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Who We Are

RFHD Student Fellows

The RFHD Executive Committee—composed of BYUH student fellows—strives to fulfill the initiative's mission to foster the spread of religious liberty and protection of human dignity by educating students, alumni, and volunteers through events, conferences, and research.

Current Fellows

John Zenger

Student Lead

Lindokuhle Mbuli

Student Fellow

Riji Levaci

Student Fellow

Vilai Ilolahia Jr.

Student Fellow

Sophia Gunter

Student Fellow

Hannah Harding

Student Fellow

Thalia Meyer

Web Specialist

Former Fellows

  • portrait of Fahina Lauti
    Photo by Mila Stanley

    Fahina Lauti is from California, majoring in political science and minors in Pacific Island studies, entrepreneurship, and legal studies certificate. She is passionate about civil rights and human dignity issues.

    portrait of Jane Sandberg

    Jane Sandberg is originally from Utah and is pursuing a degree in political science with minors in Chinese and business marketing. She hopes to be involved in international relations in the future and plans to live and work abroad.

    portrait of Soktheavy Phouk
    Photo by Mila Stanley

    Soktheavy Phouk is from Cambodia and is majoring in political science and minors in international development, international relations, criminal justice, and public policy. Her passion is about the involvement of civil society and human rights in political and social action.

    portrait of Brock Bennett
    Photo by Fahina Lauti

    Brock Bennett is from Nevada and is majoring in political science and minors in biology and legal studies. He hopes to go into environmental law in the future and work as an intermediary between the federal government and mining corporations.

    portrait of Jonah Gunter
    Photo by Fahina Lauti

    Jonah Gunter is from Hawaiʻi studying intercultural peacebuilding as well as political science and entrepreneurship. He hopes to create an international social enterprise aimed at poverty reduction and employment for underserved populations.

  • portrait of Taylor Nikolaus
    Photo by Mila Stanley

    Taylor Nikolaus, originally from Arizona, graduated in December 2021, majoring in political science and minoring in organizational behavior and foundational language with certificates in legal studies and international development. Taylor was the president of the Prelaw Society at BYU–Hawaii. After graduation, she applied to graduate school to obtain a joint J.D./M.P.A. degree, in hopes of working in the public service field in law and government.

    portrait of Mila Stanley

    Angela Morales majored in political science and psychology with certificates in legal studies, criminal justice and international development. She was the president and founder of Human Dignity Club at BYU–Hawaii. She obtained a teaching endorsement from the Geneva Office for Human Rights Education to instruct and train students in the Philippines about human dignity and international human rights. Her goals include going to all the national parks and becoming a women’s rights lawyer.

    Image of Sara Sharp

    Sara Sharp served as the head of the RFHD executive committee. She is an alumni from Brigham Young University–Hawaii, originally from Washington State. She graduated in the spring of 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, minors in communication studies and foundational language studies in Spanish, and certificates in international development and criminal justice.

    Image of Hannah Harding

    Hannah Harding is a freshman at BYU–Hawaii studying political science. She is currently serving a full-time mission, but served on the executive committee for the Spring 2021 Semester.

    Image of Oliva Damanu

    Oliva Damanu is a sophomore from the islands of Fiji. He is attending Brigham Young University–Hawaii and is majoring in business management human resources and supply chain and minoring psychology and communications studies and also doing a certificate in legal studies. His hobbies include singing, playing volleyball, cooking, socializing and reading. He is interested in opening an organization that will help shelter children who are neglected and abused in Fiji. He is also planning to work with the government of Fiji to promote religious freedom and human dignity.

    Image of Thomas Nebeker
    Photo by Mila Stanley

    Thomas Nebeker is a senior at BYU–Hawaii from Porterville, California. Currently pursuing his major in political science with majors in Spanish and intercultural peacebuilding, he hopes to attend J. Reuben Clark Law School in the future. Thomas enjoys surfing, basketball, and spending time with his wife. In the future he plans to go into corporate business law and open a firm of his own.

    Image of Regina Shumway
    Photo by Mila Stanley

    Regina Shumway is a senior at BYU–Hawaii who was raised in Laie, right across from the university. She is currently majoring in political science, with her main minors being theatre and TESOL education. While no concrete plans have been put into place, Regina hopes to work internationally in the future, in community-based NGOs or teaching English.

    Image of Mila Stanley
    Photo by Mila Stanley

    Mila Stanley is a sophomore BYU–Hawaii student from the greater Los Angeles area. She is currently working to obtain a B.A. in political science with minors and certificates of foundational language study in mandarin, music performance, international development, international relations, public management, and web design. She formerly had the opportunity to serve as a student ambassador and exchange student in Xi’an, China where she discovered her interest in international relations. Following her graduation from BYU–Hawaii, she hopes to pursue a master's degree in a similar field at USC or Fletcher School of Diplomacy. In her free time, Mila enjoys playing various instruments, soccer, and finding new ways to make art.

    Image of Joseph Brown
    Photo by Photo by Mila Stanley

    Joseph Brown is currently in Jerusalem with BYU in Provo.

    Image of Rachel Akana
    Photo by Emarie Majors

    Rachel Akana is a senior from Kea’au, Hawai’i. She is majoring in political science and Social Work while also minoring in Hawaiian studies and public panagement. Growing up, she enjoyed judo and taking care of plants. She is passionate about addressing the economic poverty and the well-being of Native Hawaiians and the Pacific Islander population. She loves empowering people and lifting people up while bringing them together. You can often catch her biking to the Kahuku food trucks when she is craving a good poke bowl and wanting to take a break from school. She is an eternal learner and has a never-ending book list. She plans on going to J. Reuben Clark Law School to help form policies that provide more resources to those in need.

RFHD Advisory Board

Professors and staff from the Faculty of Business & Government comprise the RFHD Advisory Board. They aim to support the initiative's mission and student fellow endeavors by offering associated coursework, unearthing fellowships and external opportunities, providing editorial advice, and extending project mentorships.

Advisory Board

  • Jennifer Kajiyama Tinkham
    Photo by BYU–H

    Jennifer Kajiyama Tinkham graduated from BYU–Hawaii as valedictorian in 2002, studying both political science and Japanese. As an undergraduate, she worked in the U.S. Senate for the Secretary of the Senate, the Hawaii Attorney General's Office, the Hawaii State Supreme Court, and the Hawaii State House of Representatives. Jennifer also served a mission in the Japan Nagoya mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Upon her return, she attended the J. Reuben Clark Law School in Provo, Utah, emphasizing in international law and alternative dispute resolutions. As a law student, Jennifer was editor-in-chief of BYU's International Law and Management Review Journal, and selected as a top oralist from the Western Region in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. Jennifer also completed a Master of Public Administration from the Marriott School of Management, specifying her studies in non-profit and human resources management. Jennifer is a licensed attorney and is also a certified court mediator, divorce mediator, and arbitrator. She has worked for several judges and law firms, working on cases ranging from business law to worker's compensation and most recently, family law. Jennifer is the Legal Studies Program lead at BYU–Hawaii, professor for the legal studies classes, and serves as the prelaw society faculty advisor.

    Patiola Thompson
    Photo by BYU–H

    Patiola Thompson is an administrative assistant for the Faculty of Business & Government. Patiola is also an alumni of BYUH and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in exercise sports and science with an emphasis on sports and fitness management and a minor in psychology. Right after graduation, Patiola interned as the administrative assistant for the political science program and was able to assist the faculty and students for a year. She loves serving others and spending quality time with her family.

    David Whippy
    Photo by David Whippy

    David Whippy is an assistant professor of intercultural peacebuilding at BYU–Hawaii and the director of the David O. Mckay Center for Intercultural Understanding. In this role as an assistant professor, he teaches undergraduate courses on transformative mediation, nongovernment organizations and peacebuilding, peace education, and peace ecology. David has a bachelor's degree in psychology from BYU–Hawaii, a master's degree from the School of Government, Development and International Affairs at the University of the South Pacific in diplomacy and international affairs. He continues to work as a trainer and facilitator in the field, as well as consulting NGOs and facilitators on programs, projects, and curriculum.

    Aaron Shumway
    Photo by Aaron Shumway

    Aaron Shumway grew up in Laie in the shadow of our lovely campus. He graduated from Liahona High School in Tonga, and after an additional year of high school in California, he attended BYU–Hawaii. Following a mission to Taiwan, Aaron returned to BYUH where in Concert Choir he met his wife, May Villanueva, a student from the Philippines. They enjoyed the TVA life while Aaron worked at the Polynesian Cultural Center as a tour guide until finishing school. Aaron graduated from BYUH with a degree in English and later attended Washington & Lee University School of Law. He practiced real estate and business law in Honolulu for 12 years prior to joining the Church Educational System family in Seminaries and Institutes. He served as a coordinator in S&I for nine years, during which time he also taught religion classes at BYUH. He said he is thrilled to be joining Religious Education full time. Aaron and May have six children and enjoy spending time with family in whatever activity comes up, be it singing at home, playing at the beach, or lying on the front lawn gazing at the night sky.

    image of Rand Blimes
    Photo by Rand Blimes

    Rand Blimes is a full-time professor and program lead in the Political Science Program and is one of RFHD's newest advisors.

  • Image of Michael Murdock
    Photo by BYU-H

    Michael G. Murdock hails from Spanish Fork, Utah, served a mission in Taiwan, and then studied Chinese language/Asian studies at BYU. For his Master of Arts from BYU’s Kennedy Center, he and his wife Setsu—Kyoto raised—spent a year in Taipei while he attended National Chengchi University. In 1990, they moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan so he could continue his studies at the University of Michigan. Dr. Murdock has taught at Bowling Green State (OH), Michigan State, the University of Michigan—Dearborn, and BYU-Pathway Worldwide, but he likes BYU–Hawaii best. "It's refreshing to find an academic environment where good people--without guile or arrogance--work together to produce something precious and sacred." His first book illuminates the challenges that gave rise to China’s particular brand of nationalism which allowed Sun Yat-sen’s movement to succeed during China’s National Revolution." Mike and Setsu have three children, two of which attend BYU–Hawaii. He loves teaching, working with international students, hiking, spending time with his family, and studying small creatures of every sort.

    image of professor teaching in class
    Photo by Photo by BYU–H

    Dr. Smith's primary fields of interest are federal systems of government, complexity and public policy, and American government. He is a fellow at the Center for the Study of Federalism, and editor of Federalism in America: An Encyclopedia. His academic work has appeared in Publius: The Journal of Federalism; The Review of Politics; Congress & the Presidency; Thinking Skills & Creativity; and others. Dr. Smith first became interested in federalism when his east coast graduate friends argued for reintroducing wolves in the Rocky Mountains but opposed their reintroduction in the Adirondacks. His interest spiked when, as an intern with the U.S. Senate, he watched quarrels between his senators and the governor. Channeling his insights, he wrote a paper on how members of Congress responded to lobbying by state officials that won the “Best Paper in Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations” at the 1998 A.P.S.A. Annual Meeting. Dr. Smith loves learning and tackling challenges whether that be teaching students about federalism, writing, and reasoning, climbing cliff faces, playing classical guitar, or coaxing Hawaii's fish to his spear.

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Circle logo for the Religious Freedom & Human Dignity Initiative at BYU–H. Includes image of hands holding globe with olive sapling growing out of it.
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"Religion is one tree with many branches. As branches, you may say, religions are many. But as a tree, religion is only one."
Mahatma Ghandi
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