The Power of a Smile

PROVO, Utah – Oct 28, 2021 – Jennifer Tinkham, a JD/MPA alumna of the BYU Marriott School of Business, understands the power of a simple smile to change the world. As an educator, Tinkham shares the joy of smiles, service, and education with her students at BYU–Hawaii.

Tinkham first learned lessons about resilience and the power of a smile from her father, a survivor of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, Japan. Years after those traumatic events, one smile changed his life forever. “If my father saw foreigners, he avoided them because they reminded him of the war. However, one day, while my father was walking down the street, a missionary from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did something simple that changed my father’s life forever—he smiled,” she says. “This act caught my father’s attention and allowed the Light of Christ to reach him, which eventually led to his conversion to the gospel.”

Tinkham seeks to share that Light of Christ with others, and she recognizes that her time in the BYU Marriott MPA program gave her tools to do so. When she was in her last year at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, she felt a strong prompting to earn her MPA degree as well. In the MPA program, Tinkham had the opportunity to participate in service opportunities with others. “I became one of the founding members of Grantwell, a student-led program that connects donors with nonprofit groups. My team created the governance, evaluation, and decision analysis structures for grant proposals that matched nonprofit groups with donor money,” she says. Tinkham graduated with her JD/MPA degree in 2008. 

Tinkham’s time in the MPA program didn’t just open up opportunities to learn about nonprofits; her degree also became the deciding factor in obtaining a job. When Tinkham moved to Laie, Hawaii, she found a position teaching in the political science department at BYU–Hawaii. “One of the individuals who viewed my file told me that I got the position because of my MPA degree,” she says. 

In her role at BYU–Hawaii, Tinkham helps students earn legal studies certificates and teaches nonprofit management courses where students create their own organizations. “For example, one recent student nonprofit focused on the elderly confined to their homes due to COVID-19 restrictions,” she says. “Students wrote letters, sent videos, and put together care packages for each person.”

Students in the group also connected with Mark and Betty Cannon, longtime supporters of BYU-Hawaii. “Students organized a Zoom video conference where students and alumni expressed their appreciation for the couple,” she says. “This event was a special time to show our gratitude, as Brother Cannon passed away a few days later. I am so proud of these students for spreading their light and influence all over the world.”

As Tinkham shares principles of lifelong learning and service with her students from her home in Laie, Hawaii, she aims to create an environment of support and smiles similar to the one that she experienced in the MPA program. “When I went to the MPA program, I felt loved and supported right away. My fellow students and I were united in a desire to bless the lives of other people,” she says. “Now I’m at BYU–Hawaii, which is a great place full of diversity with a community that has the same type of feel. The other faculty members and I strive to create a nurturing place where students can grow academically and in their faith.”

Jennifer Tinkham and her family
Jennifer Tinkham and her family. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Tinkham.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Kenna Pierce