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Tag: Workforce Development

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

Chancellor’s Message: New program will help produce a generation of big data scientists

This type of data specialty is of the utmost importance to moving our island communities and fragile ecosystems into the future successfully.

By Don Straney.

UH Hilo seal, red with the words University of Hawaii ant the state motto.The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo takes seriously its responsibility to be a good steward to our island’s people, culture and natural resources. This summer the university will be taking the first steps toward creating a new Data Science program to the benefit of Hilo and other island communities here and throughout the Pacific.

The first of four tenure-track professors who will lead the program starts his work with us in August. Grady Weyenberg, who grew up in Hilo, is a statistician and will be joined in the near future by additional experts in mathematics, computer science, and the natural and social sciences to help build the program.

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. 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.

‘Ike Wai is a collaborative project with data scientists and water researchers working statewide alongside local communities, indigenous peoples, government agencies and businesses to generate scientific data. Partners also include undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty to address water challenges at the academic and policy level. This is where UH Hilo’s contributions come in.

Training the professionals of the future

As part of the ʻIke Wai program, new degree programs at UH Hilo will help produce a new generation of big data scientists and data analytics professionals in Hawaiʻi. To start, Dr. Weyenberg and the new faculty team will work with existing faculty to develop a Data Science Certificate Program, followed by a baccalaureate degree. In addition to developing curricula, they will also teach courses and mentor students.

The first cohorts of the new Data Science program will analyze data sets generated by the ‘Ike Wai project’s five-year study, assisting in the creation of a data-driven, sustainable water future for the state of Hawaiʻi and our Pacific neighbors. Students will have further opportunities to hone their data analysis skills by supporting research faculty, whose projects connected to the ‘Ike Wai project generate large amounts of data.

This type of data is of the utmost importance to moving our island communities and fragile ecosystems into the future successfully. Increasing population, changing land use practices, and issues relating to climate change are contributing to growing concerns over water quality and quantity in Hawaiʻi. In bringing together UH faculty and resources, state and federal agencies, and community partners, the ‘Ike Wai project will address critical gaps in the understanding of Hawaiʻi’s water supply that limit decision making, planning and crisis responses.

The project is multidisciplinary in scope with elements of geophysics, microbiology, cyberinfrastructure, data modeling, indigenous knowledge, and economic forecasting. By university scientists and budding student researchers working in partnerships with state and federal agencies and community groups, a comprehensive data base will be created to assist with important decisions that will move our state forward into a sustainable future.

Visit the EPSCoR website to learn more about the Data Science program and the ‘Ike Wai project.

Aloha,

Don Straney

Chancellor’s Message: UH Hilo celebrates cultural heritage, sustainability, and diversity

It was a beautiful Spring Commencement celebrating cultural heritage, sustainability, and diversity, reaffirming our responsibilities in addressing the challenges of our time.

By Don Straney.

Professor places hood on graduate's shoulders.
Prof. of Anthropology Peter Mills (right) bestows candidate with hood for Master of Arts in Heritage Management. 2017 Spring Commencement celebrated the first cohort to graduate from the new UH Hilo program.

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo celebrated a milestone at Spring Commencement last month: the university graduated its first candidates for a Master of Arts in Heritage Management.

Students in the new program train for heritage-related careers in both the public and private sector to interpret, preserve, and perpetuate cultural heritage—something of immense value to our local communities and indigenous culture.

UH Hilo takes seriously its responsibility to our island communities and indigenous culture, and community-based archaeology is a vital aspect of Hawaiian cultural revitalization.

In a paper on the importance of cultural resource management professionals, Peter Mills, professor of anthropology, writes that Hawai‘i struggles with many issues confronting heritage management programs globally. Grass roots efforts to better manage Hawaiian cultural sites are increasing, and state regulations require cultural resource managers to have an advanced degree—yet graduate training in anthropology and related fields in Hawai‘i is limited.

Let me share a story of one of the graduates to show the importance of this degree to our island families and communities.

Lokelani Brandt with baby
Lokelani Brandt

Lokelani Brandt received her bachelor of arts in anthropology with a minor in Hawaiian studies from UH Hilo in 2012 after receiving her primary education at Ke Kula ‘o Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u Hawaiian immersion school. She and her husband both have careers in Hilo (Lokelani is a lecturer for the Hawai‘i Life Styles Program at Hawai‘i Community College) and they would like to raise their family here.

With her newly received master of arts degree, Lokelani has accepted a full-time position in Hilo with ASM Affiliates, a major archaeological consulting firm. With her advanced degree in hand, she will be qualified to serve as a principal investigator on ASM’s field projects.

This type of career option will be very meaningful to many of our undergraduate students of Native Hawaiian ancestry—there is now an option to pursue professional leadership positions in archaeology and related fields rather than only volunteering for grass-roots organizations.

As Peter writes: “A shift in perspective is required, for example instead of viewing and interpreting ‘archaeological sites’ as significant only for their data, these cultural sites should be viewed as vital parts of a living Hawaiian culture.”

Watching these graduates at Commencement during the traditional “hooding” ceremony was a moving experience, knowing that the cohort will be going out into the world as professionals now credentialed to help preserve “a living Hawaiian culture.”

Speakers

Along with UH Hilo’s responsibility to protect our islands’ cultural heritage, the university also accepts responsibility—given our location and resources—to learn with and from other island nations in the Pacific region. Our keynote speaker was President Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr, of the Republic of Palau, an internationally recognized leader on environmental issues not the least of which is his leadership in the historic effort to implement the Palau National Marine Sanctuary.

President Remengesau’s remarks focused on the responsibilities we all share in taking care of our island states, communities, and environment. This great man practices what he preachers—his work and visionary leadership is inspirational as we proceed in working together on the challenges of our time: sustainability, environmental protection and cultural preservation.

In addition to these responsibilities, the university also remains committed to safeguarding human rights, notably the rights of our LGBTQ+ community.

Our student speaker at commencement, Karla Kapo‘aiola Ahn, a performing arts major and entertainer who often performs music on campus, spoke about her gender transition and about how UH Hilo—in particular Professor of Drama Jackie Johnson, just retired—provided the unconditional support she needed to realize her full potential in her studies and in her life while at the university.

Karla personifies our pride in being the nation’s most diverse university system. We live the aloha spirit.

It was a beautiful Commencement celebrating cultural heritage, sustainability, and diversity, reaffirming our responsibilities in addressing the challenges of our time.

Aloha,

Don Straney

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

Chancellor’s Message: Indigenous curricula and instruction at UH Hilo

UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College are collaborating to advance and strengthen indigenous education of benefit to all faculty, staff and students.

By Don Straney.

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is one of the most diverse campuses in the United States, and helping students and faculty learn from our diverse cultures and perspectives is a high priority.

At UH Hilo, we have long been cultivating a diverse, multicultural university that is rooted in the indigenous history of Hawai‘i. More broadly, a key mission (Hawai‘i Papa O Ke Ao) shared by the 10 campuses of the UH System is to embrace our responsibilities to the Native Hawaiian people and to Hawai‘i’s indigenous language and culture.

One way we are doing this is through developing indigenous education. UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College have collaborated on many programs over the past few years to advance and strengthen indigenous education of benefit to all faculty, staff and students.

What is indigenous education?

Many of our students are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander—in some disciplines up to 30 percent—and not only are these students required to learn the content we are teaching, but also how to internalize information presented to them from a worldview distinct from their own.

If faculty, advisors, and administrators can learn to appreciate this and even re-orient or start to alter curricula and teaching methods to conform to our students’ learning styles, then we are on our way to becoming a model indigenous higher education institution and far more effective at imparting knowledge to those students.

Further, indigenous education is of benefit to all our students—those who identify as Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and also those who are not indigenous but have understandings of Native Hawaiian and indigenous culture just by growing up and/or living here as young adults. All non-native students and faculty benefit from indigenous education by learning through a new context and deepening their understanding.

Workshops

Let me share a couple of programs we’re doing to develop modes of indigenous curricula and instruction at UH Hilo—these programs are primarily for faculty and staff and are supported by the Office of the Chancellor.

At our Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, ʻōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language) workshops are becoming part of an on-going offering for our campus and for campuses throughout the UH System. A series of workshops recently offered (Papa Hoʻonui ʻIke ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi Kulanui) was designed to increase appreciation and comfort of UH Hilo and Hawai‘i CC faculty and staff to the Hawaiian language that is practical and immediately useful.

In addition, both UH Hilo Student Affairs staff at their annual retreat last June and the UH President’s Emerging Leaders Program (PELP) cohort last month participated in this type of special workshop.

Staff from the UH Hilo Hale Kuamoʻo Hawaiian Language Center of the College of Hawaiian Language held an introductory-level Hawaiian language workshop for the PELP cohort. Participants practiced dialogue and communication in Hawaiian and shared ideas about supporting and sustaining ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and Hawaiian culture at UH.

Also this semester, UH Hilo is holding a series of workshops for faculty in support of indigenous curricula and instruction. The workshops are being sponsored by a Chancellor’s Professional Development grant and will include faculty from both UH Hilo and Hawai‘i CC.

Topics will include creating course content and applied learning opportunities that are relevant to Native Hawaiian and Oceania students. Pacific island and indigenous culture experts are traveling here to share their knowledge and experience. There also will be local experts from the learning community Hoʻoulumau at Hawaiʻi CC. Students will also participate and share.

One of our goals of the workshops is to increase faculty familiarity and ease with the indigenous resources across campus. To this end, we have coordinated the workshops with Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center, the Pacific Islander Student Center, and I Ola Hāloa Center for Hawaiʻi Life Styles at Hawaiʻi CC.

Indigenous education is practical education

When learning in an environment shaped by indigenous curricula, students understand and appreciate that the classroom is being oriented to their social worlds and find the materials informative and practical. It makes the completion of a degree worthwhile and relevant to creating livelihoods on the island.

The real benefit of studying at a diverse campus such as ours is learning how people with different perspectives, contexts and cultures understand issues and challenges. We’ll continue to build a learning community that can exchange information and gain further training on how to best serve and educate our diverse and multicultural student body.

Aloha,

Don Straney

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