with hopes of becoming a public information officer. Kapiʻolani stresses the importance of finding a career path you enjoy, but also utilizes your skill set.

Christopher Chow

Christopher graduated from UH Manoa with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. Though the expectations was a career in medicine, He has made the transition to finance in the last 4 years. This may seem like a strange transition however, Christopher credits his exploratory courses and involvement on campus for encouraging his open mindedness. The classes that were not specifically for Biology created learning opportunities for Christopher, helping highlight the importance of making room for classes that interest you whether they are major specific or not. Christopher leaves us with some advice, “Be open to lifelong learning. Education can be concrete, but you have to ebb and flow with life.”


Kathleen Merriam

Kathleen first earned her Psychology degree at the University of Washington with a minor in Sociology because she was interested in the way people work together. Post college, Kathleen lived in New York. After the daunting move from New York to Hawaii, she pursued her Master’s degree at UH Manoa in order to gain the cultural experience of learning in Hawaii. Kathleen discovered she wanted to help improve the Hawaii mental health services, gaining experience through internships. She says that her time as an intern allowed her the opportunity to learn where her strengths were. Though some of her experience was through volunteerism, Kathleen encourages students to ask for certificates to show future employers how time in place of internships was spent. Volunteering was a way for Kathleen to work beyond her comfort zone and learn from those around her.


Be sure to keep an eye out for Mānoa Sophomore Experience events in Spring 2018!

Pizza with Professionals Fall 2017

Our final event this semester is Pizza with Professionals!

Join MSE as we welcome the following UH Mānoa Alumni:


Kathleen Rhoads Merriam

LSW Hawaii Adult Mental Health Division, Department of Health Program Support Services

Kathleen Rhoads Merriam graduated from University of Hawaii’s Myron B. Thompson’s School of Social Work in 2012. She earned her Master’s degree in social work and obtained her license in 2016. She has worked in the mental health field for 33 years and is very thankful for her time at the University of Hawaii. Kathleen works for the Adult Mental Health Division (AMHD) within the Department of Health and oversees Case Management services for adults with serious mental illness. Kathleen is a Past President of the Rotary Club of Metropolitan Honolulu and an Advisor for National Alliance for Mental Illness Hawaii.

Christopher Chow

Financial Representative Wealth Strategy Partners | WestPac Wealth Partners

Christopher Chow is a doctor of people’s financial health. Born and raised in Honolulu, Chris graduated from Punahou School in 2005 and obtained his Bachelors of Science in Biology at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in 2009. He pursued his medical doctorate at Loma Linda University in Southern California before making a professional transition to finances in 2014. Chris is very much involved in the community. He is a proud member of the National Association of Insurance and Finance Advisers, a board member of the Punahou Alumni Association, and an ordained leader of the Central Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Aside from his professional life, Chris likes to talk with his fiancé Erica, a resident physician in California, travel to new cities, and try new places to eat at.


Kapiʻolani Ching

Alumni Relations Communications Coordinator

Kapi‘olani Ching is a graduate of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s School of Communications where she received both her BA (2014) and MA (2016) in communications. She currently works for the University of Hawai‘i Foundation as Alumni Relations Communications Coordinator, where she helps provide alumni relations programming and communications to all alumni and friends of the 10 campuses of the University of Hawai‘i System. Originally from Kaua‘i, most of Kapi‘olani’s current work involves producing and implementing communication and marketing strategies to build UH’s alumni relations program.

Recap: Pizza with Professionals Spring 2017

We had a blast snacking on pizza and meeting alumni from UHM who are out in the working world!


Jordan Fahmie, an Engineer with AECOM, discussed the truth behind entering the work force post-college. He wants students to keep in mind that they may struggle a little bit coming out of college, but as long as they work hard and remain willing to learn from their experiences they will get where they desire to be. With this in mind think about where you are headed after UHM. What kind of jobs do you want? Fahmie encourages students to take any and every opportunity to shadow professionals and intern to gain a sense of the kind of work environment you will be comfortable with. Fahmie says “Don’t lose sight of what makes you happy.”


Jeanna Chi, a first generation college graduate, found success in being highly involved on campus at UHM. In her undergrad she was a Manoa Peer Advisor, Jeanna says that surrounding herself with the supportive group of people in the Manoa Advising Center really encouraged her to strive for graduation and ultimately academic excellence. Post-college, Jeanna landed an internship at Nordstrom where she excelled, but found herself confused on the career path she was currently on. To Jeanna, this was a learning opportunity. Working outside of your intended career can actually help you decide what is the best fit for you in a job or career. Jenna adds, “always network,” even if it is with those who may not line up with your career goals. If you look towards your managers for support, great opportunities can arise from putting the effort to do well in something you are unsure about.


Christopher Nguyen acquired a B.S. in Microbiology and became a Financial Advisor / Managing Director  for Ka Financial Advisors. While he admits that his current career is not what he imagined for himself, what microbiology demanded from him as a student shaped him into the working individual he is today. Nguyen knows that collaborative work is tough on college students, however, he encourages group work as a way to build skills for the working world. One piece of advice Nguyen would like to stress to students, “Always keep learning… more knowledge, you’re more employable!”

Pizza With Professionals Spring 2017

Our panelists:

Jeanna Chi

Jeanna graduated with her B.A. magna cum laude in Psychology with honors from UH Manoa. She was a first generation college student, student leader, researcher, and peer advisor. Jeanna’s undergrad experiences as a student leader and love of fashion led her to pursue a Retail Management Internship at Nordstrom. During her internship, Jeanna became top salesperson in her department selling over $2,000 of merchandise per day while learning what it takes to manage a business. After graduating from her internship, Jeanna was recruited to open the new Nordstrom Rack in Waikiki where she became a salesperson in Shoes and Mens. Since store opening in September 2016, Jeanna has become a store leader in rewards by single handedly signing up over 300 customers for the Nordstrom rewards program. Most recently, Jeanna received a full ride graduate teaching assistantship to earn her M.A. in Communicology at UH Manoa where she will also be a Peer Advisor Leader.

Jordan Fahmie

Jordan Fahmie is a civil engineer with AECOM, a global engineering and technology firm. Jordan started with AECOM in 2010 after graduating from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a degree in Civil Engineering. Most of Jordan’s work involves the planning and design of municipal wastewater treatment facilities on Oahu.

Christopher Nguyen

Chris graduated from UH Mānoa where he majored in microbiology and minored in Japanese. He was born and raised on Oahu and attended McKinley High School. Previous work history includes Business Development Manager at Woodmen Financial Services, Inc., President of Woodmen Non-profit Chapter (the company’s non-profit arm), and Financial Advisor / Managing Director – Ka Financial Advisors. In his current position, he provides holistic advice to individuals and households regarding personal finance issues, financial management, investing, taxes, estate planning and just overall living a better life.

Thank you to our panelists!

Pizza with Professionals Fall 2016


Clarence Bermajo
Clarence Bermejo was Born in the Philippines and moved to Hawaii when he was one. He is a proud Waipahu High School graduate. Received his Medical Technology degree from University of Hawaii at Manoa and his Masters in Public Health from George Washington University. Been in the medical field for roughly 10 years going; 5 years as a certified nurses’ aide and 5 years as a medical technologist. Currently Clarence is the Medical Technology Supervisor at Castle Medical Center.

-You want to know what kind of person you want to portray yourself as!
-Learn how to study! Learn how to learn!
-It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. START MAKING CONNECTIONS.
-Do not be a consumer of society, be a contributor!

Sarah Pitts
I graduated in 2006 from UHM, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.
During the summer of 2006, I interned at Spirent Communications, then started my long-term career as an engineer at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard (PHNS) in the Nuclear Test Engineering Division.
The program that I was hired into had a rigorous training program where I became a fully qualified Shift Test Engineer (STE) after two years of employment.  From there I worked as an STE for a little over two years, then transferred to the technical writing branch within the same division.  I was assigned as lead for a first-time job at PHNS and saw it through successfully.  I stayed in the technical branch for about 3 years before taking a position as Branch Head of the Administrative Branch within the Nuclear Test Engineering Division where I oversee divisional workload vs. resources, metrics, self-assessments, staffing and hiring support, and any other additional administrative duties assigned that support the execution of work required of the division.

-Take a conflict resolution course!
-Be open to flexibility: things in life; things at work. Adjust to what life throws at you
-Humility! We all start with no experience and continually build our way up. Be okay with starting small!

Chris Chow

-What you put into college is what u get out of it. Get involved!
-You’ll find that when you get involved and try things you haven’t tried, you meet a lot of people that you wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Mahalo to our Panelists!

Pizza with Professionals Spring 2016

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Everett Ohta

Everett was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.  He attended UH Mānoa for his undergraduate studies, graduating with a B.S. in Global Environmental Science and a B.A. in Economics.  Four days after submitting his GES undergraduate thesis, Everett began orientation at the William S. Richardson School of Law at UH Mānoa, later earning his J.D., with a Certificate in Environmental Law.  After serving as a law clerk following graduation, Everett now works as the Lead Compliance Specialist at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, where he conducts advocacy work to protect the rights and practices of Native Hawaiians, as well as Hawaiʻi’s natural and cultural environment.  As money and scheduling allow, Everett loves to travel.  One of his favorite trips was a three-week barbecue road trip through the Mid-West and Southern U.S. that he and his wife took shortly after completing the Hawaiʻi bar exam.

– Understand yourself! Keep trying to develop as a person.
– Take advantages of opportunities that you have. Balance school, work, and social life while still keeping your eyes on your prize.
– Make sure you have a good foundation of experiences to draw on.


Blaine Namahana Tolentino

Blaine Namahana Tolentino grew up in Kailua on the east side of Oʻahu. She works at the University of Hawaiʻi Press and graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 2009 with a Bachelor’s in English. Blaine has worked as a writer for many publications in Hawaiʻi, including Flux, Mana, and Lei. Committed to the production and preservation of both scholarly and regional knowledge in Hawaiʻi, Blaine has worked as a Hawaiian cultural consultant, communications manager, bookseller, and legislative aid for the Hawaiʻi State Senate.

– Pursue your goals! You’ll have so many strange opportunities that will present itself without your intention. Realizing them and observing how it effects you positively or negatively is important.


Jenny Tanaka

Jenny Tanaka is a native to Hawaii, born and raised in Kailua, O’ahu, which is where she still resides with her husband and two children. She graduated from University Lab School, then followed her passion in the field of education. Jenny received her undergraduate degree in Elementary and Special Education from UH Manoa. Then pursued and achieved a Masters degree in Educational Technology from UH Manoa, College of Education. She currently works at Hawaii Gas, serving as the Learning & Development Manager. Jenny enjoys paricipating in ocean sports; surfing and canoe paddling. In fact, she had the privilege to cross the Kaiwi/Molokai channel three times in the Na Wahine O Kekai canoe race and Canoe sailed from O’ahu to Kauai.

– Do your work first, and then go out and have fun!
– Don’t wait until your fourth year in college to get experience. Teach out to your professors and resources the University offers to get those experiences.
– Everything is changing around us, we all have to change, adapt, and adjust in order to grow.

Past Panelists

Pizza with Professionals Spring 2015

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The final event of the Spring 2014 semester was “Pizza with Professionals.” The second edition of the event welcomed over 60 people who came to listen to a group of very inspiring local professionals who spoke about their experiences as undergraduates, life post-graduation and what to expect when searching for a job. Pizza lunch from Domino’s was provided to attendees. In case you missed the event, snippets from the event are posted below each panelist’s bio.


Emmy-Lea Agustin, MS, CCLS

Emmy is a Certified Child Life Specialist, Wellness Coach at Clark Hatch Fitness Center, Author in Training and Motivation Speaker of her “Becoming a Professional Role Model” Series. As “the Emmy” and Lady Entrepreneur of her own business, “Operation Emmy, LLC”, Emmy hopes to inspire others with her talks and the “Eight Elements” to Transform and Inspire. She is a local girl from Aiea, Hawaii and after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Family Resources, she received her Master’s Degree in Child Development in Chicago. She loves to share her creativity and fun by incorporating it in all she does!

  • Some degrees will provide you with an internship so it is important to ask advisers or others for internship opportunities.
  • For those undeclared, take a couple of random classes and choose your major based on what classes you do well in or have the most interest in.
  • Hang out with people you’re interested in, whether it’d be people in your degree or different foundations.

For more about Emmy, please visit and learn about © “Becoming a Professional Role Model”!


Lucas Moe

My name is Lucas Manulele Moe. I am originally from Centennial, Colorado but have family ties to the Hawaiian islands. I complete my BA in Political Science at UH Hilo and my Masters in Social Work from UH Manoa. I have been working in the higher education field since 2012 and currently work as the O’ahu Island Coordinator for the Liko A’e Native Hawaiian Leadership Program. Fun Fact: I am a first generation student and also named after Luke Skywalker from Star Wars.

  • Venture out of your shell. Expand your friends and collaborate with different social groups. That way, you can network and line up internships to gain experience for future jobs.
  • In order to be successful in college, you must be able to manage your time well and prioritize what needs to be done.
  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses. “Work so hard that you think your weaknesses are your strengths and your strengths are your assets.”

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Timothy Goshi

Born and raised on the North shore of Oahu, I am a 1998 graduate of Kahuku High School. I earned my BS in Civil Engineering in 2002, then went on to earn an MS in Structural Engineering from Stanford University in 2004 and an MBA from Shidler College of Business in 2010. Currently, I am a project manager at a local structural engineering firm (KAI Hawaii, Inc). Some of my past projects include Whole Foods Kailua, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Paia Elementary School Cafeteria, and Kapolei Commons. I am married to an amazing person and we just had our first child last October (2014). On my free time I enjoy fishing, golfing and watching UH sports.

  • Network! Stay connected with friends and join as many professional associations.
  • Find a mentor to guide you to what you want to do.
  • Take advantage of what UH Manoa has to offer because there are many opportunities available.
  • “If you want it that bad, make it happen.”

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Sandy Narvaez

Sandy Narvaez is a graduate of the Shidler College of Business with a double major in International Business and Marketing. After graduation, she accepted the role of Outside Sales & Promotions Manager at Polynesian Adventure Tours then moved on to the Makaha Resort as Sales Manager subsequently advancing to the title of Director of Sales for the DoubleTree by Hilton Alana Waikiki hotel. Her most recent role as Associate Director of Sales for the Hilton Waikiki Beach allows her the work life balance needed to enjoy life as a mother of two young children while working for a hotel she loves. With over a decade of experience in the visitor industry, she has served on the board of Meeting Professionals International, won the Rising Star Award and traveled to various destinations promoting travel to Hawaii.

  • College is a time to grow and learning about branding yourself. Think about your own brand and who you are, then, create demand for your brand. Network and work with those that value your brand.
  • It is very important to have a mentor during college.
  • Always move forward. You have the opportunity to make opportunities for yourself.

Thank you to the Student Activity and Program Fee Board for generously funding the Fall 2015 Panel Series! Thank you to all the MSE Committee volunteers, as well as Dr. Cambra (Office of Undergraduate Education) for supplying supplemental funding.