By Sarah Hendrix | Staff Writer

Professor Lisa Bright knows the challenges of desiring an education but continually feeling pulled back into the workforce. After almost 27 years of going back and forth between careers and college, Bright knew she needed to commit to finishing her education. Though she first enrolled in college in 1986, Bright needed nearly three decades to finish, finally earning her master’s in Communication in 2013.

Bright has taught in the department of Communications at KCC for the past three years and has recently been hired as a full-time tenure-track faculty member. After being a lecturer at KCC since spring of 2014 she was given a full-time position this past semester. 

Her journey finishing her education has been a long road to get her where she is today. Bright describes the struggle she went through for 27 years between working seven different careers and finishing her education. She recognizes that while trying to get an education there was always a desire to get out into the world and make money. 

“The tug of war that you have with making a living and getting your education, I totally understand,” Bright said. “I get it with all of my students because I experienced the exact same thing.”

After many years working careers such as selling cosmetics for Liberty House in Macy’s, working in human research regulatory compliance with the Institutional Review Board and as an administrative assistant, Bright realized the value of education and decided to commit to finishing the bachelor’s degree she had started back in 1986 at Leeward Community College. Between 1986-2011 Bright was a student at LCC, KCC, University of Hawaiʻi and eventually Hawaiʻi Pacific University.

In 2011 she finished her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism at HPU and decided to continue her education receiving her master’s in Communication.

“I wanted my master’s more than I wanted anything else; that became a priority for me,” she said. ” … Some of you students, I’m so envious because you have that grit and that desire to finish and to do it now, and I just didn’t have it until I got older.”

While in grad school Bright had hopes to get a career in corporate communications and corporate training. However, the graduate program she was enrolled in did not offer a course specific to that field of work but did offer a teaching course. She chose the teaching track and began student teaching for one semester hoping that this would help equip her to train future employees. While she was a student teacher she realized how much she enjoyed the students and that teaching was what she wanted to do for a career.

“I think when you see that they get it, you know it’s like ‘I taught that person something;’ it’s so cool,” Bright said. “I had that pride when one of my students got something. Or they answered a question correctly. Or they ask questions even. It’s wonderful, the fact that they’re inquisitive. I enjoy it so much. And through doing that, that’s what bit me.”

Bright teaches in a communications classroom here at KCC. (Photo by Sarah Hendrix)

The past three years she has been at KCC her passion for teaching has not gone unnoticed. Lisa Kanae, the chair of Languages, Linguistics and Literature, has been able to see Bright teaching.

“She’s super passionate about teaching, one of those teachers who can really relate to her students,” Kanae said. “She goes out of her way to make the assignments really interesting and relatable to them in order for them to understand the curriculum and meet the outcomes of the course.”

Bright has created class projects such as Hoʻokamaʻāina (meaning “make yourself at home”), which allows students to understand the importance of āina in Hawaiian culture and experience it through interviewing a local perspective. Projects like these are able to give students a greater understanding of the culture here in Hawai‘i and allow them to understand the important role communication plays in culture and daily life.

Bright’s extracurricular activities include acting in community theater. A place she is particularly fond of acting in is Kumu Kahua Theatre in downtown Honolulu. Kumu Kahua Theatre focuses on local content and local playwrights. These community plays are created based off the past, present and future of Hawaiʻi’s people, which is something Bright is passionate about being involved in. It is also a hobby she and her husband enjoy doing together.

Bright’s journey through careers and education has given her an understanding of the challenges her students are facing. She recognizes that going through school and life is no easy task for a student and comments on the qualities she has seen in students that have done well in her class and ultimately do well in life.

“In school, just to have grit because it’s hard,” she said. “School is hard. Life is hard. And if you can say at 2 o’clock in the morning, ‘I just need to take another half hour just to finish this’ and just push through the hard parts, you can succeed at anything. So when I see that in my students, that’s my favorite. And I think that’s what makes them successful in anything, not just my class.”