Blessed or Lucky

With a little help from others, MPA student Ikaika Kim is discovering his calling.

It happened only a few weeks into Ikaika Kim’s first political science class at BYU–Hawaii—a course he was only taking to qualify for the state’s CPA exam. The professor announced that BYU’s MPA program would be holding an information session, and Kim made the mistake of asking what an MPA was.

“The professor said, ‘It’s a Master of Public Administration, and this is something someone like you should go to,’” Kim remembers. “I took that to mean, ‘I don’t see you as an accountant,’ and I thought, ‘Hey, you hardly know me.’”

Nonetheless, Kim’s interest was piqued, so he went to the session. And by the time it was over, he realized his professor was right. He scrapped his plans for crunching numbers as an accountant and started studying for the GRE so he could get into BYU’s MPA program.

Unfortunately, the GRE proved to be a tougher nut than Kim anticipated. “I had to take it four times,” he says. “I’d applied for 2013, but I had to regroup. In 2014 I got a great recommendation from BYU–Hawaii professor Jennifer Kajiyama, and I finally got in.”


With that out of the way, there was just one barrier left to overcome: Kim didn’t have the money to pay for the program. He was ready to throw up his hands and take out several student loans when, unexpectedly, he received a scholarship from the Marriott School.

“I don’t know how it happened,” he says. “I felt very blessed or lucky—I don’t know what the right word is. The first thought that came to my mind was that I was very grateful to my Heavenly Father for that blessing. The second thought was that I felt a sense of duty to give back.”

Scholarships are a blessing for many students in the Marriott School, and those scholarship dollars don’t magically appear. Generous people (often alumni but sometimes others) donate funds because they see potential in the school’s students and want to see them succeed.

In Kim’s case, that confidence was well placed. Kim feels that what he’s learned from the MPA program is preparing him for his calling in life. After completing the first year of the program, he worked in a prestigious internship at the Sandia National Laboratory.

“Having gone through the first year, I wish everybody would do an MPA,” Kim says. “There’s a little bit of bias there, but I believe so strongly in the mission of the program which is to prepare us to become strong leaders in the public sector. That’s what attracted me to the program in the first place: the emphasis on serving people.

“Someday I want to bless someone else’s life the way mine was blessed. I’m so grateful that someone sacrificed to help me achieve my dreams. I’m still a student, but I’ve been blessed too much to not give back.”

Program Priorities

To further the mission and objectives of the MPA Program and the Romney Institute, the following four financial priorities have been established:

  • student scholarships
  • student internships
  • minority student outreach
  • program enhancement

If you would like to help support these priorities, please visit here.