Chancellor Donald Straney Biography

2013 Spring Commencement

Donald O. Straney was appointed University of Hawai‘i at Hilo chancellor in July 2010. Previously, he served eight years as dean of the College of Science and professor of biology at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and on the board of directors of both the Desert Studies Center and the Ocean Studies Institute, as well as on the Strategic Planning Council of the California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology. Before that, he spent 23 years at Michigan State University, serving as chair of the Department of Zoology and assistant to the provost for faculty development.

Chancellor Straney is an educator, administrator, and champion of student success. He specializes in higher education leadership, integration of teaching and scholarship, enhancing student success, STEM education development, building a strong science and technology infrastructure, growing a research enterprise, international degree development, and diversity and underrepresented minority initiatives.

Under his leadership, UH Hilo is thriving despite a 24.5% cut in general funds during his first year as chancellor. The university is exceeding all goals for graduation rates, transfers from the local community college, numbers of Native Hawaiian students and graduates and STEM students and graduates. Trends also are shifting upward on research and scholarly activity, with more research proposals being submitted and more research dollars coming in. Several UH Hilo faculty and administrators earned national recognition for their scholarly work this past year.

Among his pioneering programs at UH Hilo, Chancellor Straney has established an Office of Applied Learning to increase opportunities for undergraduate students to apply their classroom and laboratory knowledge to real-life experiences out in the community at businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies. He envisions every UH Hilo student graduating with both a diploma and a résumé, ready to continue their education or enter the workforce.

Chancellor Straney also works closely with local leaders to assess campus strategy, resource development, and to gather input on how UH Hilo can maximize its community impact through new programs. In addition to calling together summit meetings with key stakeholders in the educational, agricultural and business communities, he also serves on the Hawai‘i County Workforce Investment Board, the Board of Directors of the Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce, the Hawai‘i Aeronautics Advisory Committee, and the Board of Directors of the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES). He also serves on the National Advisory Board of the Center for the Integration of Teaching, Research and Learning, a National Science Foundation initiative at the University of Wisconsin.

An evolutionary biologist by training, Chancellor Straney studied patterns of change in a variety of organisms in his research. He received his doctor of philosophy in zoology from the University of California, Berkeley, and his master of science in zoology from Michigan State University.

Updated July 2014

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