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UH Hilo to award first four distance learning degrees

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Date: Monday, May 13, 2002
Contact: Dr. Bill Chen, (808) 933-3311

For Immediate Release

Among the graduates being honored this Saturday during commencement exercises at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo are the first four degree candidates who have earned their diplomas at neighbor island locations via UH Hilo's cutting edge distance learning program through Hawai'i Interactive Television System (HITS).

The four are Amory Huliheenamakaokalani Burgess of Waipahu, Wendell Iwai of Honolulu, Cynthia Giebenk and Ruth-Jane Maddela, both of Maui. Burgess and Iwai will both receive bachelor of science degrees in computer science, hosted by Leeward Community College in Pearl City, Giebenk will receive a B.S. in computer science and Maddela a bachelor of arts in Hawaiian studies. Both were hosted by Maui Community College.

"These degree candidates have worked very hard for four long years to reach this special moment, taking courses via distance education while holding down full-time jobs," said Dr. Judith Gersting, chair of UH Hilo's computer science department. "We are very proud of them." Burgess, a 26-year-old systems architect, said that the hard work the past four years has been worth it.

"This program was perfect for me," he said. "It allowed me to keep working full-time and take classes at the same time. It also helped me to develop skills that allowed me to secure my current position as a system architect, which is a software and systems designer and engineer.

"The course work has gone from mostly theoretical to almost completely practical. I've found that the things we were learning in class could be applied to my workplace environment. The theoretical stuff becomes second nature after using it for a while, but I find that the practical activities, like project management and designing systems, take constant effort to develop."

Iwai, a 41-year-old construction project coordinator, decided on UH Hilo distance learning to bring his job skills up to today's high-tech standards. "When I first started this program four years ago I was computer illiterate to say the least," he said. "I work as a construction project manager and have been involved in the trades most of my working life. And although I did earn a bachelor's degree in business, I was shamefully lacking the knowledge of 21st century technology.

"That's why I felt fortunate when I found the UH Hilo computer science distance learning degree program," he added. "I felt as though the program was designed just for me. All the classes were at night so I could work full-time in the day. Also, the pace of the classes was just right. Computer science concepts can be very complex, but the instructors didn't overwhelm us. They carefully and methodically educated us on all computer technologies that are relevant in the job market today.

"Now after completing the program, I feel that my job skills have increased tremendously. After all, more education is never a bad thing, even in the construction industry. I know a painting contractor who has a master's degree in literature. So while this person can quote Shakespeare, I know I can quote SQL."

For more information on UH Hilo distance learning, call Dr. Bill Chen at (808) 933-3311.

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