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President's Council

About President's Council
The BYU–Hawaii President’s Council is charged with determining the strategic direction of the university on all levels: educational, fiscal, spiritual, and physical. Their primary focus is the success of each individual student and the leadership development of the entire BYU–Hawaii ‘ohana. As the President’s Council works to accomplish the mission of the university, they make decisions to align resources with key priorities. While the President’s Council has specific responsibility for the university, its students, employees, and resources, they are also concerned with how the decisions of BYU–Hawaii affect Laie and the surrounding community.

President John S.K. Kauwe III

University President

    Portrait of President John S.K. Kauwe III

    John S.K. Kauwe III is the eleventh president of Brigham Young University–Hawaii. He assumed the presidency in July 2020. He is a professor of Biology at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo where he served previously as the chair of the Biology Department and as Dean of Graduate Studies.   

    President Kauwe earned a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology (1999) and a master’s degree in population genetics (2003) at BYU. From 1999-2001, he served as a full-time missionary in the Japan Fukuoka Mission. He received a Ph.D. in evolution, ecology, and population biology in 2007 from Washington University in St. Louis where he also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Alzheimer’s disease genetics at the Washington University School of Medicine in 2008.  

    President Kauwe’s professional focus has been primarily on solving the genetic basis of risk for Alzheimer’s disease. His work, which includes more than 100 peer-reviewed published papers in the past decade, has contributed in unique ways to our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease risk and resilience. He also conducts research on the genetic basis of other human traits and is engaged in ongoing work on genomics and population genetics in Indo-Pacific fish species.  

    President Kauwe is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, Maori, and Northern European ancestry. He was raised in Orem, Utah and various parts of Hawaii and is a graduate of Molokai High and Intermediate School (’96). He is the fourth great-grandson of Kaleohano, one of the first converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hawaii.  

    President Kauwe and his wife Monica are the parents of five children, ages two to 13.   

    John D Bell. Vice President of Academics at BYU-Hawaii.

    John D. Bell

    Vice President for Academics

    Dr. John D. Bell joined BYU–Hawaii in May 2015. Before coming to BYU–Hawaii, John served as Dean of Undergraduate Education at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He earned an undergraduate degree in Zoology from BYU in 1982 and a Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of California in La Jolla, California in 1987. John returned to BYU to begin his teaching career in the Department of Zoology in 1990 and has held numerous administrative positions since.

    As Vice President for Academics, John’s areas of responsibility include the seven faculty units, two associate academic vice presidents and the Academic Council, Academic Advising, Admissions & Recruitment, Alumni & Career Services, Joseph F. Smith Library, and the Office of the Registrar.


    Debbie Hippolite Wright

    Vice President for Student Development & Services

    Dr. Debbie Hippolite Wright is a Maori who hails from the south island of Aotearoa, New Zealand. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Waikato in 1999. She received her Masters of Social Work from Brigham Young University in 1984 and earned her undergraduate degree in Social Work from Brigham Young University–Hawaii in 1979. She has practiced for many years as a social worker and marriage and family therapist in Aotearoa, Hawaii, and the U.S. Mainland. Prior to her current position, she taught at BYU–Hawaii in the Social Work department for 17 years.

    Debbie currently serves as the Vice President for Student Development & Services. She has responsibility for the following areas: Counseling & Disability Services, Dean of Students, Financial Aid & Scholarship, Health Services, International Student Services, Office of Honor, Residential Life, Student Leadership & Service, and Title IX.


    Steven W. Tueller

    Vice President of Administration

    Steve Tueller has worked within the Church Education System for nearly 30 years and began his career at BYU in Provo in the Physical Facilities Division. He has extensive experience in budgeting, strategic planning, space management, sales and marketing, and has held various positions at BYU-Provo and the CES Commissioner’s Office. Steve came to BYU–Hawaii in June of 2006 and has served as the Managing Director of Budget and Human Resources. He served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Osaka Japan. Steve earned his bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Development, a master’s degree in International and Area Studies, and an MBA, all from BYU in Provo. He and his wife, Laurie, are the parents of seven children and three grandchildren.

    Employee: Cory Higgins

    Cory Higgins

    Vice President of Operations

    Cory Higgins has been the Executive Director of Facility Management and Construction for the University of Utah since 2011. Prior to that, he was their Facility Operations Director beginning in 2006. Cory is a Civil/Structural Engineer by training with a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in Provo. He continued his educational pursuits with a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management from BYU and a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership applied to Facility Organizations from Colorado State University. He is a Professional Engineer (PE) as well as Process Improvement Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certified. He and his wife, Ruth, are the parents of four boys and one daughter.


    Laura Tevaga

    Director of Communication & Marketing

    Laura Tevaga has spent the last 25 years in media and direct marketing and has worked for the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, BYUtv, KBYU-TV & FM, and BYU Broadcasting. Before coming to BYU–Hawaii, Laura was Director of Development and Station Management at BYU Broadcasting where she served as a key member of the executive management team, providing direction and oversight for several television and radio stations and their 450+ employees. Laura also has extensive fundraising experience and has raised over $25 million for various non-profit organizations across Utah. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from BYU and an Executive MBA from BYU’s Marriott School of Management. Laura was born and raised in Chicago but now calls Hawaii home. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, socializing, and offering unsolicited advice to her husband Nofoa and their two adult children.