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Interim Chancellor’s Column in Hawaii Tribune-Herald Special Section, University Town 2019

Column by Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai
Hawaii Tribune-Herald Special Section: University Town 2019
March 24, 2019

UH Hilo: A comprehensive university serving the community

UH Hilo seal, red lettering University of Hawaii and the state motto.The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo mission is to challenge students to reach their highest level of academic achievement by inspiring learning, discovery, and creativity inside and outside the classroom.

With core liberal arts values and an array of programs across a broad range of career pathways, our students complete an education that prepares them for continuous learning needed in the 21st century. By the time they graduate with advanced knowledge in their chosen major, our students have gained foundational skills in written communication, language, reasoning, and an appreciation for multiculturalism, humanities and the arts, and natural and social sciences.

Our students learn from many sources during their time with us, and I would like to focus this column on three foundational areas that prepare our students to achieve their goals and to be contributing members to the community.

Communication

With the deluge of information coming at us every day, good communication skills are crucial for professionals in the 21st century. This means mastery in delivering written and verbal information, and also in receiving information through active listening.

Throughout their years with us, students are required to explore and develop these skills through individual work and also through projects that require teamwork. For example, we have had students out in the community as interns listening to the needs of local businesses and organizations, helping to hone plans for better outcomes.

As we move into a data-filled future, communication also includes skills such as data visualization, a sophisticated form of scientific communication where large data sets are converted into simply designed presentations for other scientists or the general public. With new technology on campus, students are learning hands-on skills for creating effective data visualization products in a broad range of topical issues such as water conservation and natural disaster response.

Community

Building strong communities is extremely important in our local culture, and UH Hilo takes pride in doing outreach that helps raise the quality of life for everyone. Every student at UH Hilo is offered opportunities to apply their classroom learning to the real world through internships, service learning, and community activities.

For example, the Pacific Internship Program for Exploring Science (PIPES) immerses students in internships each summer to help solve problems affecting our communities, such as climate change and invasive species. Our pharmacy college sponsors events that showcase research on prevalent health issues. Student-athletes go into local classrooms to inspire elementary students to read. Our students give back by paying forward.

Further, the North Hawai‘i Education and Research Center in Honoka‘a, while honoring the history and traditional culture, helps local high school students prepare for college, provides adults with lifelong learning activities, and gives the town a meeting place to gather and create new memories.
And our Center for Community Engagement offers non-credit courses open to everyone interested in lifelong learning. The center also supports faculty in community-engaged teaching, a perfect example of UH Hilo’s adage, “One learns from many sources.”

Leadership

Our eyes are on the future, and it is clear that our island, region, and the world in general need knowledgeable, dedicated leaders to help communities meet unprecedented challenges. This is why a major goal of UH Hilo is to provide support to students to thrive, compete, and innovate to become leaders in their professional and personal lives.

One program to support this goal is the Student Leadership Development Program that instills cultural awareness, experiential learning, and wellness activities. The Ka Lama Ku Student Leadership Development Program is based on Native Hawaiian cultural values. And our UH Hilo Student Association is led by students honing their skills in politics, community organizing, and developing policy that will help solve the problems of tomorrow.

Moving into the future

Armed with an education founded in the liberal arts, the guidance of expert mentors, and a deep desire to make new discoveries that positively impact their communities, our students are learning from many sources and are already contributing to their selected fields, their communities, and the world.

Aloha,
Marcia Sakai

Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column, March 2019: UH Hilo moving into the future

At UH Hilo we embrace our kuleana to help provide the workforce for new growth sectors in our economy. Our eyes are on the future.

By Marcia Sakai.

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo mission is to challenge students to reach their highest level of academic achievement by inspiring learning, discovery, and creativity inside and outside the classroom. This prepares them for the workforce needs of our island, state, and the global community. In this column, I’d like to share with you a few of our new programs that directly answer these needs.

Our new bachelor of science in aeronautical sciences program, approved earlier this year by the UH Board of Regents, has two tracks: one in commercial professional pilot training and the other in commercial aerial information technology (drones). Both are projected growth areas for the state. The pilot training track is cost effective compared to mainland programs and would support the state’s tourism-related transportation services sector. The drone track trains students for growing career opportunities in agriculture, natural disaster response, natural resource management, search and rescue, security services, and expected air transport services.

UH Hilo drone team took a lead role in collecting data during the recent lava flow in Puna. Read story about new aeronautical sciences degree program. Photo via UH System News.

In the fast-growing field of data science, UH Hilo launched its long-planned data science program this past fall. Technology is enabling the production of data at an ever increasing rate, but there are not a lot of people trained to analyze that data, develop information, and make conclusions. Here on our island, for example, there is great need for data analytics in conservation efforts, water resource management, and climate change research.

At UH Hilo’s Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center located at Hilo Bay, hundreds of students have gained valuable hands-on experience at the nine-acre center, developing aquaponics and raising ornamental and food fish, shellfish, and algae throughout the year. Interns, volunteers, and research students have learned everything about aquaculture production from the hatchery where juvenile fish and juvenile oysters are raised to actual farming of the organisms.

UH Hilo has the only four-year aquaculture program in the state, and the center has the only facility dedicated to aquaculture and coastal management education, research, and outreach to the community and industry. In addition to training the workforce and researchers of tomorrow, our center is helping to develop sustainable seafood production, moving the state closer to self-reliance in food while also promoting ocean conservation.

We are working with Hawai‘i Community College to develop articulated 2+2 transfer pathways to UH Hilo baccalaureate opportunities and targeting completion of   pathways in administration of justice and psychology by the end of this academic year.  We will extend these and look at other pathways across all the UH community colleges, in order to develop a robust transfer population. Looking ahead, we are investigating collaborative work to develop a pathway into the natural sciences and STEM teacher education programs, two fields for which there is already an important workforce need.

To meet future needs for highly educated professionals in health care, we are looking toward preparing students to pursue doctoral studies. The Students of Hawaiʻi Advanced Research Program (SHARP) is a relatively new program, largely supporting under-represented students, particularly Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who would like to do research in preparation for doctoral studies. The students are mentored by expert faculty researchers to develop interest and competence in biomedical and behavioral sciences research. The program is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) and is administered through the UH Hilo Department of Anthropology.

Group viewing poster presentation.
SHARP student Jasmine Hiking (center facing right) with a group viewing the poster presentation on her research. Read story about SHARP symposium.

At UH Hilo we embrace our kuleana to help provide the workforce for new growth sectors in our economy. Our eyes are on the future. We strive to anticipate the needs of our island, state, and global community and to help prepare the professionals needed to navigate the challenges to come. Our students will not only have the chance to compete successfully in the future for well-paying jobs, but will also help raise the quality of life for their families, communities, state, and region for years to come.

Aloha,

Marcia Sakai

Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Feb. 2019: Supporting students to thrive and succeed

Priority #1 at UH Hilo: Supporting students to thrive and succeed.

By Marcia Sakai

A major goal of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is to provide support to students to thrive, compete, innovate and lead in their professional and personal lives. This means we have a responsibility to develop best practices that enable students to pursue their own goals with purpose and confidence to see them through to graduation and then beyond to further education or a meaningful career.

Purpose First

One initiative to achieve this goal is a program that UH Hilo is implementing, along with several other UH campuses, to develop a new model of best-practice student advising tools. UH was selected by Complete College America as one of four state teams to participate in a 24-month initiative called Purpose First, where students are encouraged to explore career aspirations early in their college/university years.

This is the trend to success: make a career choice early. Gone are the days of recommending to students that they take general courses for the first two years and not worry about their major until later. Here’s why: An early career choice is then integrated into the student’s academic advising, with decisions made along the way based on real-time, region-specific labor market data currently available and reviewed by the students themselves.

Strada Education Network. Completion with a Purpose.The UH Purpose First  initiative, funded by a $1 million grant from Strada Education Network, enables students to pursue their college goals more purposefully and with confidence that their majors match their academic and personal strengths. They are also given a clearer understanding of future career opportunities.

Examples of activity underway at UH Hilo toward Purpose First include annual career fairs for the entire campus designed to connect students with employers from across the state, development of a shared plan for Career Advising between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, and the inclusion of career topics in all classes.

In tandem, we’re transforming many traditional courses of study into interdisciplinary undergraduate curriculum that is more responsive to preparing graduates for further education or employment and leadership in the 21st century.

Evaluation of the effectiveness of these efforts will be implemented in fall 2019.

Enrollment Management Plan

The Purpose First program is part of our updated Enrollment Management Plan geared to preparing competent and transformational leaders of tomorrow through a data-driven enrollment management process from recruitment, to persistence, to graduation and beyond.

The plan calls for UH Hilo to increase its enrollment through strategic recruitment, well-rounded student support, and focused retention efforts. We’ve increased communication and access to financial aid information, adjusted awarding of institutional aid to support retention, expanded and enhanced digital outreach (email, web, and social media), increased UH community college transfer events and recruitment, and implemented texting communications for accepted students.

Opihi UH Hilo Student SuccessTo coordinate and oversee many new and existing undergraduate retention strategies, we’ve launched the ʻOpihi Student Success program with new hires to do proactive inreach to current students focused on registration and student support, and outreach to potential returning students who stopped out of UH Hilo but were within 15 credits of graduation.

We’ve also increased participation in the peer mentoring program for new freshmen and transfer students. Mass communication has expanded to remind students about important deadlines, processes, and events.

Further, in collaboration with the College of Business and Economics and the College of Arts and Sciences, ʻOpihi conducted individual reviews of progress to degrees for all 2,529 students at sophomore, junior or senior standing, including exchange students. And in addition to the students who stopped out, outreach is underway to students who experienced registration errors, and others who were deemed prospective returning students.

The goal of our new Enrollment Management Plan is to make UH Hilo a viable and successful choice for students from Hawai‘i, the continental U.S., and abroad who are interested in making an impact in a rapidly changing and diverse society. For details about the activities I’ve discussed in this column and more, see the Hilo section of UH System Enrollment Management Report released last month.

Aloha,

Marcia Sakai

Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Jan. 2019: Helping our island and state grow into the future

We at UH Hilo take seriously our kuleana to help provide the workforce for new growth sectors in our economy, the scientific experts to help conserve the precious environment of our island and state, and the technological resources necessary for our communities to meet unexpected crises.

By Marcia Sakai

Aloha and Happy New Year!

I look forward to the coming year as progress and growth continues at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. I’d like to focus this month’s column on a major goal of the university: to strengthen UH Hilo’s impact on the community, island, and state through responsive higher education, community partnerships, and knowledge and technology transfer.

Responsive higher education

The new building to house the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy is well on its way to completion in July. The modern classrooms, offices, student services, and laboratories will answer the great need for state-of-the-art facilities to train the pharmacists who will serve communities in our state and region.

New building to house the UH Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, under construction, Dec. 11, 2018. Photo by Tracy Niimi.

Last month, our new bachelor of science in aeronautical sciences program was approved by the UH Board of Regents. There are two tracks: one in commercial professional pilot training and the other in commercial aerial information technology (drones)—both are projected workforce needs in the state. The pilot training track is cost effective compared to mainland programs. The drone track trains students for growing career opportunities in agriculture, natural resource management, search and rescue, security services, and expected air transport services.

UH Hilo launched its long-planned data science program this past fall by offering a certificate in the fast-growing field. The program is filling a need in the state because almost every branch of science collects massive amounts of data, but there are not a lot of trained people able to analyze that data and make conclusions—for example, here on our island, there is a great need in conservation efforts, water resource management, and climate change research.

Partnerships

Partnerships are key to conducting effective scientific inquiry into 21st century challenges. Here is an example in the field of conservation biology, specifically research to save the endangered ‘alalā (Hawaiian crow) from extinction.

alala
One of the recently released ʻalalā. Photo San Diego Zoo Global.

In collaboration with a Silicon Valley company that provides sophisticated genomic analysis systems, geneticists at UH Hilo and San Diego Zoo Global have fully sequenced the genome of the endangered ‘alalā. Once reduced to a population of about 20 birds, the sequencing of the species’ genome will be important to track any genetic challenges that may occur due to the reduced genetic diversity now seen in the species. This is an extremely important contribution to conservation genetics. The genome assembly is now publicly available.

Currently, the UH Hilo geneticists are collaborating with researchers from California, New Zealand, and Australia to do a genetics study addressing the hatching failure of the ‘alalā and the endangered kākāpō of New Zealand.

Another research team, this one from the UH Hilo Bioacoustics Lab, recently received a $50,000 award from the Disney Conservation Fund to work in collaboration with the ʻAlalā Project, a partnership between the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, San Diego Zoo Global, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to find out if captively reared ‘alalā are developing new vocalizations as they adapt to new situations encountered in the wild. This information will greatly assist in the conservation efforts of ʻalalā.

Knowledge and technology transfer

UH Hilo’s response to the recent lava flow in Puna is a good example of the university sharing its expert knowledge and technology resources for the benefit of our local communities.

As the lava threatened vulnerable communities, Hawai‘i County Civil Defense reached out to UH Hilo’s experts in drone technology to do high-resolution mapping of the flow areas. Government responders needed to pinpoint exact locations of the advancing lava, and the UH Hilo drone team was able to capture overhead shots, and then quickly relay that information to Civil Defense.

Another research team from UH Hilo conducted real-time chemistry analysis of lava samples that helped determine how the lava would behave and how fast it would move. The data provided critical information to the U.S. Geological Survey scientists responding to the natural disaster. The samples were collected daily from the flows, bagged and dated, and brought back to the Hilo campus for analysis. It was the first time scientists looked at the chemistry at the same time the volcano was erupting.

Yet another research team provided precise leveling of the ground around the Puna power plant to detect whether the surface was rising due to the flow of magma beneath the surface. The monitoring would alert officials if the facility was about to be compromised.

The longer-term scientific value of the data collected by these research teams helps government officials better understand these types of eruptions so that responders can do an even better job of predicting in the future.

Thinking ahead

We at UH Hilo take seriously our kuleana to help provide the workforce for new growth sectors in our economy, the scientific experts to help conserve the precious environment of our island and state, and the technological resources necessary for our communities to meet unexpected crises. By working together with our local communities and in collaboration with myriad partners, we help improve the quality of life for everyone.

Wishing you a happy and productive 2019!

Marcia Sakai
Interim Chancellor

Message from the Interim Chancellor to UH Hilo Community: It’s been a wonderful semester, filled with accomplishments

Above photo: Happy customers at the sold-out annual poinsettia plant sale, Campus Center Plaza, UH Hilo. The plants are grown by students of the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management. Nov. 28, 2018. Photo by Raiatea Arcuri.

A message from Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai to the UH Hilo community:

As we start the holiday season, I reflect on the amazing and talented people who are part of our university ‘ohana, and I’d like to share with you some of the accomplishments of the past semester.

Incoming Freshman Class, August 2018.

We started our new academic year with The Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2018 Almanac ranking the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo as the most diverse four-year public university in the United States. The cultural and ethnic diversity found in our university ‘ohana strengthens everything we do in teaching, research, and outreach, and prepares our students to be productive citizens in the real world.

Two student playing pick up ball.
Students play at the renovated court.

We also started the semester with two new outdoor gathering spaces for our students: a newly renovated basketball court behind Auxiliary Services complete with a grill and several covered picnic tables with solar powered e-recharging stations, and covered solar recharging stations outside the Student Services building. The new spaces, complete USB charging ports and Wi-Fi access, were built through a great collaborative project with students from the carpentry program at Hawai‘i Community College.

Jolene Sutton
Jolene Sutton

A team of our genetic researchers studying the ‘alalā (Hawaiian crow), led by biologist Jolene Sutton, published their work describing the high-quality reference genome that was generated to assist recovery efforts for the endangered bird. Researchers Martin Helmkampf  and Renee Bellinger, along with collaborators from the Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program, San Diego Zoo Global, and Pacific Biosciences, all contributed to the project. This is an extremely important contribution to the world of conservation genetics. The genome assembly is now publicly available.

Geneviève Blanchet
Geneviève Blanchet

And our conservation biology students also made headlines. A group of our graduate students in the tropical conservation biology and environmental science program presented their work at the 25th Annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference held in Honolulu. Two of the students came home with honorsGeneviève Blanchet was awarded Outstanding Graduate Student Oral Presentation, and Koa Matsuoka was awarded Runner-Up for Outstanding Graduate Poster Presentation.

Makalapua Alencastre, Roxanne DeLille, Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, Noelani Iokepa-Guerrero, Kananinohea Mākaʻimoku, Ray Barnhardt, Walter Kahumoku III, Kamehaʻililani Waiau, Keane Nakapueo-Garcia, and Sylvia Hussey,
UH Hilo group at Sami University of Applied Sciences, Norway, for accreditation recognition from the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium.

The Kahuawaiola Indigenous Teacher Education Program received accreditation. The UH Hilo graduate certificate program is the first teacher education program in the world to receive accreditation from the prestigious international authority, the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium. The consortium also renewed accreditation for the UH Hilo Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language. Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, director of the college, and all faculty and staff of the college are to be congratulated for their hard work in making UH Hilo’s language and culture revitalization program a model for the world to follow.

Students in computer lab.
Pierre Martin (right), associate professor of astronomy and observatory director, with students in the upgraded computer lab.

Students and researchers in the physics and astronomy program celebrated the installation of 12 brand new high-end desktops and monitors, along with a new data processing and storage Linux computer system, thanks to a generous donation by the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory. The TMT gift totaled over $28,000 in equipment, supporting the replacement of 10 aged computers purchased in 2010 that no longer met department needs.

UH Hilo launched its long-planned data science program this fall by offering a certificate in the fast growing field. Program Director Roberto Pelayo says the program is filling a need in the state because almost every branch of science collects massive amounts of data, but there are not a lot of trained people able to analyze that data and make conclusions—for example, here on our island, in conservation efforts, water resource management, and climate change impacts. The data science certificate is open to all students, regardless of major or background. Computer scientist Travis Mandel, mathematician Grady Weyenberg, and colleagues across many branches of science put in untold hours to create this new data science program.

Two people with drone landed on lawn.
UH Hilo drone team took a lead role in collecting data during the recent lava flow in Puna. Photo via UH System News.

Last month, a new aeronautical sciences degree program was approved by the UH Board of Regents. The provisional bachelor of science program has two concentrations: one in commercial professional pilot training, and another in commercial aerial information technology (which utilizes drones), where there is a high projected workforce need in the state. Ken Hon, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Bruce Mathews, dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management where the program is housed, achieved a major milestone in bringing the program to life.

These are just a few of the exciting accomplishments of the semester that provide positive learning experiences for our students, conduct important research for our environment and communities, and expand outreach to improve the quality of life for everyone. Mahalo to all of you for your contributions.

Sending aloha to you this holiday season.

Marcia Sakai
Interim Chancellor