HPU Today
A Culture of Leadership and Service
A Culture of Leadership and Service:
HPU Today Online Exclusive Tulsi Gabbard Interview
Newly elected U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (BSBA International Business ’09) addresses the diversity of the 113th Congress members and what that says about our government, our politics and our nation.
Civil Beat, Honolulu digital-media outlet, General Manager Jayson Harper (BA Political Science ’99) asks U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (BSBA International Business ’09) what specific legislation she plans to be involved with early in her first term.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard shares her beliefs on servant leadership and the importance of not only serving our communities but making our country a better place.

HPU students, alumni and faculty thrive in it

It was a familiar story, as political tales go: Young, fresh-faced upstart challenges prominent career politician for major elected office, with little chance of success. Following the usual script, spectators would have been right to expect a decisive win by the favorite and a quickly forgotten campaign.

And yet, there was Tulsi Gabbard (BSBA International Business '09) on election night, not the loser in a four-way Democratic primary, but the runaway winner, drubbing her closest opponent, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, by 20 percentage points. Because of huge Democratic voter advantages in Hawai‘i, the victory all but sealed her comparatively anti-climactic election to Congress three months later.

“You're going to hear me say this many times tonight, you're going to hear me say this many times in the future — it is about serving the people,” beamed the telegenic 31-year-old as part of her victory speech on that electric primary evening, echoing her campaign theme of “servant leadership.”

Tulsi meets with Waimea HS student on the Capitol steps.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard meets with Waimea High School students on the Capitol steps

And from there, a star was born. Gabbard exploded on to the national scene with a combination of intelligence and aloha and credentials that demanded attention. First Hindu elected to Congress. First Samoan American. First of two women combat veterans (Illinois' Tammy Duckworth, who was already a familiar face on the national scene, is the other). From a prime-time speaking role at the Democratic National Convention to appearances on national TV talk shows, she quickly became a standout in the new class of Congressional freshmen, igniting speculation about just what bright promise the future might hold for her.

While Gabbard's success set a remarkable standard, she wasn't the only Hawai‘i Pacific University graduate to make her mark last year in government leadership, diplomatic service or prominent public sector work of one kind or another. She is among the most visible representatives of a growing record of alumni success in those areas that is changing the way many people see the university. Coming as it does at a time when U.S. interests are pivoting toward the Pacific Rim and Asia, it has the potential to open new doors for students, academic programs and faculty of a university whose middle name is Pacific.

How prominent are their achievements?

Other schools might have longer track records of success or “bigger brands” to point to, but for a university that opened its doors to its first 54 students only 48 years ago this fall, such a fast-growing accumulation of alumni and student success in such key areas is nothing short of remarkable. Ask those who are the most visible exemplars of that success how they account for it, and they typically point to a potent combination of classroom instruction and real-world experience in Hawai‘i's rich international setting.

“The understanding of culture — not in an abstract way, but in application — is one thing I found in my experience in and around HPU,” said Gabbard in a January interview at Aloha Tower, just days after taking her congressional oath of office and days prior to her election as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. “Within the international environment comes a level of respect and understanding necessary to succeed in public life.”

Few faculty have as much direct contact or influence on the development of students in these areas as Carlos Juarez, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Social Sciences. A former staffer for U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston of California, as well as a former Fulbright scholar and visiting fellow at Oxford University, Juarez has been a member of the HPU faculty since 1998 and heavily involved in the diplomatic and international affairs communities.

In addition to serving as president of the Fulbright Association's Hawai‘i chapter, Juarez has the distinction of serving on the Consular Corps of Hawaii as Honorary Consul of Peru — a position that drew him deeply into the heart of the APEC 2011 meetings in Honolulu. He served as personal translator to Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, accompanying him to meetings with leaders from around the world, including President Barack Obama.

Chris Ota (BA International Relations ’12)
Professor Carlos Juarez (left) and Chris Ota (BA International Relations ’12), who supported the Peruvian delegation of APEC 2011 in Hawai‘i , are pictured with Ambassador of Peru to the United States Harold Forsyth (middle).

Characteristic of Juarez, he made sure there were also opportunities for HPU students. Chris Ota (BA International Relations '12), for instance, was tapped to serve as driver for the Peruvian ambassador to the United States, providing opportunities throughout the week of APEC activities for the student to witness firsthand some of the dynamics he studied in the classroom.

For Juarez, making sure that students have that kind of experience is what sets HPU apart.

“Those who come here at some level are already entrepreneurial. If you come from the mainland, this is already an adventure,” said Juarez, who took a break from organizing a trip for 12 HPU students to travel to New York for the Model United Nations Conference to speak with HPU Today. This marks the seventh consecutive year that the student group has participated in the event. “They develop cultural competencies interacting with students from all over — it's not the same as a mainland campus. There's also the aloha spirit and our promotion of a more tolerant, open-minded perspective.

At the heart of the HPU experience, of course, are graduate and undergraduate degree programs that create an environment in which adventurous, entrepreneurial students can develop competencies that lend themselves to careers in government service, public policy positions, elected service and other dimensions of public life. While it includes standard university offerings such as History, Communication and Political Science, it also features Diplomacy and Military History, Global Leadership and Sustainable Development and International Business — choices enhanced by HPU's special location in the Pacific.

For Gabbard — and thousands of other HPU alumni — Military Campus Programs (MCP) added another dimension to HPU. MCP staff members, in fact, still recall the bright young Army National Guard lieutenant who showed up with a very specific academic goal in mind and a straightforward request for direction on how to make it happen. Gabbard feels the presence of military students at HPU, where active-duty personnel make up about one-third of the student body, heightens the quality of the student body, and that those service personnel get an unparalleled experience from the university.

“I just met a Marine working as a legislative fellow on the Hill who is an HPU grad,” she shared, having traveled from Washington to Honolulu the day before. “This is an active-duty person. We talked about what an incomparable job HPU does in serving military students. There's a culture of service that just permeates the university.”

Whether chosen by military students or other members of the student body, HPU's academic pathways converge on a journey through the rich context of Hawai‘i and its importance in global affairs over the past century and lead to exciting career destinations. But to Juarez, the experience may say as much about the traveler as the trip.

“We deliver programs that give them substantive knowledge of foreign affairs and help them leverage experiences that build on that. But how much of it is us developing them, and how much of it is them being entrepreneurial,” he asks. “Maybe a little of both.”

Making a Difference Around the Globe

Following is a sampling of HPU alumni pursuing careers in service worldwide — political, foreign and public service. If you are an alumnus working in one of these fields, share your story: hputoday@hpu.edu

Andrew Abordonado (BA International Studies '09) from Honolulu, Hawai‘i
Recipient of Thomas Pickering International Affairs Graduate Fellowship, fully funding his master's in public policy at UC Berkeley (2011-2013) and fast tracking him into the U.S. Foreign Service as a diplomat in 2013.

Scott Nolan Smith
Scott Nolan Smith
David Kühn von Burgsdorff
David Kühn von Burgsdorff

Patrick Branco (BA International Relations and Political Science) from Kailua, Hawai‘i
Assistant Information Officer in the U.S. Embassy, Bogota, Colombia, Washington, D.C.

Zuleika Candan (BA International Relations '02) from Uruguay by way of Gothenburg, Sweden
Field Representative for Kvinna till Kvinna, a Swedish NGO working for women's human rights, in Liberia, West Africa.

Stephane Castonguay (BA Political Science '04, MA Communication '07) from Kailua, Hawai‘i
U.S. Foreign Service Officer/Diplomat at the U.S. Embassy Costa Rica who will be reassigned to Islamabad, Pakistan, May 2013.

The Hon. Tulsi Gabbard (BSBA International Business '09) from Leloaloa, American Samoa
Member, U.S. House of Representatives; Vice Chair Democratic National Committee.

Meryl Gormand (BA International Relations '06) from Paris, France, and Ibiza, Spain
Staff at Japan Bank for International Cooperation in Paris, France.

Kolap Hul (BA International Relations '00, MA Management '01) from Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Manager, Procurement Unit, United Nations Development Programme, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The Hon. Christopher Loeak (BA '79) from Ailinglaplap Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands
President, Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Tim Lussier (BS Entrepreneurial Studies '10, MA Communication '12) from West Linn, Ore.
Executive Director, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

Beatriz Manrique (BA International Relations '00) from Santiago, Chile
Staff advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and health care issues in Mozambique.

Saige Martin (BA Anthropology '13) from Philadelphia, Pa.
Campaign Associate for poverty and homelessness at DoSomething.org.

Pamela Michael (MS Marine Science '11) from Lacey, Wash.
Pursuing a Ph.D. at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization-University of Tasmania with a research focus on climate change impacts on the ocean environment.

Christine Morrice (BA International Studies '02) from Manila, Philippines, and Bangkok, Thailand
Research Fellow at Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Waikiki, pursuing the Master of Arts in Diplomacy and Military Studies at HPU.

Scott Nolan Smith (BA '07) from Seattle, Wash.
Head of Digital Diplomacy, British Embassy, Washington, D.C., and Co-Founder Digital Diplomacy Coalition

David Kühn von Burgsdorff (BA Economics '06) from Germany
Emergency Programs Officer at an NGO called International Medical Corps, providing humanitarian assistance to refugees in Sudan.

Ana Villavicencio (BA Environmental Studies/Minor International Relations '02) from Ecuador Country
Coordinator for Educational Advising at the Fulbright Commission in Quito, Ecuador.

Stephanie Wesch (BA International Relations '11) from Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany
Staff with Instituto de Estudios Internacionales (Institute of International Studies), an International Law and Human Rights Think Tank in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Stephanie Young (BA International Relations '02, MA Diplomacy and Military Studies '04) from Bellingham, Wash.
Consultant to the U.S. Intelligence Community with Booz Allen Hamilton, Washington, D.C.