Student Achievement

Celebrating the Hawaii-to-Marist Connection

Elisabeth Tavarez


October 2, 2018 — Derrick Kang is the Director of College Counseling of the Mid-Pacific Institute, a college preparatory school in Honolulu, and he is a big fan of Marist College. In fact, he and Marist Vice President for Enrollment, Marketing, and Communication Sean Kaylor have known each other for years through various professional associations, and that partnership has helped build a steady pipeline of students from Hawaii to the College. Says Kang, “I believe Marist is a great place for our students. They get the northeast college experience without having to live in New York City, which can be a bit overwhelming. But Marist has easy access to Manhattan, and that’s a real selling point for kids from Hawaii who want to pursue internships and get a taste of the big city.”


What began as a trickle of students from Hawaii has reached a critical mass of 50 current Marist students and more than 100 alumni. So much so that Kang, who used to cook dinner for Marist’s Hawaiian students whenever he visited Poughkeepsie, had to seek a larger venue to get everyone together recently. Kaylor was happy to oblige, hosting a reception in the Historic Cornell Boathouse that provided an opportunity for Hawaiian students to meet each other, enjoy food from back home, and celebrate the special connection between Hawaii and the College, which has been extremely positive for both Marist and the students. Says Kaylor, “The relationships we have with Derrick and other Hawaiian counselors and students have been wonderful. Hawaii is actually among the top eight states Marist pulls students from, and much of the credit is due to the great work of our Director of West Coast Admissions Corinne Schell.” 

In addition to guidance counselors, Marist also has a longtime relationship with the Hawaii Department of Education, which has resulted in a large number of Marist education alumni working as teachers in Hawaiian schools. According to Edward Sullivan, the College’s Associate Dean for Teacher Education, “At any given time, there are between 75 and 100 Marist alumni teaching in Hawaii. Within our last three graduating classes, for example, between 25 and 30 students have accepted employment offers there.”

Image of students and Derrick Kang

Current Marist students from Hawaii report positive experiences at the College. Quincy Brown ’19, who is from Oahu, has a “small world” story about how he ended up at the College. When he was younger, he sang in a choir and had the opportunity to perform at New York’s Lincoln Center as part of the World Choral Fest. As it happens, the Marist Singers were also participating in the event that year, and Brown made a connection with one of the Marist students, who told him to consider applying to the College. Brown always kept that in the back of his mind, and when it was time to apply to colleges, he followed through and ended up attending the College on a theatre scholarship. The student he met at the World Choral Fest was still on campus when he arrived as a freshman and ended up being a great contact for him.

Brown has thrived at Marist as a communication major with concentrations in public relations and advertising.  He laughs at some of the cultural misunderstandings he’s experienced because of his Hawaiian upbringing. He notes, “People notice the way I pronounce things, or the fact that in Hawaii we call flip-flops ‘slippers.’ And some people are surprised to learn that Hawaii has malls and movie theaters. I remember visiting a local bank and they wouldn’t cash my check from Hawaii because they thought it was foreign!”

Cultural miscues aside, Brown has thoroughly enjoyed his Marist experience and has kept himself extremely busy.  He spent a full semester at New York City Center doing a marketing and communication internship through the Marist in Manhattan program. He also had a full-time summer internship at the Roundabout Theatre Company, where he worked on their social media, billboards, and ad purchases. Brown adds, “The absolute highlight was when I got to meet Idina Menzel!” Back on campus, he has appeared in productions of A Chorus Line, Cabaret, and Anything Goes and looks forward to life post-Marist. “The semester in New York City in particular got me excited for what lies ahead professionally. All of my experiences at Marist have made me feel really prepared for a career in the administrative side of theatre.” 

Image of students at Hawaii reception

As if all of that didn’t keep him busy enough in his last year, Brown is also taking master’s-level courses in integrated marketing communication, serving (remotely) as marketing director for the Salomon Theatre at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, and assisting with social media for a new musical at the New York International Fringe Festival. He is also an account executive with North Road Communications, Marist’s student-run integrated marketing firm. Still, he always manages to find time for his favorite guilty pleasure – Sunday brunch.

Meghan Lai ’19 of Honolulu knew she wanted to go to college on the mainland, and Marist offered her an attractive scholarship, but there was an initial adjustment period. Says Lai, “The northeast is definitely culturally different from Hawaii.  People always ask me if I surf, which I don’t!” During the course of her freshman year, however, she found her group of friends and never looked back. A communication major with a concentration in advertising and a minor in graphic design, she has had an enriching college experience. Lai spent a semester in Prague, where she interned for Prague Pride, the Czech Republic’s largest LGBT organization, where she organized a business forum encouraging companies to commit to increasing diversity and decreasing bias. Lai treasured her time abroad, taking photos of people and street scenes in Prague in 35 mm with her grandmother’s old camera.

Back on campus, Lai stays busy by working at the Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership and accumulating professional experience for a future career in advertising. Her advisor, Professional Lecturer of Advertising Joanna D’Avanzo, recently connected her with a local company, and she is now working on a branding and marketing campaign for them. After graduation, Lai plans to stay on the mainland, but New York City feels too big. She says, “I’m considering Philadelphia, Boston, or even Seattle to pursue my career. The thing I’ll miss most about Marist is my friends and having them all in one place!”

Image of Sean Kaylor and Derrick Kang speaking to students at reception

Aaron Tod ’19 of Kailua actually is an avid surfer, and he’s surfed everywhere from Australia’s Gold Coast to Rhode Island. A business administration major with a concentration in finance and a minor in computer science, Tod wasn’t supposed to end up at Marist because he planned to go to university in Europe. However, when he learned of Marist’s Freshman Florence Experience (FFE), in which students spend their first year at the College’s campus in Florence, Italy, he was sold on the idea of Marist. He says, “FFE allowed me to have the best of both worlds: the northeast college experience, as well as the ability to spend significant time abroad.” In fact, having spent his junior year in Australia, fully half of Tod’s college career has been spent outside the US. Like the College’s School of Management, the university in Australia where he studied is AACSB-accredited, and he was able to complete many of his business administration course requirements while abroad. Internships have been a big part of Tod’s college experience, including a stint as a mortgage banking analyst at the Bank of Hawaii and positions at Fare Harbor, which provides online booking software and support, and ntropy data, Inc., a startup digital engagement platform. 

Not surprising for someone who enjoys surfing, hiking, and cliff jumping, Tod’s biggest passion is the health of the planet, and he plans to make a career of it. He is particularly interested in the concept of smart cities (urban areas that use information gleaned from electronic data to manage assets and resources more efficiently). Says Tod, “Through the use of artificial intelligence and the Internet of things, we can create a sustainable environment, and that’s something I want to be a part of.” 

Tod is fascinated with the idea of using technology to encourage smart growth, and last summer he had the chance to explore these ideas in depth at Stanford University. At Stanford, he and his fellow researchers worked collaboratively on “moonshot projects,” trying to solve problems with no apparent solutions.  He also had the opportunity to take classes on smart cities and environmental engineering. Tod loved the creative energy of his research group, and he would like to return to Stanford to continue the work. Over the long term, his goal is start his own consulting business to help create more livable communities. Admits Tod, “I’m not the typical finance major because I can’t see myself going to work every day in a suit. I love the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley and would very much like to end up there.”

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