Press "Enter" to skip to content

Tag: Academics

Message from the Interim Chancellor: Reorganization update

The university is moving forward with the formation of the College of Natural and Health Sciences, effective July 1, 2018.

Aloha UH Hilo ‘Ohana,

UH Hilo seal, red lettering University of Hawaii and the state motto.As we celebrate the accomplishments of our fall graduates and enter winter break, I would like to take a moment to update you on the reorganization of the College of Arts and Sciences.

As you know, during the fall I held a series of meetings with faculty to hear ideas, concerns, and to answer questions. I found these discussions very valuable and thank so many of you who took the time to meet with me to express your thoughts and feelings on this important issue.

I then met with President David Lassner to discuss what I had learned. He agrees with and supports my recommendation to proceed with a phased reorganization plan. This will begin with the formation of the College of Natural and Health Sciences, effective July 1, 2018. I look forward to sharing more details with you as the process unfolds.

During this period of transition, I hope we can all continue to work together to move the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo forward with a focus on serving our students and community. While there are still some uncertainties on the road ahead, I remain fully committed to working collaboratively with you as interim chancellor.

Thank you for all your hard work and dedication throughout the year. I wish you a safe, relaxing winter break and a joyous holiday season. And I look forward to seeing you next year!

Marcia Sakai

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 Message: New data science program leading the way to a sustainable future

The program is part of a statewide project funded by the National Science Foundation, which awarded the UH System $20 million last year to do a five-year study of water sustainability issues throughout the state.

By Marcia Sakai.

I am pleased to share an update on the exciting new data science degree program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. The program is multidisciplinary in scope with elements of geophysics, microbiology, cyberinfrastructure, data modeling, indigenous knowledge, and economic forecasting. Students will learn how big data sets, from seemingly unrelated areas, can be used to solve complex problems.

Data science is a field that can have great impact on our local communities and environment. The collection and analysis of big data in areas such as water resources, for example, can reveal patterns and trends that can alert decision makers such as lawmakers and policymakers about the directions needed to ensure future stability for our island and state. This is especially important in relation to human behavior—for example, analyzing statewide water resources can reveal things our communities can do better to use and conserve water more efficiently.

‘Ike Wai

The UH Hilo data science program is part of a statewide project funded by the National Science Foundation, which awarded the UH System $20 million last year to do a five-year study of water sustainability issues throughout the state. The project is called ʻIke Wai (Knowledge, Water) and has the overall goal of gathering new data on groundwater flow, sustainable yield, and economic impact. The data will help communities and state decision makers preserve Hawaiʻi’s water resources for the future.

Travis Mandel

Four tenure-track professors will lead the UH Hilo program. The first two were hired over the summer: Travis Mandel, assistant professor of computer science and Grady Weyenberg (who grew up in Hilo), assistant professor of mathematics and statistician. They will be joined in the near future by the others in the natural and social sciences.

While developing the UH Hilo data science program, our faculty team will work with ‘Ike Wai data scientists and water researchers around the state, collaborating alongside local communities, indigenous peoples, government agencies and businesses to generate the scientific data. Partners also include undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty to address water challenges at the academic and policy level.

‘Ike Wai student scholars

Grady Weyenberg
Grady Weyenberg

As part of our program, a cohort of ‘Ike Wai student scholars will be chosen each year to do research and analyze the data collected (this year’s scholars are currently being chosen). The scholars will work with six faculty across natural science fields on research projects including investigation of local flora and fauna, genetics, and improving educational software. This is an invaluable training ground for our students, and when they graduate, they will have the background and skills needed to start professional careers in related fields. This is of immense benefit to our local communities and state.

Developing curriculum

Since Travis and Grady’s arrival, they have been hard at work on the process of getting approval for a certificate program in data science, which will be followed by a baccalaureate degree.

Meanwhile, proposals have been submitted to launch four new courses: three in computer science and one in math, which will form the core curriculum. Two of these courses will focus on computer programming and language, statistical techniques, and data plotting.

Grady is primarily involved in the development of the math course with focus on computing language and statistics, which will be attractive not only to students who are earning a data science certificate, but also to anyone in a natural science program (or even beyond) who needs an introduction to applied data analysis techniques. Target date to launch the new course is fall of 2018.

Travis is the new data science hire in computer science. He is also working on the design of the certificate and its courses, proposing a new course on cutting-edge machine learning techniques that will take students to the “next level” of data analysis. His research interests lie in the realm of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Specifically, he is interested in how we can use data to automatically improve human-focused systems.

While the university is developing curriculum, we also need to ensure that students are getting a good background in specialized techniques that will be useful for local industries, such as renewable energy and agriculture. It will be this practical application that will make the biggest impact on our local communities and economy.


Faculty have recently begun reaching out to local schools and businesses, with the intent to ensure that a smooth transition can be created from secondary education to the university and through the data science program to the workplace. It will be wonderful to see high school students exposed to some of the interesting problems that can be addressed with data science before they get to the college level.

The development of the data science initiative makes us very proud of our campus—we are educating our students to be the problem solvers of our state’s future while helping to protect and conserve the islands’ precious natural resources.

Visit the EPSCoR website to learn more about the data science program and the ‘Ike Wai project.

See also: UH Hilo developing new data science program (UH Hilo Stories, Oct. 31, 2017).


Marcia Sakai

Presentation to the Senate and House Higher Education Committee: UH Hilo Directions and Strategies 2017

A presentation was given to the Senate and House Higher Education Committee yesterday, Oct. 11, 2017, on campus, about directions and strategies underway at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai was unable to attend; the event was hosted by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Farrah-Marie Gomes.

View all PowerPoint slides below or in PDF. Click photos to enlarge.

 Photo aerial view of campus, red roofs with stream running through.
Slide 1

Conclusing slide with the words Aloha and Mahalo.
Slide 18


Marcia Sakai or Farrah-Marie Gomes.