A celebration of culture
Hawaii State Federal board chairman takes family approach to service.
Kaulana Park’s life centers around his family and the spirit of aloha. He has taken these ideals into nearly a decade of service on the board of $2.2 billion asset Hawaii State Federal Credit Union in Honolulu.
Credit Union Magazine recently caught up with the chairman of the board to discuss board service, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, diversity, and more of his passions.
Credit Union Magazine: Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Kaulana Park: I was born and raised on Oahu, Hawaii, and I currently reside on the east side of the island in Kalama Valley. The youngest of eight children, I grew up in a hālau as my mom, Puluelo Park, was a Kumu Hula (hula master) and my dad, Thomas Park, was a merchant marine engineer. I am a graduate of Kamehameha Schools Kapalama and Stanford University.
My life’s work has allowed me to gain many valuable skills and experiences, including more than 20 years of continuous service to the Hawaiian community as a volunteer leader and director on multiple statewide nonprofit boards.
I have more than 15 years of professional executive leadership and management experience in the financial and real estate development industries, and over 15 years of public sector leadership experience committed to building and strengthening the Hawaiian community.
Q: What led you to join the Hawaii State Federal board?
A: I was a member of a smaller credit union for more than 20 years and was approached to join Hawaii State Federal as a member and candidate for the board of directors in 2011. I accepted the challenge because I believed I could bring positive change to the organization with my financial expertise and proven leadership.
After eight years of serving on the board of directors, I am now in my last year. I continue to see positive member growth in all areas of the credit union thanks to our hard-working team.
Q: What makes a board operate well?
A: We strive to work well with one another and with management. Our board can be a powerful force for positive change and strategic leadership by working in collaboration with management.
Efforts are being made to actively engage the board on key strategic issues that take advantage of our specialized expertise and add real value to the vision. But the key is working together as one team and one ohana.
Q: What does Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you?
A: It’s a celebration of the culture, traditions, and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. On the mainland, there are cities that are known as the “melting pot” of different cultures. I see Hawaii more like a “potluck.”
There are many different events throughout the year that celebrate our different ethnicities and bring pride to our culture. It is important to recognize and remember those Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders of the past that have paved the way for us and given us a chance to follow in their footsteps.
Q: Why is it important to recognize months like this and other diversity-based celebrations?
A: Typically, special days remember those leaders of our past, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Prince Kuhio, and King Kamehameha. Having a full month to honor and recognize our past leaders is so important and brings more opportunity to create public awareness and provide hope to our next level of leaders to understand the importance of leadership.
Q: How have diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts changed since your career started? Where is there room to improve?
A: I am 50% Korean, 42% Hawaiian, and 8% German. The stories of how my parents struggled to make ends meet compared to my career path is no comparison.
While more opportunities continue to arise for minorities and women, the reality is the pace is incremental. It’s time for exponential growth, but that comes with increased opportunities and guidance from mentors.
We need to identify, encourage, and ask those well-respected and proven mentors to share their wisdom and professional experiences to our next generation of leaders. Once they understand the hardships of the past, combined with what it takes, we can encourage and support the next generation and walk together with them on their professional journey.
Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
A: It’s simple: love on my family and help others. As a former athlete and now coach, I enjoy giving back to our youth without any recognition nor compensation.
While I respect those who have turned it into a for-profit business, I consider it a privilege to freely pass down my knowledge and experiences.
Q: Is there anything else you want to share?
A: I like to think of my work as my ministry. Whether it’s in my capacity as a project leader, serving on the Hawaii State Federal Board, or coaching sports, I have the opportunity to serve and give my time, talent, and treasure to our keiki, members, and those in our marketplace.
It’s all about making Hawaii a better place and I get to do this every day, starting with my ohana. And it begins and ends with the spirit of aloha.