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Tag: Collaborations & Partnerships

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.

Outreach

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).

Aloha,

Marcia Sakai

Anthropologist and alumna Charlene Mersai returns to UH Hilo to give talk on her homeland of Palau

Charlene Mersai will give talk on “Adaptation to Change: Cultural, Environmental, and Societal Change in Palau.”

Charlene Mersai
Charlene Mersai

SPEAKER: Charlene Mersai, National Environment Coordinator and Secretariat, National Environmental Protection Council, Ministry of Finance, Republic of Palau.
TOPIC: Adaptation to Change: Cultural, Environmental, and Societal Change in Palau.
DATE: Monday, Oct. 23, 2017.
TIME: 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Sciences and Technology Building, room 108, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo (campus map).

Charlene Mersai received her bachelor degrees in biology and anthropology from UH Hilo, a master in education from San Diego State University, and a post-graduate diploma on ocean resources management from the University of the South Pacific.

Prior to her current position she served as staff anthropologist at the Palau Ministry of Cultural Affairs, researcher for the Palau International Coral Reef Center, ethnobotanist and head of the Natural History Section at Belau National Museum, a Rock Islands coordinator and terrestrial conservation officer for the Palau Conservation Society, and regional coordinator for Micronesia Challenge.

She is Palauan and fluent in the Palauan language.

Sponsors

Funding made possible through the UH Hilo Office of the Interim Chancellor, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Department of the Interior Pacific Islands Climate Science Center at UH Hilo (a consortium of UH Hilo, UH Mānoa, and the University of Guam), UH Hilo Department of Physics and Astronomy, UH Hilo Minority Access and Achievement Program, and UH Hilo’s LSAMP Islands of Opportunity Alliance program. Co-sponsored by community groups the United Nations Association Hawai‘i Chapter, and the Micronesians United-Big Island.

Film and Q&A: Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Poster with information that can be found in this post.
Click to enlarge.

The documentary film An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power will be shown Thursday, Oct. 26, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in room 108 of the Sciences and Technology Building. The showing will be followed by a live 30-minute webcast with former Vice President Al Gore.

The event is made possible through a Title III Native Hawaiian Serving-Institutions Grant under UH Hilo Office of the Interim Chancellor, Hawai‘i Community College Office of the Chancellor, Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center, and the UH Hilo Sustainability Committee.

Summary

A decade after An Inconvenient Truth (2006) raised public awareness about the climate crisis, now comes the powerful follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Former Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight, traveling around the world meeting with climate champions and influencing international climate policy as he pursue the inspirational idea that the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.

Trailer.

UH Foundation names Andrea Furuli regional director of development for Hawaiʻi Island

Andrea Furuli will lead a fundraising team on behalf of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Hawai‘i Community College and Pālamanui campuses.

Andrea Furuli
Andrea Furuli

The UH Foundation has announced that Andrea Furuli will be the foundation’s regional director of development for Hawaiʻi Island effective Sept. 11, 2017. In this newly configured role, Furuli will lead a fundraising team in engaging donors and friends across the island on behalf of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Hawai‘i Community College and Pālamanui campuses.

“I am extremely pleased and happy that Andrea will be joining the UH Foundation as the Hawai‘i Island regional director to provide effective and coordinated development between UH Hilo and Hawai’i Community College,” says Marcia Sakai, UH Hilo interim chancellor.

This new regional plan has been taking shape over the last year with support from former UH Hilo Chancellor Don Straney, Hawai‘i CC Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas, foundation officials and key volunteers and donors.

“I am thrilled and excited to have Andrea on board,” says Solemsaas. “Now our philanthropic and advancement efforts will be taken to the next level of excellence with her leadership together with the talents of her team members.”

Furuli comes to the new UH Foundation position from the Hawai‘i Community Foundation where she has served as senior philanthropy advancement officer since June of 2015. Before that, she served at the UH Foundation in the UH Hilo Office of Development as associate director of development for eight years and then director for two years.

“We feel very fortunate to welcome Andrea back to our team,” says Rebecca Tseng Smith, vice president for development at the UH Foundation.

Furuli is a self-professed “Hilo girl” and a graduate of UH Mānoa and Mid-Pacific Institute.

In her letter expressing interest in the regional director position, she writes, “Positively contributing to a place where our families can flourish, parents can peacefully age, and communities can thrive are of upmost importance to me.”

The team that Furuli will be leading currently consists of foundation staff Andrea Christensen and Lisa Uyetake, with strong partnership from Nico Verissimo in alumni engagement. The new regional director will be hiring a new director of development for UH Hilo to round out the team.

 

-Via email communication to UH Hilo community from the UH Hilo Office of the Chancellor.

2017 Dorrance Scholarship recipients

“The Dorrance Scholarship has become a model for providing educational opportunities to first-generation college students.” — Chancellor Straney.

Ten high school seniors from Hawaiʻi Island who are enrolling this fall at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo have each been awarded the Dorrance Scholarship.

“The Dorrance Scholarship has become a model for providing educational opportunities to first-generation college students,” says Don Straney, UH Hilo chancellor. “(The Dorrances’) gift helps us to address that need, which is a core part of UH Hilo’s mission.”

The 2017 Dorrance Scholarship recipients and their high schools are:

  • Jeffrey Cushing, Kealakehe High School.
  • Stephanie Lewis, Kohala High School.
  • Jaylyn Mahoe-Subica, Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School.
  • Nicole Garza, Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi.
  • Kamamaluwaiwai Wichimai, Kamehameha Schools-Hawaiʻi.
  • Chayna Yoshida, Keaʻau High School.
  • Joy Boswell, Hawaiʻi Academy of Arts and Science.
  • Emme Furuya, Hilo High School.
  • Tharin Lewi-Ohashi, Konawaena High School.
  • Alanna Pabre, Konawaena High School.

The Dorrance Scholarship was established by Bennett and Jacquie Dorrance at the Arizona Community Foundation in June 1999. The innovative, four-year, need-based award provides local students who are the first in their family to attend college, up to $10,000 a year in direct financial assistance. Recipients will also participate in a custom-designed summer bridge program, international travel, conservation experience, an entrepreneurship program and employment preparation, bringing the total estimated value of each award to more than $90,000.

The Dorrance Foundation began offering up to 10 scholarships a year to Hawaiʻi Island high school graduates attending UH Hilo in 2012. The latest awards bring the total number of recipients to 59.

Contact

Mathew Estrada, program coordinator, Dorrance Scholarship Programs, at mestrada[at]azfoundation.org or (808) 339-4500.

 

Media release

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