Aug 032015

We’re building on accomplishments and continuing to serve the needs of Hilo and Hawai‘i Island. 

This summer marks my fifth year as chancellor at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. As I look back on my first five years, I see great progress in some key areas I’d like to share with you.


Haleʻōlelo. Photo by Andrew Hara.

Haleʻōlelo. Photo by Andrew Hara.

In 2014, we opened three new buildings that give students the best learning environment possible. The new student services building houses all UH Hilo student support services in one central location. Hale ‘Alahonua student residence hall has 300 units in a trio of three-story wings with spacious common areas and courtyards.

We also opened the beautifully designed Hale‘ōlelo, the new home of Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language. And last fall, of importance to the entire state, the Office of the Governor released funding for construction of a permanent building for the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy.


(l-r) Kupa ‘Āina classmates Birolena Vaoga, Lorilei Domingo, and Roger Dalere-Keauhou plant native plants during a field trip to the Keauhou Forest Reserve.

(l-r) Kupa ‘Āina Summer Bridge classmates Birolena Vaoga, Lorilei Domingo, and Roger Dalere-Keauhou plant native plants during a field trip to the Keauhou Forest Reserve in 2014.

In my first semester, the College of Hawaiian Language presented two doctorates in Hawaiian and indigenous language and culture revitalization, the first doctoral degrees awarded at UH Hilo. Since then, we’ve awarded over 400 doctoral degrees. Since fall of 2010, over 3,600 undergrads and master’s students—some of them the first from their ‘ohana to have a degree—have graduated and been launched on their careers, testimony to the value of a UH Hilo education.

Looking to answer the needs of our island and state, we developed a master of arts in heritage management (starting this fall), a master of arts in teaching (2013), a doctor of nursing practice (2012), doctor of philosophy in pharmaceutical sciences (2011), a bachelor of arts in pharmacy studies (2011), and a master of science in clinical psychopharmacology (2011).

And we added certificate programs in accounting, finance, Asia Pacific-U.S. economic relations, beekeeping, tropical farming, global engagement, STEM honors research, Chinese studies, and Filipino studies.

We’ve made great progress with applied learning opportunities. Through internships in local businesses, nonprofits, environmental organizations, STEM programs and more, our students are making a sizable impact, applying the knowledge they gain in the classroom to the real world.

We’ve also developed programs to help high school graduates prepare for higher education. Our new Summer Bridge programs are proving successful in mentoring new students in their transition from high school or community college into UH Hilo. In addition, our new Freshman Village program, which houses students with common majors together where they bond and create peer support systems, is significantly improving the chances of these students reaching graduation.




Our rangers have been monitoring daily activity on the summit, watching for unsafe or inappropriate activities, and responding to emergencies, 365 days a year.

We regularly monitor cultural sitesplant life, fauna, and regularly survey for invasive species. Our five-year study on the wēkiu bug is an example of detailed work UH can do as a steward of the resources on Maunakea.

The recent questions being raised about use of the mountain are prompting us to take an even more active role in reaffirming our commitment to protect the natural, cultural and scientific resources of the mountain through community-led management.

Looking to the future

Three students on boat.

UH Hilo is developing course packages that will be marketed to mainland and international students who would like a one-year experience in Hawai‘i.

Looking ahead, we have developed curriculum for an aviation program and are currently looking for a company to provide the training. We’ll be asking the Board of Regents for approval this year.

We’ve changed direction in planning an engineering degree and instead are redirecting our efforts toward developing a certificate program in energy science, a profession we see as crucial in moving our island and state forward in the emerging energy sector.

We’re developing course packages that will be marketed to mainland and international students who would like a one-year experience in Hawai‘i. Programs initially planned are in marine science, indigenous language, and tropical agriculture.

Two new directors have joined us. Our athletics program is on a new course with my recommendation of Patrick Guillen as our athletic director. Patrick brings a tremendous set of skills and leadership experience to our athletic program. He has a strong background in fostering excellence in student-athletes both on the field and in the classroom. He also has years of experience in effective fundraising and communication campaigns. He’s the right person at the right time to lead our Vulcan program forward.

And Lisa Hadway is the new director of the Conference Center. Lisa brings important qualities to this critical position, including extensive education and administrative experience in the fields of business and science. These skills will help the center maintain its reputation for world-class event management, global networking, and international partnerships that provide positive benefits to our Hawaiʻi Island communities.

UH Hilo continues to grow and flourish. We’re able to build on past accomplishments and continue to serve the needs of Hilo and Hawai‘i Island. Thank you for all your support and I look forward to working with you as we move forward.


Don Straney

Jun 292015

As a regional university with both professional and liberal arts programs, we strive to be the university of choice for Hawai‘i Island and other state residents.

By Chancellor Don Straney

Hilo sealLast fall, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo missed the target for enrollment for the second year in a row. In a column I wrote last Oct., I noted that we are not alone in this problem; a survey done by The Chronicle of Higher Education of 368 small private colleges and midsize state institutions showed 38 percent did not meet their goals for freshman enrollment.

With much planning and new leadership in the Admissions Office, we are ready this month to begin the season of encouraging new students to come study at UH Hilo.

As a regional university with both professional and liberal arts programs, we strive to be the university of choice for Hawai‘i Island and other state residents. We have a particular responsibility to recruit and graduate Native Hawaiians.

We are reaching out near and far. We are connecting with students who just graduated from public high schools and Hawaiian immersion schools, hoping they see UH Hilo as a natural place to go for college. We’re also increasing our connections with community college students who want to transfer to a four-year university. Further away, we are identifying international locations where we can recruit students who can take advantage of what UH Hilo has to offer.

And what exactly do we have to offer? What makes UH Hilo unique, differentiating us from other campuses throughout the state, the country, and the world?

Here are the top five reasons students should come to UH Hilo.

  1. We challenge students to learn from many sources and we help them achieve their very best. We don’t limit our students to classroom settings. We inspire learning, discovery and creativity inside and outside the classroom, utilizing our incredible island culture and environment to immerse our students in the real world, preparing them well for careers that will make a difference in their quality of own life and in the life of their own communities.
  1. Students have direct interaction with faculty who are experts in their fields. In addition to traditional classroom learning, every student has access to observing and conducting field research. It’s not unusual at UH Hilo for our graduates to already have published field work under their belts as they embark on their careers or further education. This is virtually unheard of for undergraduates at other universities.
  1. We offer applied learning both inside and outside the classroom. We’re moving toward providing an applied learning experience for every student, with real-world learning experiences, ideally within the local community. These include internships, service learning, community based projects, practica, creative activities, and research. Our graduates leave UH Hilo with a diploma and a résumé.
  1. UH Hilo is the most diverse four-year public university in the country, giving our students a big advantage in preparing for the real world. People learn best from others who are not like themselves, and being a diverse campus means that our students are able to study with people who have different experiences and different ways of thinking than they do, so they learn more. Being the most diverse campus means UH Hilo students are going to have a much better educational experience than if we were at the other end of the spectrum.
  1. We are located on Hawai‘i Island, where students learn while immersed in our unique island culture and environment. Our students learn and gain experience from the island itself, invaluable knowledge that can be applied elsewhere in their future careers.

So how can we share these points and give prospective students a feel for what it’s like to be at UH Hilo? We’re reaching out online, in print, and in person.

We’ve expanded our online presence. For example, the Admissions Office has fully embraced social media, with an engaging presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It gives prospective students an immediate connection to our current students at work, study, and play.

We also have ambassadors in the form of counselors, deans, faculty, and financial aid officers reaching out personally to prospective students and their families, to make that important connection. UH Hilo is a place that cares enough for our students to send our people to meet with them before they ever reach our campus.

There is a role for everyone to play in growing our enrollment. We appreciate the assistance of faculty and staff in helping our students succeed, and the local community for spreading the word about the value of a UH Hilo education. If you have ideas about recruiting students locally, nationally and internationally to UH Hilo, drop me a note. By working together, we can grow our university and help our island and state move forward into the future.


Don Straney


Jun 012015

Tuition waivers for six UH Hilo employees to learn about “Streak” software are available through the Chancellor’s Professional Development Fund.



TITLE: “Streak,” free gmail-based customer management and project management software.
DATE: June 24, 2015
TIME: Wednesday, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
PLACE: Mookini Library, Room 359, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo

Cost is $55.00. Tuitions waivers for UH Hilo employees (six seats) are available through the Chancellor’s Professional Development Fund. For more information on waivers, contact Mark Kimura.


  • Track and share the progress of your project
  • Group emails and attachments by project
  • Build and share client lists
  • Applications: Sales, support, fundraising, hiring, event planning, product development, marketing, etc.


For more information or to register, contact the College of Continuing Education and Community Service.

Jun 012015

Statement from UH President David Lassner and UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney.

maunakea-telescopesOver the past months the University of Hawaiʻi has received substantial input regarding our stewardship of Maunakea. Governor David Ige’s statement on May 26 is consistent with what we have heard from the community. We accept that the university has not yet met all of our obligations to the mountain or the expectations of the community. For that, we apologize and lay out this outline of an action plan for improving our stewardship. We will provide a more detailed schedule by July 2015 following additional consultations.

Some of these implementation measures have been recommended to us in the past. As we move forward, we commit to increased engagement and active listening with the community, particularly from Kahu Kū Mauna, which has provided sage advice and guidance.

TMT is the last new site

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will be the last new observatory site developed on Maunakea. Any new observatories may only be placed on existing sites. Both of these conditions are contained in the Decommissioning Plan for the Mauna Kea Observatories, approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources in 2010. The university will meet with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to draft a document to make this commitment legally binding.

Adopting a decommissioning schedule

On May 28, the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory announced it will end operations in September 2015. They will be the first observatory to implement the Decommissioning Plan for the Mauna Kea Observatories, and should complete the process by 2018. We are discussing with the directors of other observatories a definitive schedule of decommissioning of other observatories. We will meet with the director of DLNR this week to review the administrative process for decommissioning. By the end of 2015 we will present an implementation plan for the removal of 25 percent of the summit observatories and the restoration of the sites by the time TMT is ready for operation.

Return of leased land to DLNR

We will consult with DLNR on how we can identify and return to their management lands that are currently part of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve that are not used for astronomy. We will accordingly modify our application for a new lease to reduce the total acreage that would be under university management.

Restarting the EIS for the master lease renewal

Over the past two months, we have heard many new ideas regarding the university’s master lease for the Mauna Kea Science Reserve. We will restart the Environmental Impact Statement process for our new lease, enabling us to include additional options for consideration, and conduct a cultural impact assessment. The requested term of the new lease will be substantially less than a 65-year extension.

Improved management of non-cultural access to Maunakea

We have been consulting with community groups to develop administrative rules for the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, including rules that would ensure cultural access while improving management of non-cultural access.

In June, we will begin a series of open house sessions for further public consultation and we will place particular attention on the scope of rules on access. We will have draft rules prepared by October 2015 to begin the formal public consultation phase of the rule making process.

Improved cultural research, education and training

We will work with Kahu Kū Mauna and other Native Hawaiian advisors to develop new cultural training and educational programs about Maunakea. Training is currently required for people working on the mountain and we will look for opportunities for improvement. We will develop training and education programs for visitors to ensure that all who come to Maunakea understand its cultural significance and how to respect the mountain. To ensure our cultural training and education programs are accurate, effective and continuing, we will establish at UH Hilo a new program to lead and evaluate our expanded cultural stewardship and educational activities related to Maunakea.

Full use of observing time

We confirm the university is making, and will continue to make, full use of its observing time at Maunakea observatories.

Increased financial support for stewardship

We will discuss with our sublessees the level of their investments in the operational and stewardship costs for the Mauna Kea Science Reserve as well as sublease payments under a new master lease.

New scholarship programs

The governor asked TMT to increase its support to Native Hawaiian students, particularly those from Hawaiʻi Island, who wish to pursue science and technology careers. UH recognizes its responsibilities in this area and we will launch a campaign for new scholarship programs for Hawaiʻi Island and Native Hawaiian students to increase their participation in the sciences. The university will allocate a portion of its observing time to UH Hilo for use in projects and programs to support greater participation and improved preparation of Hawaiʻi Island students for professional careers.

UH System News

May 292015

University leadership looks forward to working with all stakeholders to address Gov. Ige’s Maunakea plan.

By Chancellor Don Straney

Hilo sealAs I write this in late May, Gov. David Ige has just held a press conference where he outlined his position on the Thirty Meter Telescope and the University of Hawai‘i’s management of the Maunakea Science Reserve. In addition to supporting TMT proceeding with construction, he stressed the need for UH to do a better job in its stewardship of the mountain.

We at UH take the governor’s challenge to heart and we fully acknowledge that we need to do more. UH will be releasing a formal response to the governor’s requests, but as I write this on the day of the press conference, I can say without hesitation that we will work toward making the governor’s requests happen.

Among other actions, UH will move toward strengthening our commitment to the Decommissioning Plan for the Maunakea Observatories. The decommissioning plan, approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources in 2010, states there will be no new development of observatories on undisturbed land following TMT and that any new development can only take place on an existing site. The plan also describes the future of astronomy over the next 15 years and anticipates fewer telescopes. We will now move forward to implement the decommissioning process and formalize our legally binding commitment to no new sites within the governor’s timeline.

We also will restart from the beginning the Environmental Impact Statement process for UH’s pending lease renewal request, including full consideration of a shorter term for the new lease as the governor has requested. Further, we will immediately begin work with the Department of Land and Natural Resources to satisfy the governor’s request that we return to their jurisdiction all lands not specifically needed for astronomical research.

In addition to implementing the governor’s requests, UH will strengthen its stewardship of the mountain, including public access, cultural resources, and natural resources protection, by building on our existing programs that promote safety and educate visitors about the special nature of Maunakea.

For example, Maunakea Rangers monitor daily activity on the summit, watch for unsafe or inappropriate activities, and respond to emergencies. Rangers are on duty 365 days a year interacting with all visitors — local residents, cultural practitioners, observatory personnel, about 300,000 each year — offering health and safety warnings and answering questions regarding the cultural, scientific, and natural resources of Maunakea. Together with the Visitor Information Station, we will expand our efforts to provide information on the cultural significance and natural environment of Maunakea, as well as the science conducted there.

We also will continue our stewardship of cultural and natural resources. This includes regular monitoring of cultural sites, including shrines, ahu, and burials, identified in the extensive archaeological inventory survey done for the Maunakea Science Reserve. Through this survey, we discovered six of the sites are located in the 525-acre Astronomy Precinct and none of these include burials.

We will continue monitoring plant life identified in the botanical survey of the road corridor, the Halepōhaku mid-level facilities, and the summit. In addition, regular surveys are conducted for the presence of invasive species, in particular ants. Our five-year study of the wēkiu bug, a species found only in the summit region of Maunakea and a candidate for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, is an example of detailed work UH can do as a steward of the resources on Maunakea.

The governor made a very important point in his remarks about the need to find balance in the way we treat the mountain. I share Gov. Ige’s belief that “the activities of Native Hawaiians, and of our scientists, to seek knowledge and to explore our relationship with our cosmos and its creation can and should co-exist on the mountain.” I look forward to working with all stakeholders to achieve this goal.


Don Straney