Alumna Travels to Samoa for Humanitarian Mission

In late 2019, a team of more than 60 Hawaii healthcare professionals traveled to Samoa with Lt. Gov. Josh Green to assist with a measles crisis that had killed dozens of people, mostly children.

Chelsea McKee ’14 was among the 55 nurses who volunteered for the humanitarian mission, putting their own lives on hold to help with the massive vaccination and public health effort.

“I felt this was an opportunity to help others in need,” said the Chaminade Nursing graduate, an oncology nurse at the Queen’s Medical Center and clinical adjunct at the University.

McKee said while she traveled to Samoa to give her time and medical expertise, what she didn’t expect is just how much she’d gain in return.

“On our daily vaccination visits, people welcomed us with hugs, laughter and a lot of food,” she said.

The group from Hawaii was charged with vaccinating tens of thousands of Samoa residents in hopes of stopping the spread of the preventable disease.

McKee said doctors and nurses hit the ground running.

They started their days early in the morning, heading out to neighborhoods with vaccines and supplies. “A local nurse, a co-worker and I vaccinated over 360 people on our first day there,” said McKee.

“The nurses made an assembly line in the van to prepare the syringes and gauze, draw up the vaccination, and the other to administer. Just as fast as you could imagine vaccinating 10 people we would go onto the next house and the next until the evening.”

McKee is no stranger to public health nursing.

In fact, she had her first experiences serving the community with healthcare needs as a student at Chaminade. When she was seeking her degree at the University, she was able to travel to the Philippines and the Big Island on public health missions.

“In the Philippines I had the opportunity to work in the hospital setting, live with a family in a rural mountain community where we performed health screenings, learned about alternative medicine and much more,” McKee said.

“These experiences I gained from the nursing program exposed me to public health. By volunteering, I gain so much more than I can give.”

McKee was on the Samoa trip with another Chaminade Nursing graduate: Chandler Arce ‘16, a psychiatric nurse at the Queen’s Medical Center.

Speaking recently, McKee said she’d jump at the chance to help more families in Samoa.

“I still remember on the drive back to the airport thinking, I only hope we made a difference,” she said. “We hope we made an impact and prevented more deaths.”

Chaminade Alum’s “Students First” Mentality Leads Him to White House

Since Ryan Tauriainen graduated from Chaminade in 2010, he’s racked up a long list of accomplishments. At 26, he became one of the youngest principals in the country. In 2016, the Washington Post named him the “Principal of the Year.” And as a charter school leader in the nation’s capital, his strategies helped produce the highest-performing early childhood classrooms in the district.

White House Fellows pose for their official portraits in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Wednesday, September 11, 2019, at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber)

Oh, and the author of five children’s books is now a 2019-20 White House fellow.

But he says despite all the acknowledgment and titles, he still sees himself as a “teacher first.”

And that’s due in part to the approach he started to build at Chaminade that helped him see that improving school culture, building a positive and happy work environment – infused with aloha – and putting people above everything else always produces the best results.

“I definitely believe that I brought a servant’s heart and the aloha spirit back with me to DC from Hawaii,” Tauriainen said, in a recent interview. “Having roots in Hawaii was a benefit for my education career. Every day, my main inspiration lies in the children I have served and will serve.”

Tauriainen enrolled in the Master of Education program at Chaminade while serving as a Teach for America educator.

During the day, he taught language arts to seventh graders at Wheeler Middle in Wahiawa. And at Chaminade, he sought to expand his knowledge of secondary education, working alongside professors and his fellow graduate students for insight and support as he worked to sharpen his classroom skills.

His mentors and peers helped him grow as an educator.

And, he said, they provided vital emotional and academic support. “I appreciated how flexible Chaminade was for graduate students,” Tauriainen added. “I was a full-time teacher while being a full-time student. Being able to do both and manage both was a blessing.”

Tauriainen’s White House fellowship began in August 2019. He works at the U.S. Department of Education, where he reports to Frank Brogan, the assistant secretary of education for Elementary and Secondary Education. And he said among the projects he oversees is $26 million in grant money set aside for Native Hawaiian education programs – an area that he said he’s passionate about. The Oregon native also remains committed to improving opportunities for education – “the great equalizer” – across the United States. “I have seen the benefits of providing an excellent education and I have seen the detriments of failing our students,” he said. “Ensuring an excellent education for every child, no matter their zip code, is the surest way to our more perfect union.”

Alumna Pursues Passion at Chaminade and Beyond

Jennifer Lai Hipp became a forensic sciences buff in high school, but she never saw it as a career path.

Forensic Sciences CSI class at Kaimana Beach

That is, until the college program she was in – studying American Sign Language – was put on hold.

Hipp, who graduated from Chaminade in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, is now pursuing a master’s degree in human biology at the University of Indianapolis and has her sights set on a future in forensic anthropology. She said she’s even considering getting a doctoral degree.

“I took it as a sign I should follow my true passion and knew that Chaminade had one of the best forensic science programs in the country,” she said. “I decided to apply and luckily I got in.”

Hipp said she’s thankful for the strong educational foundation she built at Chaminade, where she thrived with small class sizes and engaging learning opportunities.

“The lab courses at Chaminade are built to give us hands-on experience that we can take into the real world,” she said. “I learned crime scene investigation techniques, including crime scene mapping and photography, latent fingerprint processing, and bloodstain pattern analysis.”

Along the way, she was able to build strong relationships with her professors and her peers.

Dr. David Carter and Jennifer Lai Hipp '17
Dr. David Carter and Jennifer Lai Hipp ’17 had a chance to catch up while Dr. Carter was in Indianapolis.

One of those mentors was Dr. David Carter, director of the Forensic Sciences program at Chaminade.

Hipp said Carter was “integral” to her success at Chaminade — and beyond.

“He helped me with everything from registering for classes and planning out my academic year to giving me advice about careers and applying for graduate school,” she said.

“I was nervous about attending college, but Dr. Carter was always positive and supporting. He was also great to talk to when I needed a break from studying.”

Hipp said that Chaminade’s Dr. Robert Mann also helped her immensely in the program, including by serving as a “source of inspiration” and advice about jobs in the field.

She said Mann even helped her secure internship opportunities and encouraged her to pursue her dream of becoming a forensic anthropologist.

“The faculty of the Forensic Sciences program at Chaminade integrated their work experience in the field into the classroom, which I believe was an important part of my education. They were able to relate the material in the textbooks to the real world,” Hipp said.

“They also worked closely with all the forensic sciences students to create a resume, critique scientific journal articles, and practice giving professional presentations.”

All that preparation proved key to Hipp’s next steps: Seeking a graduate degree in pursuit of a career.

“Being a non-traditional student, I did not have the typical college experience,” Hipp said.

“But I found my professors very easy to relate to and had a wealth of knowledge about both college and the working world.”

Bringing the Aloha to California

Huntington Beach gathering at Wahoo's

Dozens of Chaminade alumni gathered earlier this month in Huntington Beach, California for a good dose of aloha — and updates on some of the initiatives underway at their alma mater.

The Chaminade University ‘Ohana Gathering attracted a wide range of graduates, from those at Chaminade in the 1970s to one who graduated in May.

Huntington Beach gathering at Wahoo's

The October 3 meet-up was hosted by Chaminade graduates Tom and Barbara Orbe (‘73 and ‘76), and annually offers alums a chance to catch up with each other — and University administrators.

President Dr. Lynn Babington attended the get-together and touched on a number of key events, including the University’s first-ever Giving Day on Oct. 10 and the upcoming Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

One fun highlight of the evening: The reunion of former roommates Jim McGuirk ‘80 and Ralph Suarez ‘80, who jokingly referred to themselves as “Oscar and Felix” from “The Odd Couple.”

If you missed the California gathering, don’t worry, you’ll have the chance to come back to campus, connect with former Silverswords and reminisce about the “good times.”

The Alumni Reunion Weekend is happening spring 2020. The event, from April 17 to 19, will honor the Class of 1970 and feature fun events and activities that you won’t want to miss!