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UH Hilo Interim Chancellor's Blog Posts

Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column: UH Hilo, preparing people for careers that make a big impact

UH Hilo is dedicated to giving Hawai‘i high school, transfer, and non-traditional students the options they need to earn baccalaureate and advanced degrees here on Hawai‘i Island.

By Marcia Sakai

UH Hilo seal, red lettering University of Hawaii and the state motto.The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo has a long history of engaging with the local community—in fact, it is because of the extraordinary support of our local community that UH Hilo has grown into a responsive source of higher education, at-the-ready to adapt and expand to meet the needs of our island and state.

There is an interesting indicator that tells us where the people of our communities are placing importance when it comes to building our future—just take a look at our programs that are expanding: Teaching, Education, Nursing, Kinesiology and Exercise Science. Much needed and in-demand programs in planning are Data Science, Cybersecurity, and Aviation and Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

While we expand to meet the new needs of our future, we continue to educate more and more highly trained scientists who will help to preserve and protect our precious natural resources: environmental scientists, conservation biologists and ecologists, natural resource scientists, geologists, geographers, physicists, marine scientists.

And there are cohorts of graduating students who want to dedicate their lives to improving the health and wellbeing of people, families, and communities—the social and medical scientists: psychologists, biomedical professionals and researchers, medical anthropologists, pharmacists, health care providers.

In addition, several academic programs at UH Hilo are not offered anywhere else in the state, such as our doctoral and master programs in pharmacy and in Hawaiian language—students who graduate and become professionals in these fields have a great and positive impact on our local communities, and in the social and economic fabric of our island home.

Add to that, our business, management, and marketing programs that are teaching people how to build companies that not only raise the quality of life for their own families but also for their employees and patrons. I have seen in our College of Business and Economics—the college I helped found and where I taught for years—the entrepreneurial spirit grow in students who have then gone on to build the prosperous businesses of their dreams based on the education they received at UH Hilo.

And not surprisingly, a number of our students are looking to become professionals in the field of communication: writers, journalists, professionals in digital and mass media, public relations, ethnography—all trained to share information in the age of information—with a background in critical thinking skills taught as a foundational premise during their undergraduate studies.

In other words, UH Hilo is giving students—whether traditional student, transfer student, returning student, or someone wanting to change professions—the degree pathways that lead to professional careers that have great social and economic impact on our communities.

To support these future leaders while they are in school—to get them over the finish line—we are strengthening and expanding support services from recruitment to retention to graduation.

We are increasing enrollment of first-time students, especially on Hawai‘i Island, and increasing enrollment of transfer students, especially from UH community colleges.

We are refining our financial aid strategy, and have started a new micro-scholarship program where high school students, starting from their freshman year, can earn funds toward a scholarship redeemable only through enrolling at UH Hilo after graduation.

In new programs to assist with the retention of students in their first year at UH Hilo, transfer students are provided with access to better coordinated transfer services and first-year students are eligible to receive the support of a peer mentor.

Living Learning Communities continue to be a big success story at our residence halls where currently over 100 freshmen with a chosen a field of interest are enrolled in courses together and go off-campus together to experience cultural practices, community engagement, and service learning. These bonded groups of students are much more able to stick together as a cohort and reach graduation together as lifelong friends and peers.

UH Hilo is a university made possible by the dedication and support of the surrounding community. We are, in turn, dedicated to giving Hawai‘i high school, transfer, and non-traditional students the options they need to earn baccalaureate and advanced degrees here on Hawai‘i Island.


Marcia Sakai

Are you worried about one of our students? Faculty and staff are encouraged to do online simulation exercise

A Message from University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Counseling Services: Faculty and staff can take small steps that make a big difference to support students when they need it the most.

Health and wellnes programs logo with lehua flower.Our students face increasing pressures that can lead to emotional distress, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and even thoughts of suicide. As faculty and staff, we can take small steps that make a big difference to support our students when they need it the most.

With the support of The Chancellor’s Professional Development Fund, Counseling Services and the UH Hilo Suicide Prevention Committee have adopted an online conversation simulation, “Kognito At-Risk for Faculty & Staff,” to help us learn to notice signs of distress, use techniques to discuss our concerns, and, if necessary, refer students to appropriate resources.

At-Risk for Faculty & Staff lets you practice these challenging conversations at your own pace through role-play with virtual students. In a national study of effectiveness, this simulation has been shown to increase the number of student referrals to counseling. It is also listed in the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s Best Practices Registry and under review for inclusion in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices.

To do online simulation exercise

1. Go to online Kognito website.

2. Create a new account.

3. Use enrollment key: uhilof

4. Launch At-Risk for Faculty & Staff

This short 30-45 min training can be completed in multiple sittings and your progress will be saved. You may need to unblock pop-ups in your browser for the simulation to open. Please note that UH Hilo has a Care Team in place of a BIT Team.

“This is a really, really great training resource. The dialogue and content are very apropos to this population group… I think this is a perfect way for faculty, staff, and student peers to learn about conversational strategies to identify and refer a student in distress. I hope that others have, or intend to view this resource before its closure date.” —UH Hilo Faculty

Kognito Workshop Training & Discussion 


  • Monday, March 12, 10:00-11:00 a.m.
  • Wednesday, March 14, 1:00-2:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 15, 9:00-10:00 a.m.
  • Thursday, March 15, 12:30-1:30 pm

Place: University Classroom Building, room 102

RSVP online by Friday, March 9, 2018.


If you have any questions or concerns or if you would like fliers, contact Emily Low.

Counseling Services and the UH Hilo Suicide Prevention Committee.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.

Crisis Text Line 741-741.

Greg Chun to serve as as senior advisor to UH on Maunakea

Greg Chun will represent the university externally on all matters relating to Maunakea, including the many discussions of alternative models of management.

Greg Chun
Greg Chun

Greg Chun has been appointed as senior advisor to University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner and UH Hilo Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai in overseeing the fulfillment of the responsibilities of the entire UH System on Maunakea. Chun is a UH Mānoa faculty member whose work focuses on the intersection of land use, community engagement and culture. Chun also chairs the Maunakea Management Board.

“Greg is extraordinarily well qualified and prepared to help the entire university and state move forward,” says Lassner in making the appointment. “Greg’s new role will enable him to represent the university externally on all matters relating to Maunakea, including the many discussions of alternative models of management. At the same time, he will be able to assist the entire University of Hawaiʻi in continuing to advance what have become award-winning stewardship and management programs across all parts of the institution.”

Chun is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools and has formal training as a clinical psychologist. Now residing on Hawaiʻi Island, Chun has served at the senior executive level with both Kamehameha Schools and the Parker Ranch. He has experience with restoration of historic Hawaiian sites in West Hawaiʻi and Molokai, in the development of educational and cultural programming as well as Hawaiian culture and values training, and providing leadership and organizational development.


UH System News.

Hawai‘i Sustainability in Higher Education Virtual Symposium, Feb. 8-9

University of Hawai‘i at Hilo faculty, staff and students can participate in two days of the Hawai‘i Sustainability in Higher Education Summit through a Virtual Symposium.

Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018
9:30-10:30 a.m.: Opening Plenary Session
10:30-11:30 a.m.: Panel on “Climate Change and Our Futures”
UH Hilo CyberCANOE, Mookini Library, LRC 350

Poster with information that can be found in the content of this post.
Click image for details on this symposium.

Friday, Feb. 9, 2018
8:00-11:00 a.m.: Panel on “Grand Challenges of Water”
11:00 am-1:00 p.m.: Panel on “Meeting of Wisdoms”
UH Hilo Campus Center, 301

Learn more about the summit.