Noah Kephart, a senior majoring in Psychology from Kailua, Hawaii, shows his gratitude to Brigham Young University–Hawaii for the diverse experience he claims he would not find anywhere else.
There and Back Again
Kephart’s connection to BYU–Hawaii was traced back to his maternal grandparents, who met in this institution and had their daughter—Kephart’s mother—while studying here. Born and raised in Washington State until he was 10 years old, Kephart’s family moved back to Hawaii in 2013, where he would spend six years of his teenage life before moving to Colorado for his final two years of high school. Eventually he returned to Hawaii, which he stated is “home for him.” Kephart, who is of Native Hawaiian blood, grew up loving and embracing his Hawaiian roots, which encouraged him to pursue a minor in Hawaiian studies.
Kephart chose to study at BYU–Hawaii because it gave him a reason to be closer to home, and offered him a peaceful environment where as he states, “the serenity I am able to feel every time I walk here.” He adds, “Every other university in those big cities are always crowded with so much ‘outside noise.’ I really feel like being here is peaceful and perfectly fits with what I want in life.” He also credits the school’s diverse population in shaping his current self, saying, “Being in a place where a lot of different cultures are one, really shaped my perspective in life and how I view the world. It gave me a unique lens about how we are all different yet very much the same in our own way.”
God’s Perfect Plan
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned here is that we need to follow God’s plan.” Kephart states, citing his faith in his Heavenly Father being the key component to getting through school. He adds, “I struggled emotionally, mentally, and financially. I was ready to move back to Colorado until my query to the Lord, asking Him, ‘Is this where you want me to stay?’ was answered through my acceptance into the Hukilau scholarship program. It was a sign from the Lord telling me that ‘this is where I belong.’” He also cites his friends, colleagues, and professors as factors that encouraged him to remain in BYU–Hawaii.
A Mind-Empowering Mentor
Kephart credits much of his personal and academic growth at BYU–Hawaii to the guidance of Dr. Eric Orr, assistant psychology professor. Kephart appreciates Orr's hands-on teaching style, stating, “He doesn’t just tell you how to do things, he shows you how to do them.” Drawing from Orr's real-world experience in counseling and private practice, Kephart gained invaluable insights into the practical application of psychology. His involvement in Orr's mentored research class shaped his vision for the future, emphasizing that it’s not just about knowledge but creating change. Grateful for the opportunities received, Kephart also served as Orr's research assistant, inspired to make a meaningful impact through psychology.
The Power of Choices and Never Giving Up
Guided by a deep-rooted belief in the power of choice, Kephart echoes his favorite quote, taken from Viktor Frankl's book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Kephart’s philosophy in life is the simple motivation of always getting back up after falling down, saying, “Failure isn’t failure if you learn something from it. We make mistakes because nobody’s perfect. If I make a mistake, then I want to learn and gain something from it. Sometimes we don’t get into the programs we want and don’t pass the tests that we want to pass, but in the end, if you learned something from those experiences, then I consider that a win.”
He also emphasizes the nature of our mortality that enables us to learn, improve, and shape who we are. He adds that gratefulness plays a part in learning from failures and successes, saying, “Always take the opportunity to be grateful. It can be for big things like getting the opportunities for education and career, but it can also be for small things, like seeing a lovely flower as you’re walking by. Take the time to stop and look around for things to be grateful for. A mindset like this will make you happier and make all the difference.”
Kephart's BYU–Hawaii journey reflects endurance, cultural embrace, and a continuous pursuit of growth and gratitude. His profound advice to embrace failures as lessons and find gratitude in life's smallest moments showcases as a defining attribute of a disciple of Jesus Christ, one that will bless many at this university and beyond.