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Category: Remarks & Writings

Column by the Chancellor in Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce Newsletter: March 2011

Message from UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
Chamber Connection Newsletter
Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce
March 2011

Growing our campus strengthens our island’s economy

Logo with the words Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce Since 1898The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is more than an institution of higher education, it has a major impact on the island’s economy. A recent estimate is that UH Hilo contributes about $240 million to the economic activity of the state. Here at home, the university employs 610 people and stimulates an additional 3,900 jobs in our local communities. UH Hilo’s University Park of Science and Technology has $900 million in investments and creates 400 jobs.

In these challenging economic times, an effective way to address both job growth and higher education needs is through capital improvement projects on our campus, and we have some exciting projects in the works.

Our new Science and Technology Building is nearing completion. The physics, astronomy, and chemistry departments will move into the $28 million structure that will feature new classrooms, laboratories, and research space. The top-notch facilities and technology will provide UH Hilo students and faculty with state-of-the-art laboratory and research facilities rivaling any in the country, bringing our university’s science disciplines into the 21st century and enabling our graduates to be highly competitive at the graduate school level and in the work force.

We broke ground on our new Student Services Building in January. The three-story structure will house programs to support student success: admissions, registration, financial aid, advising, career development, disability services, counseling, women’s center, and health promotion. Capital improvements like this bring UH Hilo in line with national trends in student services and allow staff to meet the needs of our diverse student population from initial admission to graduation and beyond.

In February, we celebrated the groundbreaking of our award-winning College of Hawaiian Language building. Our island is the best place in the world to study indigenous language and culture revitalization, and we are committed to strengthening and growing the college. The beautiful building already is earning accolades: the Honolulu chapter of the American Institute of Architects gave WCIT Architects the design award for this building in the “Commissioned Work to be Built” category. Both the building and landscape will reflect the Hawaiian culture and our island’s natural resources.

Plans are underway for a permanent building for our College of Pharmacy to be located at the entrance to the University Park of Science and Technology. Now awaiting legislative approval for construction, the facility will give UH Hilo pharmacy students access to state-of-the-art technology in the classroom, affording them an exceptional educational experience that will prepare them well for the job market. With this building, the College of Pharmacy will meet its full potential to educate the health care work force of tomorrow, serve the health care needs of our citizens, and stimulate the economy through grants and research.

Construction is scheduled to begin this summer on a new UH Hilo College Campus Store, which will be an addition to the Campus Center building. We’re excited about this new store because, not only will it be a place for students to buy books, but it will also be a welcoming place to shop, eat, hang out and just enjoy. Serving both UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College, the store’s ultra-modern design will contribute greatly to a lively and inviting sense of community for our students.

Radio interview with the Chancellor

Chancellor Donald Straney of University of Hawai‘i at Hilo says it’s the attitude of Hawai‘i’s university system that attracted him.

Logo with the words Hawaii Public Radio, ocean in backgroundFebruary 22, 2011: Hawai‘i Island reporter Sherry Bracken from Hawaii Public Radio spoke with Chancellor Donald Straney about why he made the move from California.

February 23, 2011: University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s new Chancellor, Donald Straney, has been at the helm for nearly nine months. He says the UH Hilo campus is very different from the 20,000-student UH Mānoa campus.

(Update: Interviews no longer available online.)

 

Kenith Simmons is appointed interim vice chancellor for academic affairs

Aloha,

I’m pleased to report Dr. Kenith Simmons’s appointment as University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s interim vice chancellor for academic affairs is now official.

Kenith Simmons
Kenith Simmons

Dr. Simmons came to UH Hilo in 1979, after receiving her PhD in English literature from the University of Wisconsin. She joined UH Hilo’s Department of English as a contemporary literature and film specialist with considerable experience in teaching English as a second language.

Dr. Simmons’s scholarly work includes numerous publications related to film and contemporary literature. For the past fifteen years she has devoted her creative time to the writing of poetry. Well represented in Hawai‘i literary publications, her work has also appeared nationally and internationally in poetry journals and anthologies.

Since the early 1990s, in addition to continuing to teach, she has served in administrative positions, including chairing the English department and the women’s studies and honors program steering committees. She was humanities division chair for nine years and was the first assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the first assistant vice chancellor for administrative affairs.

An active member of the community, Simmons has served as vice president of the Hawai‘i Concert Society and as a board member of the Hawai‘i Literary Arts Council. She is also a mediator with Kuikahi Mediation Center.

Dr. Simmons received the UH Board of Regents’ Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1984.

Donald Straney
Chancellor

Legislative Testimony by the Chancellor on HB 1496 Relating to Agribusiness

Testimony Presented Before the
House Committee on Higher Education
February 10, 2011 at 2:00pm
By
Donald Straney, Chancellor
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo
and
Virginia Hinshaw, Chancellor
University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
and
Sylvia Yuen
Interim Dean and Director of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

HB 1496 RELATING TO AGRIBUSINESS

The purpose of HB 1496 is to require the University of Hawai‘i to convene a task force to conduct a study on whether an agribusiness cooperative program should be established to:

1. assist local farmers in increasing the distribution of products to large retail establishments; and
2. develop feed mills located in this state to lower farm expenses and minimize the carbon impact of transporting feed imports to local farmers.

The bill also requires a proposal on the means by which the agribusiness cooperative program may be permanently funded through private and public funds and a recommendation on the appropriate state agency or department under which the program should be established.

A thorough study on the above will entail the gathering and analysis of data, which will require resources. However, no resources are provided for the mandates in the bill.

We support HB 1496 provided that funds are available to support the task force and its work, and provided that its passage does not replace or adversely impact priorities as indicated in the University’s Board of Regents Approved Executive Biennium Budget.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

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Remarks by the Chancellor to the Rotary Club of South Hilo

Remarks by UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
Rotary Club of South Hilo
Feb. 8, 2011

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo:
Helping to Build the Future of Hawai‘i Island

Aloha!

Today I’d like to share my thoughts about the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and what I’ve discovered during my first seven months as chancellor. It’s been an extraordinary learning experience. I’ve discovered that UH Hilo is a university in its own right, and I’ve found a good deal to admire.

Professor with student
UH Hilo faculty is engaged in both teaching and scholarship, providing a very high quality education to our students.

Let me start out by saying I think UH Hilo is an incredibly strong university. We’re blessed with very high quality faculty who could work elsewhere but choose to work here. The faculty is engaged in both teaching and scholarship, providing a very high quality education to our students.

For example, Professor of Philosophy Ron Amundson is studying the ethical impact of the Human Genome Project. Associate Professor of Biology Elizabeth Stacy is doing research, with her conservation biology graduate students, on the biology of lehua ‘ohi‘a. Professor of Marine Science Karla McDermid is a foremost authority on the nutritional and medicinal uses of seaweeds. Professor of Biology Bill Mautz is researching the impact of pollutants on amphibians. Professor of Psychology Vladi Skorikov studies mental health issues of adolescents. And Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Science Andre Bachman is researching new anti-cancer drugs.

Group of students
Enrollment trends continue upwards. This spring semester, we have 2.5% more students than last spring, bringing us to 4,000 students.

Enrollment trends continue upwards. This spring semester, we have 2.5% more students than last spring, bringing us to 4,000 students. 70% are from Hawai‘i, 23% are Native Hawaiian. Freshman: 25% from O‘ahu, 25% international. Growth trajectory: 3-5% a year, especially in regard to retaining continuing students.

I’m fortunate that UH Hilo’s strategic plan expired last year, since it gives me the opportunity to work closely with the campus and community to re-envision our future and rethink our course. Strategic planning is serious undertaking. Our new plan must have a very clear definition of our vision and mission, clear enough to guide us for the next five to ten years: vision, mission, framework and priorities.

Our key strategic goals are: 1) Graduate students faster, for example 15 to finish, and summer tuition scholarships, 2) Deliver programs across the island, for example the North Hawai‘i Education and Research Center in Honoka‘a, West Hawai‘i Campus and 2+2 programs, and 3) Enhance work life on campus, for example streamlining signatures, improving communications, providing shuttles.

In the next few slides, I’d like to talk about our strong comparative advantage.

Class listening to professor at white board.
Comparative advantage: Our small classes are key. They allow students to have the personal attention of PhD faculty who are active scholars in their fields.

Our small classes are key. They allow students to have the personal attention of PhD faculty who are active scholars in their fields. Teaching and scholarship are integrated, and our faculty regularly collaborate with students on research and service projects.

I think of UH Hilo as a “practical university,” one that prepares students well for meaningful and productive careers here at home that will help build our island economy and strengthen our island communities.

Two students working in the campus gardens.
Our island is the best place in the world to study environmental and marine science, astronomy and volcanoes, sustainable agriculture, indigenous and Hawaiian language and culture revitalization, and rural health delivery.

Our island is the best place in the world to study environmental and marine science, astronomy and volcanoes, sustainable agriculture, indigenous and Hawaiian language and culture revitalization, and rural health delivery. There is a strong “sense of place” in these types of fields, and they all present opportunities for our graduates to make lifelong contributions to their own communities and help build a prosperous future.

UH Hilo is more than an institution of higher education, it has a major impact on the island’s economy. A recent estimate is that UH Hilo contributes about $240 million to the economic activity of the state. But our first commitment is to the economic impact here, on our island.

The university employs 610 people and stimulates an additional 3,900 jobs in our local communities. UH Hilo’s University Park of Science & Technology: $900 million in investments, creates 400 jobs.

We’re building many opportunities to attract start-ups to Hilo. UH Hilo’s University Park of Science and Technology is the 5th largest industrial and high tech park in the state at 425 acres (120 currently developed). Along with the USDA, current tenants include astronomical base facilities of Subaru, Smithsonian, UH Institute for Astronomy, Cal Tech, Gemini and Joint Astronomy Centre. Downtown Hilo: UH Hilo’s Hawai‘i Innovation Center is a small business incubator.

A fundamental question that we ask ourselves throughout the strategic planning process: Who are we? UH Hilo is quickly growing beyond 4,000 students. We offer a wide range of liberal arts, professional and graduate programs typically found at larger universities. We focus on student learning, offering students small classes and the personal attention to PhD faculty who are active scholars and who regularly collaborate with students on research and service projects.

But, as you know, the current fiscal situation in state government presents a challenge. Governor Abercrombie said in his State of the State address, “the canoe could capsize,” and “we could all huli.” The challenge is statewide: state government needs to make up $844 million shortfall in next two-and-a-half years. UH Hilo has a 22% reduction in general funds. One of our greatest challenges: limited on-campus housing.

Our strategies during these difficult times include maximizing our comparative advantage in the higher education marketplace that I spoke of earlier; maximizing diverse revenue streams such as extramural grants (more on next slide), fundraising and other income; and to build capacity for increased enrollment (summer sessions, retention, residence halls).

UH Hilo is proactive in generating some of its own income. I’m extremely pleased to see how hard our faculty and staff work to pursue and implement extramural grants. The total for last fiscal year ending June 2010 is $27 million—the highest ever. This year, we have the College of Pharmacy’s Beacon Community Grant $16 million to support health information technology on the island of Hawai‘i.

Professor showing students how to take blood pressure on volunteer.
Planning is underway for Doctor in Nursing Practice.

Despite a challenging budget situation, we are moving forward on some exciting new initiatives: Rural Health Care Center, planning underway for Doctorate in Nursing Practice, and three Pharmacy degrees: BA in Pharmacy Studies, MS in Clinical Psychopharmacology and PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences. More in process, stay tuned!

Science and Technology Building, three story.
Science and Technology Building is near completion.

We continue to strengthen our infrastructure and capacity. This activity also stimulates jobs through construction projects. Our beautiful new $25 million Science and Technology Building is nearing completion! Astronomy/Physics and Chemistry departments will move into the building.

Rendering of Student Services Building, two story, glass front, red roof, students on walkway.
Rendering of Student Services Building.

We are committed to serving our students in the best ways possible. We just broke ground on our new $19 million Student Services Building a couple of weeks ago. The new facility will be on par with national trends with student services centrally located under one roof, giving our students cohesive, effective support in every way possible: admissions, registration, advising, counseling, career development, health promotion and more.

Our island is the best place in the world to study indigenous and Hawaiian language and culture revitalization. We are committed to strengthening and growing these programs. With $28 million in funds released by the governor last year, we will break ground on the $72 million award-winning College of Hawaiian Language building on February 12. It will be a grand celebration. I say award-winning because the Honolulu chapter of the American Institute of Architects gave WCIT Architects the design award for this building in the “Commissioned Work to be Built” category. The building and landscape will reflect Hawaiian culture and Big Island natural resources. I hope you’ll join us for the groundbreaking at the Nowelo Street site this Saturday, February 12 at 9 A.M.

Before closing, I want to share exciting news on the horizon at our College of Pharmacy. The college will graduate its first class of student pharmacists this May. Four years ago, these students could not have studied pharmacy on the island of Hawai‘i. This class is living proof that not only can Pharmacy be studied here, but students can work with faculty recruited from across the world for their skills and abilities as scientists.

Rendering of College of Pharmacy buildings, curved dome roof line.
Rendering of College of Pharmacy facilities.

Our Pharmacy faculty teach as well or better than at any other school in the country. This class launches what I know will be a long line of distinguished PharmD alumni making excellent use of the knowledge and skills gained at UH Hilo. Once this class graduates, full accreditation of the college is expected in June. On the slide is a rendering of the planned permanent building to be located at Nowelo and Komohana streets.

There is so much more I could share! Also on the horizon is our University Village.

I hope that gives you a sense of what is happening at the UH Hilo campus. We have a number of challenges ahead, but I truly believe we’ll be able to do a lot to advance our university this year.

Thank you for your support. You’ve made me feel welcome and I look forward to working with all of you to strengthen higher education opportunities for our island.

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