Shidler grad Kisaba, a ‘normal’ student, makes major impact at UH

Kisaba and other Shidler students with Jay Shidler
Kisaba and other Shidler students with Jay H. Shidler.

This story was orignially posted on May 7 on UH News. 

Reese Kisaba is a Hawaiʻi kid at heart. He grew up in Mānoa Valley, graduated from Roosevelt High School and will soon graduate from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Following his graduation this spring, Kisaba plans to stay and work in the islands to give back to the community that helped raise him to who he is today.

“Throughout college, I really got to become active in the community,” Kisaba said. “I got to explore other places too, and I studied abroad. Even though my study abroad was amazing, there’s nothing like the people in Hawaiʻi. There’s nothing like the community. I can’t imagine moving away from a place that is so comfortable, yet still gives me so many opportunities.”

Initially, moving away was exactly what Kisaba intended to do after high school. It was because of the pandemic that Kisaba decided to stay home and explore college opportunities right in his backyard.

“I tell people now, if I was gonna go back, no doubt I’m going to UH,” Kisaba said. “Me staying home, that’s the path to take in order to get to that dream of surrounding myself with the good people that I’ve met and more people that I will meet, and just having that community around me, I think Hawaiʻi is the perfect place to do that. I think it’s a catalyst for that type of strong tight-knit family.”

Leader, ambassador

On May 11, Kisaba will earn his bachelor of business administration in finance from the Shidler College of Business, with a minor in economics. During his time at UH Mānoa, Kisaba served on multiple student organizations, including the Business Executive Society of Tomorrow and International Business Organization. He was the Business Night student committee executive director, received the Dean’s Spirit award and served as a Shidler Global Leader.

Kisaba appeared as a student ambassador in multiple spots for the “There’s a place for you,” marketing campaign.

Kisaba appeared as a student ambassador in multiple spots for the “There’s a place for you,” marketing campaign.

Kisaba was also awarded the Mānoa Academic Merit Scholarship, appeared on the Dean’s List and studied at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia in fall 2023 through the Mānoa International Exchange Program. Outside of the classroom, Kisaba worked as an admissions assistant with the Office of Admissions and appeared as a student ambassador in multiple spots for “There’s a place for you,” UH’s statewide marketing campaign.

“My main focus as an ‘ambassador’ of the university was to really try to hit home and connect with local students,” Kisaba said. “Growing up, everybody tells you, you gotta get off the rock, you gotta go and see what’s out there. I think that a lot of people don’t realize that there’s so many opportunities that are unique to Hawaiʻi that you can’t get in other places. And two, it’s kind of built into the culture of the university. They want you to get out and explore the world.”

Opportunities at home

“You don’t have to leave home to get these opportunities. We have them at UH already, and you can take advantage of a lot more cost effective opportunities for local students.”

During college, Kisaba interned with Ameriprise Financial and earned a full-time job on the road to becoming a financial planner with the company after graduation. While he thrived and achieved at UHMānoa, he doesn’t consider himself above anyone else.

“I’m just a normal student, and I was given or I had access to the same opportunities that all students can take advantage of,” Kisaba said. “I got a campus job. All students can get a campus job. I joined the club. All students can join a club. I think I just took advantage of those opportunities that were presented to me.”

Kisaba said UH Mānoa gave him a “second family and a strong support system” throughout college and beyond. To the lifelong Rainbow Warrior, who started going to UH sporting events as a kid, welcome to your new ʻohana—the proud UH alumni family.