Academics and Research

Islander’s diverse experiences fuel interest in business degree

From volcanoes to the Rockies, surfing to skiing, beaches to blizzards, there aren’t many places in the United States that are more different from Colorado than Hawaii. These are just some of the changes that first-year student Bram Paikuli can expect as he makes the move from his home on the Big Island to the Mile High City to pursue a business degree at the University of Denver.

Born in Kailua-Kona, a small town along the west coast of Hawaii, Paikuli has lived his entire life as an islander. Perhaps the biggest challenge for Paikuli will be the transition from small-town living to life in a metropolitan area.

After Paikuli was accepted into the Kamehameha School, a top private K-12 school on the island, he and his family left Kona and moved to Hilo, a larger settlement on the east coast of Hawaii, where they decided to build their own house. The process included two years of living in a tent, with no running water or electricity.

“My parents bought an acre of land but couldn’t afford to pay a contractor. For the next two years we lived in a tent while we built our house,” Paikuli says. “We took showers outside in mostly cold water that we caught in barrels from our tent roof when it rained. When I got home from school, I would help my parents build our house. It was difficult, but I learned some useful handyman and carpentry skills. I am extremely proud of the beautiful yet modest home that I helped my parents construct.”

Paikuli believes his degree from the University of Denver will help him to sustain his family’s small concrete business and perhaps help him to advance affordable sustainable energy alternatives for Hawaiians. He is most interested in real estate and construction management, something he has some experience in. Paikuli and his mother began working with his father after the recession forced cuts in the family business.

“Neither of us knew what we were in for, but we had to help Dad keep his business. He couldn’t afford to pay for a worker anymore,” Paikuli says.

In the face of economic hardship, it was all the more important for Paikuli to be able to afford school on his own. He is the recipient of an unprecedented 15 different scholarships, including the Gates Millennium Scholarship for outstanding minority students and the Taylor Family Scholarship for exemplary students entering the Daniels College of Business.

“I am honored to have won so many scholarships,” Paikuli says. “It feels amazing to know that I will not be burdening my family or myself with college debt.”

While Paikuli and his family have had their share of challenges, Paikuli has found ways to excel in academics, sports and his personal life. He is a National Honor Society member, a four-year varsity golfer and an accomplished saxophonist.

“I learned to keep going,” he says. “Even when you think you’ve given all that you have got, there is always a little more. Dad taught me that.”


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