Nerisa Taua doesn’t believe in waiting for opportunity to come knocking, it’s time wasted. Instead, she hunts it down.

Taua – who will graduate from Chaminade University in May with a bachelor’s in Environmental Studies – has knocked on a few of opportunity’s doors during the past four years.

Nerisa TauaOn the academic front, she found her true passion through Chaminade’s Summer Research Program. While other students soaked up the sun, Taua spend her summer at Purdue University collaborating with experts in the university’s bat lab. Alongside Associate Professor of Wildlife Science Patrick Zollner – who became one of her mentors – she was able to get up close and personal with long-eared bats. Using acoustic monitors and echolocation, her research involved finding efficient and cost-effective ways to capture the animals.

With graduation on the horizon, Taua dreams of returning home to American Samoa to research the fruit bat, one of the country’s few native mammals. But before she does, there’s another stop on her journey before she returns.

She’ll be making a round trip back to Purdue University to further pursue her newly found passion at the graduate level, seeking a master’s degree in the Wildlife Science program, and continue working with Zollner and his team.

Paying for graduate school is never easy, but the cost for Taua isn’t a factor. Again seeking out opportunity, she found the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership grant and applied for its scholarship program. Taua was accepted, she is now a Sloan Scholar.

“I was beyond excited,” she says. “This was another step closer to opening a pathway for my people. As a Samoan, this is such a huge opportunity. The first thing that came to mind was ‘if I can do it, anyone from American Samoa can do better.’”

Although she’s been busy with her studies during her time at Chaminade, Taua has kept her culture alive in her heart and shared it with other through her experiences performing with her brothers and sisters of Lumana’i O Samoa.

There’s been personal growth as well and Taua says she’s grown immensely during her time at Chaminade. She now considers herself to be better at public speaking, more social, open-minded, approachable and professional.

A personal cheering squad

Nerisa TauaIt takes a village – and an enthusiastic cheering squad – to raise a child and Taua found hers since arriving in Honolulu four years ago. She’s has a team of dedicated and caring professors, advisors and staff encouraging her success and guiding her to individualized opportunities.

“I’ve received help from a lot of mentors who guided me toward a passion I didn’t know existed,” she says. “Their encouragement and belief in me is what motivated me to set and accomplish goals. Without mentorship, I would probably be lost and still searching for the next step to a brighter future.”

Taua leaves Chaminade with many great memories. She says she’s humbled and honored with the opportunities she’s been provided and that she’s proud to represent her home, family and those who’ve helped her along the way. Now she wants to give back to others as a mentor to help them grow and succeed in the ways she did. She especially wants to channel her energy toward the youth in America Samoa.

When Taua leaves Chaminade with her degree in hand, she’ll take with her a world of experience and lessons. She’s built a solid foundation at Chaminade and this is just the beginning.


The Environmental Studies minor offered by the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics focuses on policy and environmental law to prepare students for careers in environmental science, ecology and conservation biology.

The Office of Health Professions Advising and Undergraduate Research (OHPAUR) assists students interested in healthcare careers, regardless of their major. Services include: advising, test preparation, summer programs, guest speaker presentations, professional seminars, community service activities and internship/shadowing opportunities. OHPAUR also maintains articulation agreements with four ATSU campuses, as well as Boston University School of Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Pacific University, Samuel Merritt University, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, University of Dayton and Western University School of Health Sciences.