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Category: Remarks & Writings

Interim Chancellor’s Message: Welcome to Spring 2018

The new year brings with it excitement and aspirations, and I hope that you will find much to engage with your university in the coming semester.

Aloha University of Hawai‘i at Hilo ‘Ohana,

UH Hilo seal, red lettering University of Hawaii and the state motto.Welcome back to UH Hilo for the spring 2018 semester, and welcome to all the new faces on campus!

The new year brings with it excitement and aspirations, and I hope that you will find much to engage with your university in the coming semester. There will be many opportunities through invited speaker series, exhibits, performances, and presentations on the amazing work by UH Hilo faculty. There will be professional development events that will stretch all of us to learn.

Our students are why we are here. We are carefully managing classes so that students have the classes they need to graduate. We are working with our legislators and board to bring resources for important initiatives on campus, including funding for students to build leadership skills, community engagement and workforce skills, as well as initial funding for the development of the Kalakaua Marine Science Center at Puako in West Hawai‘i

And there will be events for fun.  The annual UH Hilo Ho‘olaulea is upcoming on January 13, 2018, with entertainment, food and crafts, exhibits in the Performing Arts Center parking lot.  We will be recognizing science and exploration with our community with the Ellison Onizuka Science Day and the Science Olympiad as well as sustainability as the co-host of the UH System Sustainability Summit in February.  In April we will be welcoming Hōkūleʻa into our own Hilo Bay.

Have a great semester!

Marcia Sakai
Interim Chancellor

Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column: The history of UH Hilo is one of progress

Growth and progress demand persistence—and we are continuing our momentum this year.

By Marcia Sakai

UH Hilo seal, red lettering University of Hawaii and the state motto.Aloha and Happy New Year!

I’m looking forward to the coming year as the momentum of progress and growth continues at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. During our day-to-day life on campus, when progress is often challenging, it’s easy to lose sight of just how far we’ve come over the years in serving the higher education needs of our island.

In 2017, UH Hilo celebrated its 70th year providing access to higher education for the people on Hawai‘i Island. We began our journey in 1947 as the Hilo Program, a UH Extension Division program where courses were taught at the old Hilo Boarding School. In 1951, the University of Hawaiʻi-Hilo Branch was founded with an enrollment of 100 students. After several transformations, the four-year Hilo College began in 1969, and by the following year merged with Hawaiʻi Community College, becoming the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

More recently, in 1991, UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College separated, but continue to share many of the same resources. Over the years since, Hawai‘i CC and UH Hilo have worked together closely on many initiatives, most notably on the seamless transition of students into the university and on developing Native Hawaiian protocols in our teaching, research, and outreach activities.

Over the years, the university established five colleges, most recently the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy with its inaugural class ten years ago in 2007. It is the only accredited pharmacy college in the region, with a presence not only on Hawai‘i Island but also on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Maui and in the South Pacific in Guam, American Sāmoa and Saipan.

In 2018, we will celebrate several more noteworthy milestones.

Mookini Library and Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall opened 35 years ago. The names remind us of people who helped build this university. The library is named after former Chancellor Edwin H. Mookini who served from 1976 to 1979. Edith Kanaka‘ole was a beloved Hawaiian practitioner, kumu hula, composer, and founder of the Hawaiian studies program at UH Hilo.

Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language will be 30 years old. The college is named in honor of Ruth Keʻelikōlani Keanolani Kanāhoahoa, the 19th century high chiefess known for her strong advocacy of Hawaiian language and culture. Internationally recognized for successful cultural and language revitalization curriculum, the college’s staff and students honor the chiefess’s legacy as they do their work and study for the benefit of all Hawaii’s people.

The University Classroom Building is 15 years old—when it was built, it was the first construction of a major building at UH Hilo in over 20 years. It’s now our signature building at the entrance of campus, housing classrooms, offices and gathering places for our university community and the general public.

And five years ago, the Hale ʻAlahonua residence hall opened, the first new student housing project since 1989.

In my 26-plus years at UH Hilo, I have learned that growth and progress demand persistence—and we are continuing our momentum this year. We are building a new home for the pharmacy college, moving forward with forming the new College of Natural and Health Sciences, and we just launched the search for our new chancellor.

I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year.


Marcia Sakai
Interim Chancellor, UH Hilo

Message from the Interim Chancellor to UH Hilo Community: Many wonderful accomplishments this semster

These are just a few of the exciting things all of you are doing to provide positive learning experiences and support to prepare students to thrive, compete, innovate and lead.

Aloha to the UH Hilo Community,

I know that there are concerns on our campus that we are working to address but as we complete the last week of fall classes and begin to prepare for the evaluation period of finals, I would like to make note of the many wonderful things that I am learning about our programs and accomplishments of our people.

We are well on our way to initiatives aligned with focus on programs that take advantage of the unique physical and social characteristics of the island, attracting and serving Hawai‘i students who seek opportunities for highly engaging and experiential learning.

New programs

Planning for future workforce needs, the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management launched a new Certificate in Unmanned Aircraft Systems, a first step in the university’s long planned aeronautical science program. The certificate program focuses on training in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Faculty are also working to adapt sensors with agricultural and natural resource applications for use with UAS.

Rose Hart holding UAV,.
Rose Hart. Click to enlarge.

Students are also adapting UAS within their studies and research projects. Rose Hart, a second-year graduate student in our Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (TCBES) program received an Excellent Award for her poster presentation, “Using small unmanned aerial systems to map shoreline change at Hapuna State Beach Park” at the 2017 Forum Math-for-Industry conference at UH Mānoa. The award includes a fully paid two-week research trip to the Institute of Mathematics for Industry at Kyushu University, Japan.

Data science and data visualization emerged as we welcomed our second EPSCoR-funded data science faculty member (Travis Mandel). ‘Ike Wai grant funds are enabling UH Hilo to build capacity in a new data science program initiative through the hiring of a four-member cross-disciplinary team, including math, computer science, a life science, a social science. Data science presents an opportunity for our students to learn about studying and analyzing large sets of data from seemingly unrelated areas to solve complex problems.

A data visualization course offered by the computer science department will provide an interdisciplinary framework for students to learn cutting-edge data visualization techniques. Projects utilize data from the natural sciences to create interactive and immersive data visualization experiences to promote public awareness of environmental issues facing Hawaiian ecosystems. This capability is supported by CyberCANOE visual display technology, funded through the UH Mānoa Academy for Creative Media. UH Hilo technology sites are located in computer science (department), the library learning resource center, and ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i.

Student accomplishments

Leomanaolamaikalani Peleiholani-Blankenfeld, Tynsl Kailimai, Ciarra-Lynn Parinas, and U‘ilani Dasalla with Colosseum in background.
(Left tp right) Leomanaolamaikalani Peleiholani-Blankenfeld, Tynsl Kailimai, Ciarra-Lynn Parinas, and U‘ilani Dasalla at the Colosseum, Rome.

The College of Business and Economics has been part of a business plan competition to stimulate the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem on Hawai‘i Island, in partnership with Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawai‘i Authority (NELHA) and the Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce. The Hawai‘i Island Business Plan competition provides $25,000 of seed money for individuals or groups to develop and refine their business plans. This year, senior business administration major Juvette Kahawai‘i submitted a plan to launch a family business that will provide tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll administration for small businesses and was awarded a one year UH Hilo tuition scholarship.

Four English majors presented their research paper at the International Journal of Arts and Sciences conference in Rome, Italy. U‘ilani Dasalla, Tynsl Kailimai, Ciarra-Lynn Parinas, and Leomanaolamaikalani Peleiholani-Blankenfeld attended the conference, which featured over 100 international scholars. The students expanded on their research from their English course, Graphic Novels and Comics, to collaborate on a literary analysis that will be submitted for publication. The students’ travel and conference attendance were made possible by the Howard and Yoneko Droste Endowment of the UH Hilo Department of English. The Drostes served as UH Hilo faculty in art and English.


Faculty discussions to promote transfers to UH Hilo from UH community colleges are bearing fruit with the award of performance based funding from the UH system. The award will support a system-wide convening of faculty members in Administration of Justice programs, linking UH community colleges on all islands with UH Hilo.


The International Astronomical Union announced that the first interstellar object seen passing through our solar system, observed first by the Pan-STARRS1 telescope on Maui was named ‘Oumuamua. The name which means “a messenger from afar arriving first /”a messenger that reaches out from the distant past” was chosen in consultation with Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikolani College of Hawaiian Language Associate Professor Larry Kimura and his niece Ka‘iu Kimura, executive director of ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i. ‘Oumuamua reflects the way this object is like a scout or messenger sent from the distant past to reach out to the solar system.

Hilo is now home to the third mural of a statewide campaign to install ten Living Legacy Murals inspired by the mo‘olelo (story) of Kalapana. The project’s goal is to use art as a medium to invigorate Native Hawaiian identity and perpetuate Hawaiian values, language and culture, while celebrating the 30th anniversary of Ka Papahana Kaiapuni, Hawaiian immersion schools in Hawai‘i. The Hilo mural is sponsored by Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikolani College of Hawaiian Language, Kamehameha Schools, and the state Department of Education Office of Hawaiian Education.


Mural with figures.
The Hilo mural depicts Kalapana and his skills. Courtesy photo, click to enlarge

The $31.3 million Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy building is rising up from its building site on Nowelo Street. When it is completed in July 2018, the facility will finally provide a home for the college’s faculty and staff currently located at several sites in Hilo. Dean Carolyn Ma is actively working across the state to develop private major gift support for the college’s programs and maintenance, refurbishment and equipment of the space.

These are just a few of the exciting things all of you are doing to provide positive learning experiences and support to prepare students to thrive, compete, innovate and lead. I look forward to sharing more exciting news in the coming year. Wishing you all a safe and wonderful holiday season.

Marcia Sakai
Interim Chancellor

Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column: International students and exchange important for Hawai‘i

Having international students, exchange programs, and conferences as part of our university community enriches all Hawai‘i communities and contributes to the local culture and economy, which in turn raises the quality of life for everyone.

By Marcia Sakai.

Members of the press from the Study Hawai‘i Press Tour stand with UH Hilo staff and state officials on United Nations Day. (Left to right, front row) Eri Hall, Hawai‘i Community College; Christine Quintana, Hawai‘i CC; Huiyuan Wang, Studying Abroad Online; Claudia Civinini, EL Gazette; Yukari Kato, Ryugaku Journal; Patrick Atack, PIE News; and Amanda Sadamoto, UH Hilo student. (Back row): Jiaqi Wu, UH Hilo student; Igor Skibickij, Student Marketing; Jim Mellon, UH Hilo (Executive Director, Global and Intercultural Education Programs and Director, International Student Services and Intercultural Education); Aaron Baldwin, Mainichi News; Allan Mitelmao, E! Magazine; Todd Shumway, UH Hilo (Director, Global Exchange); Timothy Tiu, State of Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Click photo to enlarge.

We welcomed a group of special visitors to the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo last month. Seven international education journalists from key press outlets in Asia, Latin America, and Europe were in the state visiting campuses on O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island as part of a Study Hawai‘i Press Tour aimed to help counter the downward trend in international students studying in Hawai‘i.

This trend is of concern because of the important contributions international students make to the state in cross cultural understanding, global cooperation and economic growth. The tour was hosted by the Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) and the Study Hawai‘i Educational Consortium, an organization of 28 public and private schools, colleges and universities dedicated to increasing the enrollment of international students in Hawai‘i.

Their concern in the decline is warranted.

According to DBEDT’s 2017 Hawai‘i International Education Survey (via the Office of the Governor) Hawai‘i hosted 10,800 students from 27 institutions during the 2016-17 academic year, down from 12,200 students from 31 institutions during the 2015-16 academic year.

The total direct economic financial impact of international students for the state was an estimated $225.3 million in 2016-17, down from $302 million in 2015-16. This amount includes tuition and fees plus living expenses. In addition to the direct impact, other economic benefits of international students in Hawai‘i for the 2016-17 period included:

  • $484 million added to the state’s total economic output, including direct, indirect, and induced effects.
  • $32 million in state taxes generated from the total economic output.
  • $192 million in household earnings attributed to foreign students.
  • 5,093 jobs supported by foreign students’ spending.
  • $24,139 overall average annual per student spending.

At UH Hilo, we’re not seeing a drop in international enrollment this semester compared to last year with 258 international students this fall (7.3 percent of total student population) up from last fall’s 245 (6.7 percent of total). But in the previous four years from 2012 to 2015, the counts were higher at 263, 276, 274, and 264 respectively.

International education is an important part of the mission of UH Hilo. We pride ourselves on our inclusive community of diverse people and we encourage dialogue where differences in ideas, viewpoints and traditions are valued—this promotes multicultural fluency and prepares our students well for the global society. Along with the initiatives underway at UH Hilo to boost recruitment and retention of state residents, it’s important that we also work on attracting students and scholars to our campus for study and exchange.

International Education Week

The journalists’ tour of Hawai‘i schools on O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island was timed to coincide with International Education Week (Nov. 13-18), when the UH System joined universities across the country and the world to celebrate international education. Events at UH campuses throughout the state celebrated the contributions of international education and international students with food from countries around the world, dance and music performances, films, lectures and more.

At UH Hilo, the activities during International Education Week included our annual Parade of Nations, where groups of our international students walk from the Campus Center to the Library Lanai wearing traditional dress and displaying the flags of their homelands—it’s a fun and colorful event. On the Library Lanai, students from different parts of the world shared displays and information about their countries.

Parade of Nations, Nov. 17, 2017, UH Hilo campus. More photos.

It was wonderful to share this celebration with the visiting press and I know they came away with an understanding about how beautifully our international students thrive here.

Our celebration of diversity on campus isn’t limited to one week a year. In October, we held the annual Barrio Fiesta where UH Hilo and the local community celebrated the richness of Filipino heritage, culture and scholarship.

Female dancer with elaborate headdress and traditional clothing.
Barrio Fiesta, Oct. 27, UH Hilo campus. More photos.

As part of Filipino American Heritage Month, this year’s fiesta also served as the opening ceremonies of the first International Conference on Multidisciplinary Filipino Studies—the campus welcomed researchers from around the world to share and exchange ideas, research, and interest of Filipinos and the Philippines.

Having international students, exchange programs, and conferences as part of our university community enriches all Hawai‘i communities and contributes to the local culture and economy, which in turn raises the quality of life for everyone.


Marcia Sakai