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Q&A with scholarship recipient and donor Jana Digby Rothenberg-Blay

July 15, 2013

Jana Digby Rothenberg-Blay
On May 10, 2013 Jana graduated
with a Liberal Arts degree.

What brought you to Hawai‘i?

I needed a radical change in my life when my marriage was ending in 2001. I’d visited Kaua‘i just before Iniki and stayed in a lagoon bungalow at Coco Palms. Beneath those swaying palms, I knew that Kaua‘i would be my home one day. Eight years later, that day came.

Why did you choose to study at Kaua‘i CC?

In 2009, I returned to Dallas as an invited consultant on a marketing project. One of the leaders of the project was head of Baylor College of Nursing. She had styled a graduate class for non-medical professionals who wanted a mid-life career change. Interesting concept!

On the plane back to Kaua‘i, I found an excitement welling up when I thought that I could find a 21st century career too! Back home, I immediately phoned Kaua‘i CC to see if there might be a program that would help me discover an island-specific career.  I had no idea what it would be, but I knew the time was right.

Having had a successful career in corporate communications and design, I naturally took to digital art and writing classes, and discovered videography. Videography, or digital storytelling, brought together my creative skills in art, image direction and writing. I envisioned making earth science documentaries for education, information and entertainment. My counselor, Creighton Fujii, suggested I take on a full degree program and after careful consideration, I embarked on that journey.

What role did scholarships and financial aid play in your educational success?

Without scholarships and Pell I would have never been able to pursue my goals. After the divorce and devastating financial blows, my financial future was grim. The business I founded when I moved to Kaua‘i in 2001 had served me well, but with the economic downfall and low visitor counts, I was suddenly left with pretty inventory that budget-conscious tourists no longer bought. My healthy market and sales had disappeared. Even though my situation was pretty dire, I was determined to explore a new career and study at Kaua‘i CC.

I had a garage sale and the proceeds funded my first semester. I determined I would figure out a way to proceed. I whittled-down my living expenses and created a new part-time job that barely funded my existence but left me with precious time for studies. Later, when I learned about Pell Funding, I applied and that source of funding was tremendously helpful.

The UH scholarships were essential to my acquiring the video equipment and software necessary to start my video pursuits. They also helped fuel my powerful sense of motivation, and build my confidence. Each scholarship was encouragement to continue to push on into the next semester, to maintain my 4.0 GPA in the face of long hours of homework and to run my home business.

The UH Foundation scholarships were the “tipping point” that kept me enrolled, engaged and enthusiastic. It’s a precious gift to receive and then to produce and grow results from that gift.

Jana and her parents Dr. Arthur and Joy Digby enjoyed the award ceremony at Texas Christian University where Dr. Digby received the Distinguished Minister Award from the Alumni/ae Council of Brite Divinity School.

Why do you feel it is important to give back now?

My parents both died during my last two semesters of school. It was a heartbreaking and arduous time.  My parents lived their lives well and left my two brothers and me generous gifts. When I received a check from my mother’s teacher’s pension fund I knew right away that I wanted to pass the money she earned during her 25-year teaching career onto others. Education was very important to her.

Moreover, I wanted to encourage a student like me and let them know that there are people out there pulling for them. I was so grateful to the donors who supported me that I wanted to invest that forward in my own small way.

Why did you name your scholarship after your parents?

I have always loved the play of their names: Joy and Art. My mother, an accomplished artist, used to joke that she “majored in Art” in college as they met while both were students at the University of Kentucky. It was a way of saying thank you to Mom and Dad for everything they did for us.

What are you doing now?

I am writing, filming, editing, producing and participating in a series of Beach Survey Studies that involve the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Marine Option Program students at Kaua‘i CC and Chuck Blay, an independent geologist/oceanographer on Kaua‘i.  This will be a four-part, two-year endeavor.

I also have several other geology related documentaries planned that explore the geologic history of island creation. I’d like to be the mini-Nat Geo of Kaua‘i with short, effective video stories. I have so much to learn, but having a goal pulls me along. Also, I am a wedding videographer and enjoy filming and editing video love stories that capture those precious memories for couples.

"The Story of Sand" by Jana Rothenberg-Blay

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808 376-7800 or send us a message.