Local Entrepreneur Enlists the Help of Nine UH Hilo Interns to Launch the ‘Firm of the Future’

claire-group
The Fall 2017 Akau Accounting interns with UH Hilo alumna and business entrepreneur Claire-Ann Niibu-Akau, pictured front-and-center. Photos by Darryl Holland.

UH Hilo alumna launches a new accounting firm and offers internship opportunities to students

UH Hilo alumna Claire-Ann Niibu-Akau just launched her accounting firm of the future. Niibu-Akau graduated in December 2015 with a degree in accounting. She opened her business Akau Accounting this Fall, and is looking to innovate her field. She says, “I’ve been doing bookkeeping and accounting for about 20 years, but I began this firm in November. I wanted to continue to support small businesses in Hawaii.” Niibu-Akau has hired nine UH Hilo student-interns to help her revolutionize her practice through technological advancements. The Akau Accounting organizational structure is designed to be a virtual on-line accounting practice. This allows for remote anywhere-in-the-world bookkeeping for clients and also provides the company’s student-interns with flexibility. Niibu-Akau, her employees and interns are able to work at the hours that best fit their schedules and meet client demand from virtually anywhere in the world.

Internship program to provide a diversified and innovative environment

Niibu-Akau hired nine student-interns after participating in the UH Hilo College of Business and Economics Internship and Job Fair. One of her main goals is to help people in the community, and she feels that having interns is a large part of that. As a recent graduate, Niibu-Akau knows what the importance of a good internship experience can provide for students.

“I know that students are very capable and I believe that if given the opportunity, our UH Hilo students have great potential for self-development and personal growth.”

Of the nine students that have been hired, seven are focusing on accounting and two are focusing on marketing. Niibu-Akau says, “The cool thing is that the interns are so diverse in skill and background.”

The Akau Accounting interns hail from different areas of the globe including China, the Marshall Islands, Hawaii and the Mainland United States. They come from culturally diverse settings and bring expertise from various walks of life. Niibu-Akau expects that the interns will also help a lot of small businesses in the community. “Interns bring a lot of great ideas, a high level of energy and will grow in their knowledge.”

Meet the interns

Jiaqi Wu – Marketing Intern

jiaqiwuA junior business administration major from China, Wu says, “Internships can give me a good opportunity to put my marketing knowledge into practice.” Wu is hoping to build her marketing skills and get more professional experience by working in a real business practice setting.

Yuye Zhao – Marketing Intern

yuyezhaoIn her junior year, Zhao hails from China. She is looking to gain first-hand experience in the business world, “I suggest students take more internships to gain more real world experience. If they only study the classes, they may be far away from the real business world.”

Will Lewis – Accounting Intern

willlewisAn accounting major in his junior year, Lewis graduated from High School in California. He began the internship after being referred by friends in the CoBE department, “After speaking with Claire, it became evident that she had a very forward thinking vision for her business. The integration of technology into the accounting profession, as well as the business being built upon technological developments and tools really excited me.”

Wyatt Nelson – Accounting Intern

wyattnelsonNelson is an accounting major in his senior year at UH Hilo. “Being able to look at the inner workings of a business just by analyzing its finances is a prospect that I have always found fascinating, that coupled with the opportunity to provide financial advisory to others made accounting a field that I believe suits my talents and who I am very well.” Nelson also holds roles in various clubs on campus including the Accounting Club and the Delta Sigma Pi Professional Fraternity, and organizes tutoring sessions for accounting students.

Calvin Myazoe – Accounting Intern

calvinmyazoeAn intern majoring in accounting who will be graduating in May 2017. Myazoe attended high school in California and used to work for a bank, “I was advised by my supervisor at the time to attend college and study accounting… the more I got into it and understand concepts, slowly though progressively, I started liking it.” Myazoe is involved in the Micronesian United – Big Island Club and also the Pacific Islander Student Center. His advice to students? “Manage their time wisely. Everything in college is done by yourself. You do nothing, there’s no progress. Whereas, if you do your best, you put yourself in a position to succeed.”

Manuel Fernandez – Accounting Intern

manuelfernandezA sophomore at UH Hilo who grew up in California and is majoring in accounting, Fernandez has a very streamlined interest in this internship. “I hope to learn how to navigate the Quick Books platform and implement year-end adjusting entries to reconcile the client’s accounts for year end financial statements.” Fernandez lost two of his fingers in a carpentry accident, “The tragedy of cutting off my fingers afforded me the opportunity to pursue what was just a thought; my accounting degree and CPA license.” Fernandez also holds a role as the vice president of professional activities in the Delta Sigma Pi Professional Fraternity.

Krizha Tumaneng – Accounting Intern

krzhaA senior pursuing a double concentration in business administration of management and marketing, she is also a double major, working to achieve a degree in accounting as well. Tumaneng hopes to learn financial, management and marketing skills particular to the accounting field through her internship experience. Tumaneng is a member of the American Marketing Association on campus.

Xiaoting Liu – Accounting Intern

xiaotingliuAn accounting and finance major, Liu attended school in China before coming to Hawaii. This is her final semester at UH Hilo and she has been participating in internships regularly, “Internships definitely help me to build my experience and utilize what I have learned in the classroom, and bring it into a real business world [setting].” Liu is interested in building on her teamwork skills and accounting knowledge. She is an auditor at the Ron Dolan CPA Firm and the vice president of finance for Delta Sigma Pi.

Rissa Domingo – Accounting Intern

rissadomingoDomingo is a senior majoring in accounting who grew up in the Marshall Islands. She thought that this internship would provide a great opportunity to improve her skills and learn about her strengths and weaknesses while enhancing her professional confidence. “I want to know what is expected of me, how I can contribute efficiently and improve effectively, personally and professionally.” Domingo advises students to always have a positive attitude and educate themselves in all aspects of their lives. Her advice to students is, “Continue to pursue higher education and seize any academic and professional opportunities that come your way.”

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My Summer Internship at the 2016 Democratic National Convention

Seated front-and-center with the 2016 DNCC interns.

June 29, 2016
Philadelphia, PA

I was raised on a sailboat in the Pacific Ocean and later grew up running around barefoot in the Ka‘ū desert on Hawai‘i Island. Living in a house perched on an active volcano and climbing through tropical jungles in search of hundred-foot waterfalls is just something that came with the territory.

Hawai‘i Island is a vast melting pot of diversity, not just geographically but also culturally and ethnically. In fact, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, where I am currently a senior majoring in business administration and interning in the Office of the Chancellor, is one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the country.

Fitting then, that this island girl—a fourth generation kama‘āina (born in Hawai‘i) and great-granddaughter of plantation immigrants from Korea—would wind up interning over the summer at the Democratic National Convention Committee  in Philadelphia. The DNCC internship program is 60 percent women and 60 percent ethnic minority groups. Needless to say, I feel right at home, minus the waterfalls.

Why internships?

At UH Hilo, a lot of emphasis is placed on internships. Why internships? In a word, the future, and in the case of the Democratic National Convention Committee, it is a future not just for the interns who were lucky enough to snag one of the 50 coveted spots, but also for coming generations as the leaders and platforms of tomorrow are being shaped.

My experience here at the DNCC is an amazing opportunity for skill building in time management, interdepartmental networking, on-the-spot problem solving, and absolute action. The chance to work with seasoned experts, past White House staff, and rising leaders is the icing on the cake. I am fortunate enough to be a part of a team at the DNCC tasked with volunteer coordination, and with roughly 17,000 volunteers signed into our system, the pressure is on… and I’m loving every minute of it.

The author and Marian Martez, a volunteer that she helped find a position for at the DNC.
With Marian Martez, a volunteer I helped find a position for at the convention.

As each day flies by, I find myself relying on the different skill sets I have developed over the years through my travels and my education, and there are a few that stand out to me in my role with the DNCC.

First, the transition of moving from an island town to an East Coast city was made more fluid by my past travel experiences. After graduating with an associate’s degree from Hawai‘i Community College’s West Hawai‘i campus, I lived in Italy for seven years. From there I traveled across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. This has influenced my appreciation for cultural differences and shaped my ability to navigate diverse societies and locales with respect and confidence.

The second contributing factor to my work here has been my internship experience with the UH Hilo chancellor’s office, where I work in public information primarily writing for the website UH Hilo Stories. Developing stories, contacting sources, interviewing professionals, writing informative articles—all under tight deadlines—serve as a strong foundation for my work with the DNCC: quick and effective communication, relationship building, and being able to hit the ground running.

Further, the chancellor’s office internship brought me in contact with someone who has become an important mentor to me. My editor at UH Hilo Stories encouraged me to apply for the DNCC summer internship, helped me with my résumé, gives me professional advice along the way, and reminds me to stay positive when things are challenging.

Lara Hughes with the Hawaii Delegation during Hillary Clintons acceptance speech for the nomination.
Sitting with the Hawai‘i delegation during Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech for the nomination. Click to enlarge.

Also helping me in my work with the DNCC is a surprising skill I’ve discovered in myself: an ability to appreciate and learn from mistakes. We all make mistakes, but I’ve discovered it is what we do afterward that defines us and perhaps, more importantly, determines who we will become one day. Taking a difficult experience and turning it into something positive nurtures an ability to move forward and do better for ourselves, and helping those around us is exponentially multiplied.

It is the moving forward that answers the question, “Why internships?” Internships are the first steps in training young professionals who have the potential to build the world’s communities of tomorrow. Being here in Philadelphia this summer, gaining more experience than I ever thought possible in a short period of time, I feel more inspired and excited about moving forward into the future than ever before.

Advancing Humanity’s Knowledge About Merging Galaxies and Their Blackholes

Derek Hand and Andreea Petric in their office at the Institute for Astronomy, UH Hilo University Park of Science and Technology.

Derek Hand and Andreea Petric at the Institute for Astronomy, University Park of Science and Technology, UH Hilo campus. Click to enlarge.

A budding scientist double majoring in physics and astronomy at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo has helped make an astonishing discovery about merging galaxies.

After receiving a bachelor of science in astronomy last fall, UH Hilo senior Derek Hand is now finishing up his second baccalaureate degree, this one in physics. He is a NASA Space Grant Fellow who joined forces with astronomer Andreea Petric when she was a science fellow at Gemini Observatories. She now serves as resident astronomer with the Canada-France-Hawai‘i-Telescope.

Together, student and mentor have been working to analyze data that will advance humanity’s knowledge about merging galaxies and the growth of the central black holes they encompass.

While conducting analysis of their observations, Petric and Hand made a surprising discovery that, once verified, will be a new contribution to science.

They found that Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN), or as Petric describes, “super massive black holes that are eating,” can have a dramatic impact on the matter from which galaxies make their stars. This is surprising because the transfer of energy ranges from the very small physical scale to the very vast galaxy-wide scale.

Derek Hand working on his research project.

Derek Hand working on his research project. Courtesy photo.

The project is an independent research process. Hand came up with the research proposal and does the research while Petric provides guidance. Hand gives this scientific description of the work:

Our CO data comes from the Herschel satellite in the far Infrared (~200 -700) microns. We will be observing transitions of the 12 CO carbon monoxide (CO molecule). The CO molecule has rotational kinetic energy, proportional to its angular momentum. Quantum mechanics tell us tells us that the angular momentum and hence the rotational energy are quantized such that the rotational energy is proportional to angular quantum number J as J (J+1), with higher J at higher energy levels.

So the upper-level energies Eu for CO transitions are proportional to J(J+1). The corresponding minimum temperatures for J upper = 13 are on the order of a few hundred K and so high – J lines are weak in cold molecular gas but strong in regions of star-formation or when there is AGN heating the gas.

So for this project with Herschel we observed warm CO, transitions J=4-3 to 13-12, to compare see if and how the CO excitation conditions change in LIRGs as a function of merger stage and AGN contribution to the IR.

In addition I performed a long and tedious literature search to obtain all the CO 1-0 measurements, as this probes the coldest CO an the one that is most closely associated with star-formation. I found measurements for (168??) but there is a small hitch. These observations were performed with single dish observatories and results in these objects being observed differently while the SPIRE/FTS beam size varies between 20 and 40′′, and to correct for this, we must scale this data. To do so, we will employ Herschel Far Infrared observations to estimate the CO(1-0) that may be present in the Herschel aperture (that is, go from a 1-2 arcminute scale to about a 30 arcsecond scale).

Collaboration

The mentorship of Petric has been invaluable to Hand’s start as a serious scientist. Petric, a member of the physics and astronomy faculty at UH Hilo, received her doctor of philosophy from Columbia University and was a postdoctoral fellow at California Institute of Technology, where she worked on infrared and millimeter observations of interacting galaxies and galaxies hosting Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN).

In order to make their recent discovery about AGN, Petric and Hand collaborated with scientists from the University of Virginia, the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, the Institute for Astronomy at UH Mānoa, and groups in France and Japan. Working together, they used multiple data sets to study the properties of the molecular gas in Luminous Infrared Galaxies.

Petric and Hand are currently using different methods and data from other sources and telescopes to verify the discovery. Once that is done, they have a plan in-the-works to write and publish a paper on their findings.

Applied learning

All of this may not have been possible without the opportunities provided at UH Hilo where students can apply their knowledge gained in the classroom to real life experience.

Petric and Hand met through the Akamai Internship Program. The six-week program offers college and university students an opportunity to gain a summer work experience at an observatory, company or scientific or technical facility in Hawai‘i. Akamai offers training, skill acquisition and first-hand experience working alongside mentors, managers, and fellow interns. Promising college and university students who excel in their chosen industries are given a jump start into their careers.

After Petric and Hand were matched through the Akamai program, they found shared interests and formulated the research idea that would eventually lead them to new discoveries about the role of interacting galaxies on star formations and black hole growth.

This led Hand to pursue a highly competitive Space Grant from NASA. Funding was awarded and the rest may, quite possibly, go down in history.

Becoming an astronomer at UH Hilo

Derek standing in front of observatory dome

Derek Hand on the summit of Maunakea. Courtesy photo.

Hand, who hails from Bemidji, Minnesota, and graduated from Mount Ayr Community High School, Iowa, in 2012, says, “I came to Hawai‘i because the (UH Hilo) astronomy and physics department does have its own observatory.”

The observatory is currently closed for maintenance, but is scheduled to be up-and-running in about eight months. In the meantime, Hand felt he had enough class work and experience to apply for an internship.

“I wanted to work with real data, with real people, working on real research, that’s where I learn the best,” he says.

Hand feels that it helps to apply the tools acquired in the classroom and believes that the application emphasizes their importance.

He says that one of the most valuable lessons he has learned, thanks to his internship and subsequent NASA fellowship working with Petric, has been the independent research process. In the past people had told him what to do, but Hand is grateful for Petric’s approach.

“Andreea more-or-less says ‘this is what needs to happen, you should figure out how to do it,’” explains Hand.

Petric says the long time period of the grant played a large role in the work.

“We had a long time, that’s why I think the Space Grant is a wonderful opportunity,” she says. “A lot of UH students have classes and they also have jobs. On top of that they want to be involved in research, but it’s quite difficult, there isn’t enough time. That’s why the Space Grant is great, it provides extra funding and time.”

Petric also points out other benefits, such as skill development through specific literature searches, computing faculties and technical language acquirement.

The team will continue their research this semester, looking at other founts that will help them understand whether their discovery is in fact confirmable. They plan to write and publish a paper discussing their findings, should they be successful.

Hand will be graduating this May, completing his double major in astronomy and physics. He has applied to graduate school.