Chaminade University senior Soane Uiagalelei, 41, has been through many mishaps such as engaging a social life rather than studying and attending a school that made him feel lost have helped pave the road to where he is now.
Uiagalelei will be graduating this December with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and religious studies. He is also the undergraduate speaker at the commencement ceremony at Neil S. Blaisedell Arena on Dec. 12. He said that by auditioning to be the undergraduate speaker, he will leave Chaminade with no regrets.
Uiagalelei graduated from Damien Memorial High School in 1988. He received a football scholarship from Truman State University in Missouri and attended there for two years. After spending two years at Truman State, Uiagalelei decided to come back home to Hawai`i.
“I guess you could say I was focused more on my social life instead of my academics,” Uiagalelei said. “I paid the consequences and came back home.”
After coming home Uiagalelei attended the University of Hawai`i at Manoa for a semester. However, he explained that the University of Hawai`i was too big and he felt lost. He soon dropped out and decided to join the work force.
Uiagalelei engaged in many different jobs such as: career insurance company, bouncer, substitute teacher and property management. He finally became the University of Hawai`i campus minister at the Newman Center from Jan. 1999 to June 2008.
Uiagalelei enjoyed his job as campus minister, but he found his connection to God when he would play music. Uiagalelei had been serving in the music ministry since he was 4 years old. He explained that no matter what crazy thing was going on in his life, music was always consistent. As he got older, he developed the skill of singing and playing the guitar at the same time. He never saw singing in the music ministry as a chore.
“The only thing that seemed like a chore was the preparation,” Uiagalelei said. “Once I started singing I felt relaxed and this connection to God. Through music I can express my faith and it creates this peaceful atmosphere.”
Just because Uiagalelei feels a connection to God through music, he still wanted to understand what he believes in.
“Majoring in religion has really helped me to understand,” Uiagalelei said.
Uiagalelei decided to major in psychology because he is an introvert. He said that he enjoys observing people and it was a hobby that became naturally interesting.
Uiagalelei has started applying for a master’s degree in school counseling at Chaminade. He wants to help students based on their behavior or religion, decide what they are going to do next.
To sum up his entire experience at Chaminade University, Uiagalelei was encouraged and supported by many friends and family to audition to be the undergraduate speaker at this year’s commencement ceremony.
“At first I didn’t want to because I am not the traditional four-year student,” Uiagalelei said. “But I didn’t want to be sitting in the stands at graduation regretting what I didn’t do.”