Jan 302015

The overall impression of the review team is that we know where we are going and we are going in the right direction.

By Chancellor Don Straney

WASCLast fall, the accreditation team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) made their scheduled visit to the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and conducted an on-site review. We have now received the team’s report, and I’d like to share with you some thoughts about the findings and recommendations.

The visiting team found our campus very welcoming and engaging and they thoroughly enjoyed their visit. Impressed by the level of commitment and passion exhibited by our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, they commended us on knowing our mission and vision well and in using both to inform what we do.

The overall impression of the team is that we know where we are going and we are going in the right direction. But they did identify several areas they thought we could improve.

While the visiting team was greatly impressed with our applied learning activity, they felt we could improve by hiring a coordinator and adopting campus-wide guidelines. It was our alumni’s enthusiasm for our “living-laboratory” campus that really showed the reviewers that this is the feature at the heart and soul of UH Hilo and what makes us different from many other institutions.

We need some fine tuning in the areas of curriculum, institutional research capacity, and distance learning:

  • Faithful adherence to the published program review schedule, and see that departments receive constructive feedback on the quality of outcomes, assessment plans, and studies. Departments can then use this feedback to improve student learning.
  • Extend assessment of the core competencies outside of the general education program and incorporate in the disciplines and majors through continued assessment and review. This will allow us to better understand the competency level of our graduates and to improve teaching and learning across campus.
  • Develop a strategic and long-range plan for institutional research, and create a campus data warehouse that both interfaces with the UH system and meets local needs.
  • Develop a clear strategy for distance learning, specifically for online courses and degrees, with special attention to adequate resources to support faculty and learning.

The review team encourages us to focus our attention on retention. We are making progress and will continue with our efforts, particularly for transfers and continuing students. (See  cover story in the January issue of the Ka Lono Hanakahi to learn more about current retention efforts.) Next steps include examining more about demographic factors that affect retention and graduation rates and why.

Many people on campus helped with the WASC review. I want to give a special mahalo to the people on UH Hilo’s WASC Accreditation Committee who worked hard preparing the institutional report that served as the basis for the visit. Special thanks to Seri Luangphinith who serves as accreditation liaison officer.

I also want to thank our alumni who met with the team. Their description of UH Hilo as a “transformative educational experience” greatly impressed the review team.

I encourage you to read the entire Report of the WSCUC Visiting Team. I will schedule several “town hall” meetings over the next several weeks to consult with the various campus communities about how we will proceed to address the team’s recommendations.


Don Straney

Jan 272015

Requests for fee waivers are now being accepted for the February class on Advanced Grant Writing.

Hilo sealThe College of Continuing Education and Community Service (CCECS) has reserved complimentary seats exclusively for University of Hawai‘i at Hilo faculty and staff as part of the college’s Spring Professional Development workshops.

As part of the initiative to address the UH Hilo Strategic Plan Goals 2, 5, and 6, the college has been granted funds from the Chancellor’s Professional Development Fund to service the university and promote collaboration.

Requests for fee waivers are now being accepted for the February class on Advanced Grant Writing. The class is scheduled for Feb. 21st, Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., to be held at 81-964 Halekii Street, Kealakekua, HI 96750 Building 5, Classroom 5C.

In this course, experienced grant writer, Jeani Navarro, will show how to research and write winning proposals that get funded.

Participants will:

  • Gain a more in-depth understanding of the criteria funders use to determine whether a grant proposal is funded or rejected.
  • Discover a number of finishing touches to give project the edge over others.
  • Become proficient in the proposal format used by the vast majority of public foundations.
  • Discover the quickest and most efficient ways to gather the information needed to develop a proposal’s attachments, including information on the organization’s structure, administration, and finances.

All interested individuals will need to complete and submit the information below for review by Monday, Feb. 9, 2015. Responses should be emailed to program coordinator, Luisa Castro, at luisac@hawaii.edu.


  • Name
  • Unit or department
  • Brief paragraph stating how attending the workshop will benefit the grant writer and unit.

Notification of the committee’s decision will be sent to applicant by Friday, Feb. 13.

Contact info

For more information contact Luisa Castro at 808-974-7664.

Jan 152015

Students, faculty and staff need and deserve well-maintained and up-to-date facilities that support modern teaching, learning, innovation and scholarship.

By Chancellor Don Straney

Rendering of lab space in the future facilities of the College of Pharmacy at UH Hilo.

Rendering of lab space in the future facilities of the College of Pharmacy at UH Hilo.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is committed to providing our students and faculty with the labs and equipment needed to move our island and state into the future. Last month, we celebrated the groundbreaking of the new home for the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy. This building establishes the pharmacy college as an integral part of the state of Hawaiʻi and is symbolic of the direction UH Hilo is going.

The $33 million, 35,000-square foot pharmacy building is an example of the progress the UH System is making with its 21st Century Facilities initiative to modernize facilities and campus environments across the state to be safe, sustainable and supportive of modern practices in teaching, learning and research.

Facilities and campus environments must support 21st century higher education expectations and practices. Students, faculty and staff need and deserve well-maintained and up-to-date facilities that support modern teaching, learning, innovation and scholarship.

We need to be sure our students are learning in the same type of modern environments in which they will be working. The university’s facilities must be fully digitally enabled, flexible in use, and be efficient with energy, water and waste.

Our labs, offices, and equipment must be able to support cutting edge research. New facilities like the upcoming pharmacy building open up possibilities for our students and faculty. The ability to do more pharmacy research will have a great impact on the state. Students will be ready to step into the health care jobs of the future because they will know what it’s like to work in a modern lab.

Moving our university fully into the 21st century also requires us to be supportive of deep collaborations with partners across the state, nation and the world.

For example, UH is currently updating the teaching telescopes on Maunakea to improve key facilities for training undergraduate and graduate students in astronomy.

In a historic collaboration, UH Mānoa, though the Institute for Astronomy, and UH Hilo, through our Department of Physics and Astronomy, are combining efforts to modernize the UH 2.2m and the UH Hilo Hoku Ke‘a observatories on Maunakea. These projects are state supported through capital improvement project funds and will result in stronger astronomy programs for both institutions.

In addition, having modernized equipment and labs means we can respond better to the needs of our community.

For example, when disaster strikes such as Tropical Storm Iselle, marine science researchers can respond better, do their analysis faster, and help a community in need more efficiently. The same goes for the UH Hilo geologists and geographers currently providing critical information about the Puna lava flow to Hawai‘i County Civil Defense.

The UH 21st Century Facilities initiative focuses on providing critical infrastructure for the university system. UH Hilo is committed to the task. It’s what a good university can and should do for its community, state and region.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year.


Don Straney

Dec 102014
David Lassner

David Lassner

Participants will have the opportunity to discuss and share their vision for Hawai‘i Community College – Pālamanui.

A public forum to discuss higher education in West Hawai‘i will be held Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014, 5:30 p.m. at the Kealakehe High School cafeteria.

The forum is open to the West Hawai‘i community.  Participants will have the opportunity to discuss and share their vision for Hawai‘i Community College – Pālamanui, which is scheduled to open in fall 2015.

University of Hawai‘i President David Lassner and Vice President for Community Colleges John Morton will participate in the forum. They will share details about UH’s current presence in West Hawai‘i, as well as plans for the future.

“We look forward to the opening of Hawai‘i Community College – Pālamanui and the opportunities this will provide residents as a gateway to the statewide University of Hawai‘i System,” says Lassner.

Also attending will be UH Hilo Chancellor Don Straney, West Hawaii’s head of the community college, Marty Fletcher, and Hawaii Community College chancellor Noreen Yamane.

Peter Hoffmann, a West Hawai‘i resident and a member of the University of Hawai‘i’s Board of Regents, is convening the meeting.

“I am very pleased that the community has this opportunity to discuss higher education possibilities with President Lassner and to become better aware of the great potential that the opening of Pālamanui will have for the residents of West Hawai‘i,” says Hoffman.

The public is invited to come, listen, and ask questions.  If you have questions you wish to submit in advance, please send them to moderator Sherry Bracken,  preferably by Wednesday night, at jbkslb@kona.net

-Adapted from UH press release

Nov 252014

UH Hilo needs to offer many opportunities for students to access scholarships to ensure that every young person on our island has access to higher education. To achieve that, we need the community’s help.

By Chancellor Don Straney 

Hilo sealStudents at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo are increasingly dependent on financial aid. While UH system policy established in 2011 called for an increase in the amount of tuition that is used to provide financial aid to our students, we recognize that even modest increases in costs can be a barrier to some. A high priority for us is to keep the UH system accessible to all eligible students in the state.

UH Hilo is blessed with donated funds for scholarships and other forms of aid that offset the impact of tuition increases. But we will need to increase scholarships over the next few years if we want to remain accessible to all our island students. To make college affordable to all, this must be a priority for our campus and for our community.

We know the university and local communities understand and care about the need to give access to as many students as possible. Studies show people who possess a college degree have a much higher lifetime earning potential than those who do not. People with a degree are better able to contribute to or build healthy communities.

But as tuition and other costs rise, higher education becomes less affordable to students from middle- and low-income families. Because of this, we need to do everything we can to give all qualified students access to the funds they need to attend the university.

Let me run some numbers by you.

We awarded $46 million in financial aid to our students last year. This is a tremendous increase from 10 years ago when we awarded $15 million. The bulk of the $46 million, almost 75%, is from state and federal grants and loans.

Institutional aid, which is the percentage of tuition I mentioned above (our intake of tuition was about $35 million last year), was increased from 15% to a cap of 20% of total tuition. It goes to need- and merit-based aid, and comes to about 11% of the total aid awarded.

Some students arrive at UH Hilo with financial aid they’ve received on their own. This would include sources like scholarships from their hometown Rotary Clubs or parents’ loans. This is about 12% of total aid.

The scholarships we are hoping to build are today less than 3% of the total aid awarded.

How do we increase financial aid for our students? How do we make UH Hilo accessible to all qualified students in our state?

UH Hilo needs to offer many opportunities for students to access scholarships to ensure that every young person on our island has access to higher education. To achieve that, we need the community’s help.

Behind every scholarship is an individual or a company that has a connection to UH Hilo and a desire to help our students. Individuals and organizations donate funds to UH Hilo for scholarships because they may see it as an investment in the future; scholarships enable more students to prepare to enter the workforce. Alumni donate funds because they may realize the importance of an education and want to pay forward the opportunities given them while at UH Hilo.

Longtime Hawaiʻi County Councilman Jimmy Arakaki and his wife Grace made a donation to establish an endowed scholarship to benefit business students. Audrey Furukawa, after her retirement from UH Hilo, established a scholarship endowment supporting study abroad opportunities. A charitable trust helps grow the Helene Hale “Citizen of the World” Scholarship Endowment.

It’s clear what a vitally important role private donors can play in opening up access to higher education. Scholarships support students to complete their education and contribute to their communities.

On behalf of our students, I’d like to take this opportunity to express gratitude to our donors. I hope members of our university and local communities, business people, alumni, and others will be inspired to make an investment in the future of our island by funding scholarships.