Single mom to be among first Samoan graduates
Having spent her whole life in American Samoa, Esther Iosefa-Moa was accustomed to having few options for higher education and limited choices for professional careers.
But thanks to the presence of Wayland Baptist University, Esther has a new world of opportunity opened to her. And in a few months, she’ll be part of the first class of graduates from the newest teaching site in the Wayland system.
A branch of the Hawaii campus, the American Samoa site started in Fall 2018. Esther, who had already earned her associate’s degree in business from the local community college, initially thought she’d end up at an online university, since that has typically been the only option for Samoans.
“A friend of mine graduated with me from the community college, and when she decided to enroll in Wayland, I thought I’d give it a try too,” says Esther, who works for a beverage company on the tiny island nation.
Though initially hesitant, she found the experience enjoyable.
“I am very proud of Wayland here, and it has changed me,” says Esther. “It gave me an opportunity to pursue further education, and that’s hard to do down here (in Samoa). When I found out that Wayland offered numerous fields in the bachelor’s degree, I went for it. They offer a lot of options – online, face-to-face or hybrid – at Wayland, and that’s good too.”
Esther also noted that she appreciated the affordability of Wayland. As a single mother with two young children, she was especially glad that she could juggle work, family and school both financially and from a time standpoint. She credits her parents and siblings for helping with childcare when there is a conflict with school.
“School is important to me to support my family. I love my job and the field, and I enjoy continuing my education as well. Not a lot of people get the chance to do both,” she said.
Esther is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business, specializing in accounting. She’s already strongly considering continuing into the master’s degree program in accounting as well, and her goal is to become a CPA, something of a rarity in American Samoa.
Located in the South Pacific Ocean, American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the U.S. With an area roughly the size of Washington, D.C. (77 square miles) and a population of nearly 56,000 people, the tropical nation is more like a smaller, close-knit community.
Esther says American Samoans are very family-oriented and rely on their families for support daily. There is a great respect for older generations and a strong culture, which includes a strong religious foundation. The predominant faith is Catholic, but she said there are others represented on the islands as well.
“The fact that I know Wayland has a strong faith background is attractive,” she says. “I like also that they respect other religions and don’t push that you have to be Baptist. I assumed they might want us to believe the Baptist way, but our teacher really valued and respected each of our religions; it was a mix and there was no tension.”
Pastor named distinguished alumnus for Hawaii
Wayland Baptist University honored one of its alumni at the recent graduation ceremony in Hawaii. Amid a backdrop of degrees and commencement addresses, Rev. Charles Beaucond was named the Distinguished Alumni Award winner for the campus for 2019.
Beaucond is pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church in Pearl Harbor. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army, having retired in 1997 with 20 years of service. He is a native of Colorado, but has lived in Honolulu for 18 years.
While serving in the Army, Beaucond said he came to faith in Jesus Christ, but did not pursue ministry for several years. After retirement, he worked for a while on Wall Street for Morgan Stanley, then went to Hawaii to work for the Department of Army Civilians from 2001-05.
At that time, he felt the call to ministry and has been in full-time service since 2006. His current pastorate began in 2011. He earned a Master of Christian Ministry degree from Wayland in 2009.
Charles has been married to wife Suk for 40 years, and the two have two adult sons and two grandchildren, all of whom live in Oahu. He volunteers in the community through his church, regularly at a local mission.
“We are proud of alumni who serve the Kingdom through church work, and we have had many like Charles Beaucond who come to ministry as a second career,” said Teresa Young, director of alumni relations at Wayland. “Our distinguished alumni are making a difference in their communities and beyond, and Charles is no exception.”
The Wayland Alumni Association recognizes an alumnus from each of its 13 campuses throughout the calendar year, culminating in the homecoming awards banquet and the presentation of the Alumnus of the Year chosen from the 13 honorees. As 2019 closes, a total of 16 individuals have been honored by the university for their accomplishments, representing a wide breadth of professions, locations and military backgrounds.
Alumnus helping Navy families overcome crisis
When she initially walked through Wayland’s Hawaii Campus doors, Corinne Pang had no real idea what her specific career path might be. Today, more than six years after completing her bachelor’s degree, she feels at home in a role she might not have even imagined.
Corinne is the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for the Military Family Support Center in Hawaii, a Navy entity that serves both Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base. While the MFSC has many roles, Corinne’s primary role is that of case management for victims of sexual assault who are either active-duty Navy personnel or their dependents over age 18.
In that position for two years, Corinne works with assault victims to coordinate their care, connecting them with counselors, chaplains, law enforcement entities and others who can provide resources to help them heal and move forward. In January, she’ll transition into more of a direct counseling role with the Family Advocacy program, which will utilize all the education she’s received and move her even closer to her goal.
“This is what I ultimately wanted to do,” she said of the counseling position. “I would love to eventually have a private Christian counseling practice. I like working with trauma victims, marriage counseling and other ways to use God’s word to help other people.
“That was my original call, but the journey God has put me on has been this one.”
The path to the goal
While the detour might have taken a while, Corinne trusts that God placed her on this path to give her valuable experience to help her in future roles. It’s what she set out to do all those years ago when choosing Wayland to finish her education.
“My husband was active-duty Army and was stationed in Hawaii from 2007-11. We were attending a church in Mililani, and our pastor had connections at Wayland,” she recalls. “I had been going to college on and off over the years and had some credits, but I really did need to go back to school.
“My girlfriend was in a transition time and said she’d go back with me. We liked that it was a smaller school, and the staff was wonderful. They treated me like a person and not a student ID number. We liked the biblical foundation as well. It was a great experience for me.”
After conversation with the campus dean, Corinne decided to major in human services, knowing her strengths were in serving and helping others. Along the way, she also took several additional religion courses, wanting to strengthen her faith foundation. When her husband was moved to Washington a few years later, she was able to finish her degree through Wayland’s online presence, then returned to the Hawaii campus to graduate in May 2013.
She planned to continue the path to counseling. After researching her options, she settled on a Master of Social Work program through a new online virtual program with the University of Southern California, finished in a quick 16 months and graduated in December 2014. That same year, her husband retired from the Army with 29 years of service and her son graduated high school and enlisted in the Army. She and her husband moved back to Hawaii, following her husband’s roots and that of her father.
The job search there proved challenging, and Corinne had some varied experiences while trying to pick up clinical hours toward her licensure in social work. Those work in the adult probation office, a behavioral health specialist with the Hawaii state Department of Education and as a victim/witness counselor for the prosecutor’s office in Honolulu. Finally, she landed at the Navy center and is fulfilling her calling while earning those valuable hours. Her new role will allow her to earn even more.
“Really, this job is a way to give back to the military community that I was a part of for so long,” she said. “This field is messy work, and you have to understand that and really love serving people. It’s not about the money for sure.”
Corinne noted that besides her work with victims directly, she also is responsible for holding trainings and briefings on issues surrounding sexual assault, teaching a victim advocate class to active-duty personnel and presentations to the joint base groups. While initially daunting – like many, she doesn’t relish the idea of public speaking – Corinne said those have become parts of the jobs she actually enjoys.
“What I love most about it is the privilege of being in a space with someone going through something hard and them trusting you, and helping them get to the other side… getting them the resources where they have hope and can be healthy again,” she said. “Their life will never be the same, but there is hope for mental, emotional and spiritual health on the other side. It’s rewarding and challenging, but you have to know that’s what you’re called to do.”
State veterans get helping hand from alumnus
When Joel Doringer goes to work each day to serve the disabled veterans in Hawaii, he does it with an edge few coworkers have: he is one of them.
A native of Massachusetts, Joel works for the Workforce Development Division for the state of Hawaii as a Disabled Veteran Outreach Program specialist. In that role, Joel assists vets in finding employment. But it really goes a step beyond that.
“I’ve been able to help a lot of veterans that had no benefits or minimal benefits, get them into shelters they need and the like. We work with Wounded Warriors, Catholic Charities and others,” he said. “But my main job is getting them ready for employment. I can get them the resources they need – from meds to counseling and education opportunities.”
A hand up for vets
The services provided are meant to assist those with serious barriers to employment, Joel explains. That can mean Vietnam veterans, homeless or nearly homeless, low income and low education levels. Through his work, Joel is able to help meet the needs of those servicemen and women and get them on a path to stable work.
He maintains a caseload of around 35 veterans, and once folks find stable employment, they get follow-up visits for the first 30 and 60 days just to make sure they are on track. The compassion he has for his clients is clear, and that comes from a place of pure empathy as someone who has walked a similar path.
Joel served in the U.S. Army for four years, stationed first in Hawaii and remaining there for his term, except for a deployment to Afghanistan. During those stints, he sustained some damage to his back from repetitive use and being unable to properly treat the injury.
The journey to education
Shortly after arriving in Hawaii with the Army in 2010, Joel said he determined to finish his bachelor’s degree and started investigating options. That’s when he found Wayland.
“They were on post, so I didn’t have to leave for classes and that was good. I enjoyed the faculty too; they really catered to veterans and that was helpful,” he said. “I grew up Catholic and had moved away from that some, but I have always been interested in the Bible. The religion classes forced me to read it and really understand it more, and that really renewed my faith.”
He pursued a bachelor’s degree in business, graduating in 2011. He then followed up with a Master of Public Administration through Wayland in 2013 and the MBA in 2015. All of that, along with his own veteran status, gave him hope that he’d find employment swiftly. But that was not to be the case.
Citing less opportunities on the island and a lack of connections that seemed to be the secret to gaining good jobs, he headed for the workforce center himself to see if they could help. Instead, he found himself with an offer for his current position. He is able to connect quickly with potential clients since he knows their struggle personally.
“We work with some of the best people here,” Joel says. “To see veterans that had lost hope thriving now is what keeps me going. I love my job and helping vets. I’d love to do it at a higher level and make bigger changes to affect more people.”
Joel is already making plans for the next steps in his career. He’s working on a doctorate with North Central University in business and would love to one day work in leadership for the Veterans Administration. His goal? To ultimately make things better for veterans through policy and procedure cleanups.
Joel and his wife Heather have a blended family that includes two older children, ages 21 and 18, and two children together, ages 11 and 8. They also have three grandchildren.