When alumna Janalei Chun first stepped foot on Pacific University’s Forest Grove campus in 1985 as a freshman, she was feeling somewhat nervous.
“I’d never been on the mainland by myself before and it was pretty scary,” Chun said. “That whole first night on campus I thought, ‘I don’t know why I’m here.’ Then, the next morning, the sun came up and ‘Aunty’ Edna was there. It was very comforting just having her there, and I knew everything would be okay.”
Today, Chun works to help incoming and returning students from Hawai’i feel that same sense of comfort and support during their time at Pacific, in her newly appointed position as Director of Hawai’i Outreach and Programming.
As a young Boxer, Chun quickly found a home on Pacific’s campus in the Nā Haumāna O Hawai‘i (NHOH) club. As a member, she participated in the annual Lū’au celebrations, and eventually served two years as the food chairman for the event.
Chun graduated in 1989 with a Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education, and began teaching in the Beaverton School District. She later returned to Pacific, and in 1997 completed her Masters of Arts in Teaching.
Chun originally had no intention of working at Pacific, however, something about the feel of campus always made her return.
“Whenever I came back to campus for Homecoming and football or softball games, I felt that same Boxer spirit I felt when I was a student,” Chun said.
When Chun learned “Aunty” Edna Gehring would be retiring from her position as Director of Hawai’i Outreach and Programming at the end of the 2017-18 academic year, she saw an opportunity to rejoin the Pacific community and to help provide mentorship and support to future waves of incoming students.
After going through the application and interview processes, Chun was named as Gehring’s successor.
“It’s a blessing, a privilege, and an honor,” Chun said. “Students, no matter what age, need support, need guidance and they need to know there is someone in their corner they can turn to for help, for suggestions or for someone to listen to them.”
Chun officially started her new position on July 14, 2018, when she helped with summer registration and advising in Hawai’i.
“I was able to meet most of the incoming freshman and transfers that came to the Hawai’i Registration sessions, and answered their questions” Chun said. “Many families were happy to learn that there is an office dedicated to supporting all the students from Hawaii, actually on campus.”
In addition to her main role at Pacific as Director of Hawaii Outreach and Programming, Chun now also serves as an Advisor to the NHOH club. According to Chun, NHOH currently has close to 500 members.
One event Chun is looking forward to hosting in her first year as Advisor to NHOH is the annual Lū’au celebration.
“One of our main goals is to share our culture with others,” Chun said. “And it’s really up to the students, as far as where they want to take it. They’re the ones with the vision and ideas. I’m here to help guide them.”