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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.

Aloha,

Marcia Sakai

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