Brigham Young University-Hawaii is a small, private Church of Latter-Day Saints institution in Laie, HI. While the Latter-Day Saints are better known in Utah and the American west, Hawaii’s substantial Mormon population dates back to 1850, when a religious freedom proclamation made the kingdom of Hawaii a place for believers to escape persecution on the US mainland. BYU-Hawaii, however, was not founded until more than a century later, in 1955, first as a junior college, then a full four-year college. Today, BYU-Hawaii is known for their educational excellence (ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top 25 regional university for the West); their affordability (a U.S. News and Consumer Report best value); and their deep commitment to Hawaiian culture and community (as the home of the Polynesian Cultural Center).
Academic ProgramsBYU-Hawaii’s earliest purpose was preparing Mormon missionaries for work in the Pacific Rim, Asia, and the Polynesian region, but today the university places its highest priority on preparing leaders for business, government, church, and community, and on preserving native Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures. BYU-H defines itself as a place for “intercultural leadership development,” with a curriculum centered around intellectual development, academic rigor, and faith. The Polynesian Cultural Center is also crucial to this mission, protecting traditions while also providing critical financial aid and income for the students who work there – as much as two-thirds of the student body, many of whom would not be able to afford college without it.
As a small liberal arts institution, BYU-Hawaii keeps class sizes small and provides students with strong support and guidance, both academically and spiritually. Named “holokai,” for the native Hawaiian word for “voyage” or “navigation,” students work through a curriculum oriented toward holistic intellectual and spiritual education. Students earn a major and two minors or certificates, choosing their courses and schedule from a wide variety of options, with input and direction from a faculty advisor. This freedom and responsibility itself is treated as a learning opportunity.
Student LifeAs an LDS university, BYU-Hawaii is governed by the values and faith of the Latter-Day Saints church. With just under 3000 students, 97% belong to the LDS church, and students come from across the US and internationally. Around one third of the student body is white, with significant portions of the student body coming from an Asian, Polynesian, Hispanic, or other ethnic or national background. LDS students receive substantial tuition discounts, paid for by the church, giving BYU-H a long-standing reputation for affordability. All students, whether LDS or not, are required to take part in regular religious services, and faith is central to student life, from study and discussion groups to clubs and organizations.
Located in one of the most beautiful, and most inviting environments in the US, BYU-Hawaii is, not surprisingly, an ideal location for sports and outdoor activities. Aside from intramural sports and ready access to boating, swimming, hiking, and actively relaxing on the beach, BYU-Hawaii’s Seasiders compete in Division II varsity sports, from basketball and soccer to cross-country, golf, and tennis. For those who are less athletically-inclined, students have a wealth of community service opportunities to fill their time and do good, in harmony with LDS values.