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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, January 10, 2002

On Campus
BYUH reaches out to students from Asia

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

Brigham Young University-Hawai'i is revamping its image in an attempt to attract more students from both developed and developing countries in Asia.

But it's a tough road, admits academic affairs vice president Keith Roberts, because it means trying to counter BYU's successful partnership with the Polynesian Cultural Center and the image of Hawai'i as a vacation playground.

"Because we've been so successful with our relationship with the Polynesian Cultural Center, that's more of the view people see of us," said Roberts. "That's really wonderful — it identifies us as being unique. But the way an Asian parent would think of things, it reinforces Hawai'i's image as a place for vacations and fun and games."

Roberts feels potential students from Asian countries have been missing out on quality education as well as financial assistance that comes with it. And the school is not reaching students who could use their educations to benefit their home countries.

In the last two years BYU-Hawai'i has conducted a campaign to get the message out that the North Shore institution with an enrollment of 2,300 is dedicated to academics — and a leader in its sphere.

A recent rating by U.S. News & World Report ranks BYU-Hawai'i among the Western region's top 12 liberal arts colleges with religious affiliations and one of the top five Western colleges offering a comprehensive education leading to a bachelor's degree. The school has built an advertising campaign for the Asia market emphasizing that.

"What we really want to do is offer the opportunity of an American education to members of the LDS church who live in Asia," said Roberts. In Japan alone there are 100,000 Mormons, he said.

All of that is a great advantage to the students. The Hawai'i school, as its sister campuses in Utah and Idaho do, truly "invests" in its students by covering most of their costs. And, for Asian students especially, it offers a cultural comfort zone.

Additionally, the campus' goal is to build its academic program around the needs and interests of students from both developing countries like Mongolia, Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand; and those from developed countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and some urban parts of mainland China.

"We have to have our curriculum be flexible enough to accommodate students from both these backgrounds, and have them return with appropriate skills," said Roberts.

The campaign is already seeing success. Students from Japan have almost doubled — going from around 60 a year ago to more than 100 this year. The numbers from South Korea are also beginning to climb.

As the focus turns increasingly to Asia, the school expects to see a decrease in Mainland students. "For the students on the Mainland there are plenty of opportunities," said Roberts. "For the international students this campus is a better fit."

The new push for students from Asia does not change the school's commitment to Pacific Island students and those from Hawai'i, said Roberts. That remains as strong as ever.