Message from UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
Chamber Connection Newsletter
Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce
With applied learning experiences, UH Hilo grads are competitive for employment
Several recent reports indicate many college graduates nationwide, are having trouble finding their first jobs. The current job market is tough and employers are looking for people with experience. At the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, we are moving toward an applied learning experience for every student so they will graduate with an immediate advantage: they will have work experience through internships, collaborative research projects with professors, and/or community projects. Many of our students are already out working in the community, applying the learning they receive in the classroom, getting real-life experience before they enter the workforce with their degree. When they graduate, they have a degree AND a resume.
Let me share some examples.
Shadd Keahi Warfield is a high school teacher at Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo Hawaiian language immersion school in Keaukaha where he was raised. He received his bachelor of arts, master of arts in Hawaiian language and literature, and is currently a candidate for a doctor of philosophy in indigenous language revitalization, all from UH Hilo. As an undergraduate, Keahi was a coach and mentor for Keaukaha Canoe Club working primarily with youth. He has gone on to develop an innovative after school program called RISE (Revealing Individual Strengths for Excellence), a private program to, among other things, provide individual mentoring to disadvantaged youth to increase their knowledge of career and academic paths.
In the field of aquaculture, Sierra Tobiason graduated with a bachelor of science in agriculture, then stayed at UH Hilo for the tropical conservation biology master’s program, where she conducted collaborative research with an aquaculture company. She is now employed as the Sea Grant extension agent for South Kohala. Her experience with local fishers and aquaculture helped her secure the position as Sea Grant was looking for someone with diverse skills and the ability to work with the local community.
UH Hilo’s seniors in the nursing program have practicums at several community sites. All seniors have a capstone course of 90 clinical hours; the students select their top three priorities of practice in an acute care setting and then faculty coordinate the experience with mentors. Students get to know the organization and have a chance to impress the employers. A recent graduate impressed Hospice of Hilo so much during her community health practicum, she was hired as soon as she graduated. Further, Hilo Medical Center has an internship program for graduates that many times leads to employment.
Many of our humanities graduates also make strong connections in the community during their undergraduate studies, leading to good jobs. For example, all students in our performing arts program are immersed in community outreach projects either through performing and/or teaching at UH Hilo or out in the local community. Nicole Cowan, with a degree in drama, is now a freelance actress on the Big Island and recently had a part in The Trial of Lili‘uokalani with the Hilo Community Players. Sara Hayashi, with a degree in dance, is an instructor at Island Dance Academy, and BriAnna Johnson, with a degree in drama, now works as a high school drama teacher.
Our kuleana, our responsibility, is to improve the quality of life of the people of Hawai‘i, the Pacific region and the world. The national trends on diminishing employment opportunities are disturbing, but we are working hard to give our students the skills and experience to counter those trends and create a productive future for themselves, our island and state.