Campus Life


Written By Gregory Fischbach

December 07, 2023
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  • Nearly 300 students will graduate with associate's, bachelor's, master's, doctoral degrees, and post-master's certificates

    Nearly 300 students will graduate with associate's, bachelor's, master's, doctoral degrees, and post-master's certificates.

  • Natalie Ovena

    Natalie Ovena.

  • Natalie O'Brien

    Natalie O'Brien.

Thursday, December 14, 2023
Hawai’i Convention Center
1801 Kalākaua Ave. (map)


HPU will celebrate the achievements of its fall class of 2023 with a graduation ceremony to be held on Thursday, December 14 at 5:00 p.m., at the Hawai’i Convention Center. Nearly 300 students will graduate with their associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral degrees, and post-master's certificates.  

The event will be live streamed at

HPU President John Gotanda, J.D., will deliver remarks and confer degrees and HPU Senior Vice President and Provost Walsh, Ph.D., will serve as Master of Ceremonies.  

The valedictory speakers are Natalie Ann Ovena and Natalie Castillo O'Brien.

Ovena is a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science student. Originally from Beaverton, Oregon, with familial ties to Hawaiʻi, Ovena developed a passion for environmental studies through her upbringing and experiences hiking and identifying plants with her family. Choosing HPU to explore the diverse ecosystems of Hawaiʻi, she delved into impactful research during her time as a Policy Fellow at the Blue Planet Foundation. Ovena contributed to community engagement, building connections and supporting renewable energy policies. Collaborating with HPU Assistant Professor Carmella Vizza, Ph.D., and the North Shore Community Land Trust, she conducted research on water quality parameters for Kalou fishpond, aiding restoration efforts. Following graduation, she will extend her research with a two-year Hawaiʻi Sea Grant, focusing on documenting fish species diversity and abundance for Kalou. Her ultimate career goal involves attending law school to specialize in environmental law, aiming to contribute to the creation of a sustainable and equitable society.

O’Brien is a Master of Public Health student. Her international journey led her to England, where she currently resides. Amid the global pandemic, her exploration of public health dynamics as an undergraduate healthcare administration major sparked a keen interest in epidemiology. Pursuing a Master of Public Health at HPU, O'Brien overcame logistical challenges after relocating to England, finding the program fulfilling. Her master's capstone project, focused on the "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Health Seeking Dilemma," benefited from her internship with HealthWatch England, highlighting the urgency of policies promoting mental health literacy. O'Brien credits her HPU education to professor guidance, peer collaboration, and community engagement, expressing a determination to continue her academic journey with a Ph.D. in epidemiology.

Parking at the Hawai’i Convention Center is limited. Please consider car-pooling or taking a rideshare to the event.

For additional information, email

Click here to review the graduation print program.


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