Members of the UH Hilo ‘ohana has some fun yesterday at the Chancellor’s Holiday Celebration. At the event, Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai hosted a cookie contest and a photo booth to immortalize everyone dressing up in “ugly or festive” Christmas wear. A good time was had by all!
Through applied learning in research, internships, and creative endeavors, students enhance their classroom learning and get a big boost toward advanced degrees, future employment, and leadership roles in their professions and their communities.
Every student at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is offered the opportunity to apply their textbook knowledge to the real world through research, internships, creative endeavors, student employment and more. Through this type of scholarly work, students enhance their classroom learning and get a big boost toward advanced degrees, future employment, and leadership roles in their professions and their communities.
I would like to share with you three of our student research programs and a few extraordinary students doing important research and inquiry of great benefit to the people of our state and the island environment. These accomplished students—and many others in these and other programs, too many to name here in this column—are already contributing in positive ways to the problems facing our island state.
Students of Hawaiʻi Advanced Research Program (SHARP)
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.
Undergraduates Duke Escobar (biology major) and Kieran-Tiaye Long (psychology) are investigating the anti-bacterial efficacy of native Hawaiian plant-based medicines. Dallas Freitas (chemistry) is researching key mechanisms of ion channel signaling in cancer drug resistance and the tumor microenvironment.
Jasmine Hicking (biology) is researching medicinal plants, specifically anti-cancer and anti-bacterial agents from microorganisms and herbal medicine. Skyla Lee (chemistry-bioscience) is doing research on synthesis and evaluation of antibacterial and anti-cancer agents in natural products. Doctoral student Nathan Sunada (pharmaceutical sciences) is investigating neuroblastoma and the mechanisms that promote cancer progression through a native Hawaiian perspective.
Keaholoa STEM Program
The goal of Keaholoa is to increase enrollment, support, and graduation rates of Native Hawaiians and other underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM disciplines. Over the years, Keaholoa has become a program where minority students can engage in scientifically rigorous research that is grounded in indigenous or native cultural practices and knowledge.
For example, anthropology student Rosa Motta has compiled water property data from nearshore marine environments using historical land use patterns and archaeological sites to determine the health of coastlines in terms of the ʻāina-kai (land-ocean) relationship. Physics major Gabriel Gutierrez mapped coral reef health using traditional Hawaiian canoes. Environmental science major Jowell Guerreiro is interested in restoring loko i‘a (fishponds) and collected data on flow rates during specific moon phases.
Marine Option Program (MOP)
MOP is a UH systemwide certificate program, offered on all UH campuses, providing educational opportunities for students from all disciplines who are interested in studying the ocean.
Earlier this year, three students from UH Hilo MOP came home with awards from the statewide MOP Student Symposium held at Windward Community College. The annual event features oral and poster presentations by undergraduate MOP students from UH campuses around the state. Our students were outstanding representatives of UH Hilo, and brought home major awards, including best research presentation, which has been won by UH Hilo MOP students in 24 of the past 29 years.
Julia Stewart won best research presentation for her research project on coral, an ambitious project using bioinformatics. Wheatley Crawley won best poster presentation for her project on conservation at Wai‘opae, one of the last research projects at the teeming tidepools before the recent lava flow tragically covered the area. Michelle Nason won the John P. Craven Child of the Sea award for her work establishing a coral nursery on Hawai‘i Island.
Budding scholars, future leaders
Many UH Hilo graduates have benefited greatly from our various applied learning programs. When they move on to graduate school, doctoral programs, or professional positions, they are already well-skilled in doing sustainability, conservation, health, community-based research projects and more that make an impact.
As we prepare for the close of the semester and Fall Commencement, I’d like to congratulate the graduating class, wish each student great success, and thank everyone for your contributions to UH Hilo, our students, and our community.
Sending aloha to you and your families this holiday season!
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai presented the UH Hilo Enrollment Management Report to the UH Board of Regents on Nov. 1, 2018, at the UH Mānoa campus. Here is the text of her PowerPoint presentation to the BOR.
2018-2019 Action Strategies for Enrollment Growth
Strategic use of financial aid
Digital communication (email, web, texting, social media)
*1 Includes U.S. Military. *2 Increase of #.# percentage points to the retention rate in the second fall semester of enrollment, decaying by 0.1 percentage point through fall 12. *3 Corrected.
Increased applications and acceptances
First-time freshmen enrollment sustains increase in prior year
Fewer transfer students enrolled than targeted
Increased Hawai’i island and resident enrollment; decreased non-resident enrollment
Lower retention rates for first time freshmen and first time transfer students
Improved persistence for continuing students
Continued high FAFSA completions
Financial Aid TV’s Get Answers
Total of 961 videos watched March to September 2018, video viewership highest on Saturday and most videos viewed between 6:00pm to 11:00pm
EAB/Royall Decision IQ campaign
Up to 7 messages delivered to 800+ accepted freshmen on decision to enroll
Geo-fenced mobile advertising
700,000+ impressions, 8 UHCC campuses, nearly 4000 “click-thrus” to university website and ‘apply’ page
Up to 12 messages, thousands of individual messages, delivered to 1200+ accepted freshmen and transfer students
‘Opihi Student Success – Tailored communication for continuing and stopped out students
2529 registered seniors, juniors, and sophomores contacted Spr 2018, average 86.6% across all 4 colleges registered for Fall 2018
421 students stopped out AY 16-17 contacted, 37 (8.8%) registered to re-enroll for Fall 2018;
13 students graduate through petition to modify graduation requirements
Mentor Collective peer mentor program
89.3% of 93 new students matched with mentor, total 427 hours engagement Spr 2018
MySuccess early alert system
6 Math & English courses, 1 Chemistry section, coordinated outreach with 5 student support program; 594 issues identified, 79% resolved timely, 59 flags raised, 86% cleared
Campus Enrollment Targets 2019-20 to 2021-22
Historical Enrollment Count
Targeted Enrollment Count
Percentage Change Total
First-time Freshmen Total (1*)
Percentage Change FTF
Hawai‘i Island Direct Entrants (2*)
O‘ahu Direct Entrants
Maui County and Kaua‘i Direct Entrants
Transfer Total (1*)
Percentage Change Transfer
Hawai‘i Community College
Other UH Community College
Continuing / Returning (3*)
First-time Freshmen Retained (4*)
Retention Rate – First-Time, Full-Time
Transfer Retained (4*)
Retention Rate – Full-Time
*1 Data from UH IRAO Tracking system – numbers will not tie to other sources. *2 Direct entrants are students who enrolled in college directly from high school without delay after high school graduation. *3 Data from IRO Base, Census; includes classified undergraduate students only. *4 First-time freshmen and transfers retained from prior fall semester tracking cohorts.
2019-2020 Action Strategies for Enrollment Growth
EAB/Royall Strategic Search for prospective high school students
Strategic use of financial aid
Digital communication for prospective and continuing students
2+2 pathways for UH community college transfer students
Entry and first year services for transfer students
Completion of English and math in 1st year
Career pathway major choice, career exploration, employment advising
National events of the last two weeks have furthered the resolve of the UH Hilo community to be unflinching in its commitment to embrace diversity and inclusion on our campus while fostering and practicing the spirit of aloha in all that we do.
At UH Hilo we take pride in our diverse campus community, and embrace all who come here to work, study, and grow. Universities are places where ideas and cultures intersect, and we strive to ensure this is a place where the exchange of diverse ideas can occur in a safe and productive environment.
National events of the last two weeks have furthered the resolve of the UH Hilo community to be unflinching in its commitment to embrace diversity and inclusion on our campus while fostering and practicing the spirit of aloha in all that we do. I ask that each of you make a personal commitment to do your part to ensure our campus is a place where our differences can make us better, within a framework of respect and aloha.
As the most diverse four-year university in the country, we serve as an academic model to the world where people from across the globe live in harmony, thinking independently together.
UH Hilo is here to support you with a variety of services for our students, faculty and staff. Should you need assistance, please reach out or make referrals to the available campus services below:
With today’s technology, the guidance of expert mentors, and a deep desire to make new discoveries, UH Hilo students are learning from many sources and contributing to their selected fields, their communities, and the world.
The Mission Statement of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo begins with the adage, ‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi (One learns from many sources). One unique aspect of UH Hilo is that we offer both undergraduate and graduate students many opportunities to do research in a variety of fields. Our students are doing important work, collecting and analyzing new data, publishing findings alongside their mentors, graduating with a packed résumé and a degree, fully prepared to join the workforce or continue to a terminal degree.
I would like to share with you some research projects where our students are learning by doing the work, making the discoveries, and enriching the world with new knowledge.
UH Hilo professors, scientists and students provided valuable expertise and resources on multiple fronts during the recent lava flow in Puna, helping government officials assess hazards to the public.
UH Hilo volcanologist Cheryl Gansecki, assisted by undergraduate students, provided real-time chemistry analysis of lava samples. The information helped government scientists determine how the lava would behave and how fast it moved, critical information for response plans.
While completing a summer internship at the University of Michigan, UH Hilo astronomy student Kyle Steckler developed an algorithm to discover minor planets that orbit the sun beyond Neptune. The algorithm did not fully work all summer and he was not discovering anything new. But about three hours before he gave his final presentation at the symposium in Ann Arbor, he was running his software and it suddenly popped up something new—Kyle had discovered a new object in our solar system!
Kyle’s internship was funded through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, a highly competitive program funded by the National Science Foundation that supports active research done by undergraduates. He will graduate with this amazing accomplishment already on his résumé, a solid foundation for making future discoveries.
Another astronomy student, Chantelle Kiessner, is doing solar investigations, having been awarded three internships over the course of the past two years. She started in 2016 as a Hawai‘i Space Grant Consortium trainee and then, building on the skills learned as a trainee, she was selected for the Akamai Internship Program in the summer of 2017. As an Akamai Scholar she was placed at the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Maui to work on quantifying data on the new Adaptive Optics system where she looked for ways to correct the errors introduced by Earth’s atmosphere.
Chantelle then conducted research over the past summer as an intern in the REU program. She studied at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, a research facility at the University of Colorado, Boulder. While there, she worked at the National Solar Observatory analyzing spectral data from the solar chromosphere, the reddish outer layer of the sun.
These two students are already earning their research chops as undergraduates and I can only imagine the great work they will do in their future careers.
Sabena Siddiqui, a graduate student in tropical conservation biology and environmental science, is researching the sounds of humpback whales when they are not singing, an aspect of their communication that is clearly important but little studied. Sabena’s investigations focus on spectral analysis of the social sounds of the humpback whale population that breeds in Hawaiʻi.
Sabena secured funding to attend UH Hilo through the NSF Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) with partial funding through the Listening Observatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems bioacoustics lab at UH Hilo.
In addition to her graduate studies, for the past seven years Sabena has served as the student chair of the American Cetacean Society, the world’s oldest whale conservation organization. Her role is to be a mentor and guide to student leaders of other groups on campus.
‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi
Armed with today’s technology, the guidance of expert mentors, and a deep desire to make new discoveries, these students are learning from many sources and already contributing to their selected fields, their communities, and the world. In a future column I will share with you the work of several programs that support our students in exploring and investigating our island and beyond.