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UH Hilo alumna Kapaelani Comstock

Kapaelani Comstock earned her BBA in a mere three years from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo in 2004. Now the Hilo branch manager for ALTRES Staffing, where she oversees human resources and staffing recruitment for local businesses, she understands that philanthropy isn’t always financial: she’s giving back to her alma mater as a mentor. The UH Hilo Office of Applied Learning Experiences (ALEX) connected her with a College of Business and Economics student interested in the field of human resources.

“It was incredible,” said Kapaelani. “The ALEX program matched us perfectly. We went to the same high school, we’re from the same part of Hawai‘i, and we both love the field of HR. I don’t have a lot of money to give, but I can share my time and I’m happy to do so with aspiring HR professionals.”

She meets regularly with her student to discuss trends, challenges and opportunities in the field, fueling an interest for future alumni advocates in continuing to engage with UH Hilo.

Why was UH Hilo a good fit for you?

It was close to home. I lived in an apartment near Café 100 and I could easily get to class, go home, return for later classes, go home, and go back to the library if needed.

It was affordable. I didn’t qualify for financial aid nor get any scholarships for my frosh year. I took out a student loan and paid my own tuition. I believe it was ridiculously low, like $1500 a semester. I got a tuition waiver for the next two years from a Native Hawaiian program I joined to be a peer assistant.

I earned my Bachelor’s degree in three years. I took 18-21 credits per semester, which the dean had to approve. And I took summer school. I knew I was going to be a business major and stuck with it, didn’t stray or change my major. When I applied for graduation, they didn’t believe me and I think they said only one other person from the College of Business and Economics had done that before. I think I went from frosh status to sophomore status, then skipped junior year and went right into being a senior.

Which of your professors made a lasting impression on you?

There were a few. Emmeline de Pillis was my professor, but also led the Students in Free Enterprise club that I joined. Griff Frost was always going on about achieving Quality of Life. Michael Williams, my BUS 100 professor. I ran into him after graduation and worked for him as his admin assistant. He later started his own business.

What were some of the challenges you faced while a student at UH Hilo, and how did you work through them?

The lack of extracurricular activities, clubs, and fraternities at the time I attended. I know they now have a business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi, as well as a lot of additional student activities, which I found out about at the recent new student orientation.

I loved the fact that it was such a small school. That was a big advantage for me. I remember talking to my friends from high school who had chosen larger universities. They said the classes were so large, the professors didn’t know their names. It was hard to speak up or ask for help, and it was difficult to get any response or answer from professors. And I remember thinking, I’m in a class of, on average, 25 students. The professors know my name, and I can raise my hand in class and ask a question. I can email them and even had their office and personal phone numbers to reach them.

What one word best describes your UHH experience?

Sensible.

What’s your go-to order at Ken’s House of Pancakes?

The “Pocho!” It’s a Portuguese sausage, onions, and cheese omelet.

University of Hawai‘i Alumni