Search Results : lara hughes

Sep 152016

Internships are the first steps in training young professionals who have the potential to build the world’s communities of tomorrow.

By Lara Hughes.

This is the first in a series written by UH Hilo students about their 2016 summer internship experiences.


Seated front-and-center with the 2016 Democratic National Convention interns, June 1, 2016, Philadelphia, PA.

June 29, 2016
Philadelphia, PA

I was raised on a sailboat in the Pacific Ocean and later grew up running around barefoot in the Ka‘ū desert on Hawai‘i Island. Living in a house perched on an active volcano and climbing through tropical jungles in search of hundred-foot waterfalls is just something that came with the territory.

Hawai‘i Island is a vast melting pot of diversity, not just geographically but also culturally and ethnically. In fact, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, where I am currently a senior majoring in business administration and interning in the Office of the Chancellor, is one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the country.

Fitting then, that this island girl—a fourth generation kama‘āina (born in Hawai‘i) and great-granddaughter of plantation immigrants from Korea—would wind up interning this summer at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The DNC internship program is 60 percent women and 60 percent ethnic minority groups. Needless to say, I feel right at home, minus the waterfalls.

Why internships?

At UH Hilo, a lot of emphasis is placed on internships. Why internships? In a word, the future, and in the case of the Democratic National Convention, it is a future not just for the interns who were lucky enough to snag one of the 50 coveted spots, but also for coming generations as the leaders and platforms of tomorrow are being shaped.

My experience here at the DNC is an amazing opportunity for skill building in time management, interdepartmental networking, on-the-spot problem solving, and absolute action. The chance to work with seasoned experts, past White House staff, and rising leaders is the icing on the cake. I am fortunate enough to be a part of a team at the DNC tasked with volunteer coordination, and with roughly 16,000 volunteers signed into our system, the pressure is on… and I’m loving every minute of it.

With Marian Martez, a volunteer I helped find a position for at the convention.

With Marian Martez, a volunteer I helped find a position for at the convention.

As each day flies by, I find myself relying on the different skill sets I have developed over the years through my travels and my education, and there are a few that stand out to me in my role with the DNC.

First, the transition of moving from an island town to an East Coast city was made more fluid by my past travel experiences. After graduating with an associate’s degree from Hawai‘i Community College’s West Hawai‘i campus, I lived in Italy for seven years. From there I traveled across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. This has influenced my appreciation for cultural differences and shaped my ability to navigate diverse societies and locales with respect and confidence.

The second contributing factor to my work here has been my internship experience with the UH Hilo chancellor’s office, where I work in public information primarily writing for the website UH Hilo Stories. Developing stories, contacting sources, interviewing professionals, writing informative articles—all under tight deadlines—serve as a strong foundation for my work with the DNC: quick and effective communication, relationship building, and being able to hit the ground running.

Sitting with the Hawai‘i delegation during Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech for the nomination.

Sitting with the Hawai‘i delegation during Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech for the nomination.

Further, the chancellor’s office internship brought me in contact with someone who has become an important mentor to me. My editor at UH Hilo Stories encouraged me to apply for the DNC summer internship, helped me with my résumé, gives me professional advice along the way, and reminds me to stay positive when things are challenging.

Also helping me in my work with the DNC is a surprising skill I’ve discovered in myself: an ability to appreciate and learn from mistakes. We all make mistakes, but I’ve discovered it is what we do afterward that defines us and perhaps, more importantly, determines who we will become one day. Taking a difficult experience and turning it into something positive nurtures an ability to move forward and do better for ourselves, and helping those around us is exponentially multiplied.

It is the moving forward that answers the question, “Why internships?” Internships are the first steps in training young professionals who have the potential to build the world’s communities of tomorrow. Being here in Philadelphia this summer, gaining more experience than I ever thought possible in a short period of time, I feel more inspired and excited about moving forward into the future than ever before.

Originally published on Lara Hughes’s blog

Lara Hughes (senior, business administration) received a $3.5K scholarship from the Democratic National Convention Committee for her internship at the convention, and half way through was promoted to a paid consultant. At UH Hilo, she is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor. 

Also from this series on internships:

ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi: Hawaiian language student & scholar Kamalani Johnson writes about his apprenticeship

UH Hilo students Erin Busch and Tim Zimmerman write about their internships in China

UH Hilo business & communication student Christine Presiados: “I was determined to get this internship”

UH Hilo pre-nursing student Morgan Tate writes about her summer internship


-UH Hilo Stories

May 262017

The awards are presented to individual students and student organizations that have excelled and contributed to the UH Hilo campus and the Hawai‘i Island community.

The Campus Center Student Leadership Development Program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo recently presented the 2016-2017 Ka Lama Ku Student Leadership Recognition Awards and Certificates of Leadership.

The Ka Lama Ku Umeke Awards and a Ka Lama Ku Koa Plaque Award also were presented.


Alaka‘i—Leadership Award

Rebekah Loving with her family

Rebekah Loving with her family. Courtesy photos from the UH Hilo Student Leadership Development Program.

Rebekah Loving (Mathematics) has provided role modeling and mentorship as a volunteer at Waiakea High School where she has inspired high school students in the area of mathematics. As a volunteer, she shares new opportunities students may have in this area with learning, achievement, and connectedness to Science, Technology, Environment and Mathematics.


‘Ike Pāpālua—To Have the Gift of Vision Award

Amy Gregg & Elise Inouye

Amy Gregg (left), an instructor in the Gender and Women’s Studies Program, with award recipient Elise Inouye.

Elise Inouye (Communications and Gender and Women Studies) has a deep commitment to education. During spring break she volunteered to speak to high school students on O‘ahu about gender-based inequalities, class stratification and economic disenfranchisement. She has a vision of seeing gender and women studies curriculum in high schools to connect people for positive change for our future.


Laulima Award—No Task is Too Big When Done by All Award

Justin Kwee and Jake Llaguno

Justin Araki-Kwee (left) with friend Jake Llaguno.

Justin Araki-Kwee (Computer Science & Japanese Studies) received this award for his ability to collaborate with others in the development of a smartphone-based game application named Nanja Ninja designed to assist deaf children in Japan and the USA. Araki-Kwee coordinated technical and programming advice between Hawai‘i and Japan to launch this research project currently taking place in Japan.


The Ka Lama Ku Koa Plaque Award

Alexandra Huizar & Megan Escalona

Alexandra Huizar (left) with Megan Escalona.

Alexandra Huizar (College of Business and Economics, specializing in Marketing) was awarded for her commitment and dedication in being a student leader at UH Hilo that excels in all of the five values of Ka Lama Ku. As an Alaka‘i, she is a role model in her UH Hilo activities and collaboration with other university programs as part of ‘Ike Pāpālua. Some of these are with the New Student Programs, the Vulcan Booster, Colleges Against Cancer and Relay for Life, UH Hilo Performing Arts and other student life activities. Huizar encourages other students to participate and become part of the UH Hilo ‘ohana by “Leading with Aloha.”


Ka Lama Ku Leadership Plaque Awards
Given to student organizations for contributions to UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Island communities.
Awardees exemplify the five values of Ka Lama Ku: Alaka‘i, ‘Ike Pāpālua, Kuleana, Laulima and Mālama.

Photo of group

The student organization Colleges Against Cancer won the ‘Ike Pāpālua Award. (Front l-r) Misty Figuera, Brittney Luna, Alexandra Huizar, Kapali Bilyeu. (Back) Kimi Taguchi, Brooke Higa, Ashley Maldonado, Jualin Sable Guting. (Missing) Kash Laeda, Ali Nakata, Norie Anne Rosal Calit, Jade Wong, Ruby Ann Sales, Ellie-Jean Kalawe, James Drescher, Sheryl Cariaga, Jayahmie Drio, Shaylyn Fujii, Erin McClure and Stacy Mae Gelacio.

Colleges Against Cancer received the ‘Ike Pāpālua Plaque Award—To Have the Gift of Vision for overcoming obstacles and challenges in the continuance of the 11th Relay for Life at UH Hilo. The students were able to plan, build, problem solve and look beyond what was needed to motivate others in moving forward from beginning to completion with advocacy against cancer that has affected many UH Hilo students, families and communities. As a fundraiser with the American Cancer Society, this organization vowed to fight cancer with the vision that cancer will no longer be a public health problem in the future. Team members are Alexandra Huizar, Brittney Luna, Ashley Maldonado, Kapali Bilyeu, Kash Laeda, Ali Nakata, Brooke Higa, Kimi Taguchi, Norie Anne Rosal Calit, Jade Wong, Misty Figuera, Jualin Sable Guting, Ruby Ann Sales, Ellie-Jean Kalawe, James Drescher, Sheryl Cariaga, Jayahmie Drio, Shaylyn Fujii, Erin McClure and Stacy Mae Gelacio.

The students of Nā Haumāna Huaka‘i i Kaho‘olawe

The students of Nā Haumāna Huaka‘i i Kaho‘olawe. (Front l-r) Sarah Kapalihiwa Bilyeu and Joshua No‘eau Kalima. (Back) Kumu Maikalani Bacling and Ka‘ikena Scanlan with Isaac Ku‘uiponohea Pang, Sophie Kaleimomi Dolera, Sheena Kau‘i Lopes. (Missing) Alana Kanahele, Aaron Kahea Morton, Ulupuamahinamaikalani Peleiholani-Blankenfeld and Kiliona Young.

The students of Nā Haumāna Huaka‘i i Kaho‘olawe traveled to the island of Kaho‘olawe during spring break by preparing themselves with networking and having multiple orientations with the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana where they learned proper protocol for their journey. The students committed themselves mentally, physically and spiritually through protocol, daily usage of Hawaiian language, and to nurture the environment and elements as Alaka‘i. Part of their Kuleana was clearing invasive grass areas and debris on the shore, restoring pathways from erosion and researching wahi pani (sacred sites). The group developed a presentation at the ‘Aha Haumana Native Hawaiian Student Leadership Conference and inspired other students to become leaders in their communities and across the ocean. Members are Sarah Kapalihiwa Bilyeu, Sophie Kaleimomi Dolera, Joshua No‘eau Kalima, Alana Kanahele, Sheena Kau‘i Lopes, Aaron Kahea Morton, Isaac Ku‘uiponohea Pang, Ulupuamahinamaikalani Peleiholani-Blankenfeld and Kiliona Young.


The Ka Lama Ku Certificate of Leadership Awards

The Alaka‘i Certificate—Leadership was awarded to Kalaiakea Blakemore (Art) for taking a lead role with the Student Art Association and the art of printmaking as a jury member with several art exhibitions.

The Kuleana Certificate—We are Accountable and Responsible was awarded to Bennjamin Siemers (Kinesiology Education) with dedication and accountability in Therapeutic Sciences and community outreach with his internship at the North Hawai‘i Community Hospital.

The 2016-2017 Psychology and Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences (PSY-KES) Peer Advising Team received this award for having the ability to recognize the roles they have with peer academic advising toward student success and being active with campus outreach. Members are Alia Alvarez, Cheyrub Cabarloc, Zach Gorski, Keian Shon, Julie Tom, Leahi Akao, Chelsea Mitsuda, Froile Queja, Kaylee Rapoza, Bennjamin Siemers, Roget Chan, Jamie Ouye and Gabriella Sanchez.

Claire Akau & Lara Hughes

Nominator Claire Akau (left) with award recipient Lara Hughes.

The ‘Ike Pāpālua Certificate—To Have the Gift of Vision was awarded to Lara Hughes (College of Business and Economics with a focus on Business Administration) for her volunteerism as a writer and with the Big Island Press Club’s vision to advance student efforts with their goals for the future.

Students from the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Sciences graduate program Erin Busch, Kailey Pascoe, Keolohilani Lopes, Jessica Kirkpatrick, and Rose Hart won the the Mālama ‘Āina Award. Also pictured is alumnus Nathan Stevenson who was involved in planning this year’s TCBES Symposium. Courtesy photo from TCBES program.

The Mālama ‘Āina Certificate—Taking Care of the Land and Environment was awarded to a group of students from the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Sciences graduate program for their environmental outreach and research in many areas that impact island and global communities and their teamwork at the TCBES Symposium. The students are Erin Busch, Keolohilani Lopes Jr, Kailey Pascoe, Rose Hart and Jessica Kirkpatrick.

The Mālama ‘Ohana—Taking Care of our Families was awarded to Kanani Daley (Art) for embracing her world of art through a native viewpoint and inspiring other artists to share their work in the East Hawai‘i Cultural Center.



The recognition ceremony was sponsored by the UH Hilo Campus Center Fee Board, the Ka Lama Ku Student Leadership Program and Student Advisory Council, the Student Activities Council, University Radio Hilo and Vulcan Video Productions, Ke Kalahea and the Division of Student Affairs.

Feb 242017

Claire-Ann Niibu-Akau has hired nine UH Hilo student interns to help her revolutionize a new accounting business.

By Lara Hughes.

The Fall 2017 Akau Accounting interns with UH Hilo alumnus and business entrepreneur Claire-Ann Niibu-Akau, pictured front-and-center.

University of Hawai‘i at Hilo alumna Claire-Ann Niibu-Akau has just launched an accounting firm of the future. Niibu-Akau graduated from UH Hilo in December 2015 with a degree in accounting. She opened her business Akau Accounting in the fall, and is looking to innovate her field.

She says, “I’ve been doing bookkeeping and accounting for about 20 years, but I began this firm in November. I wanted to continue to support small businesses in Hawai‘i.”

Niibu-Akau has hired nine UH Hilo student interns to help her revolutionize her practice through technological advancements.

The Akau Accounting organizational structure is designed to be a virtual on-line accounting practice. This allows for remote anywhere-in-the-world bookkeeping for clients far and wide and also provides student-interns in the company with flexibility. Niibu-Akau, her employees and interns are able to work at the hours that best fit their schedules while meeting client demand from virtually anywhere in the world.

Internship program provides diversified and innovative environment

Niibu-Akau hired the nine student interns after participating in the UH Hilo College of Business and Economics Internship and Job Fair. One of her main goals is to help people in the community, and she feels that having interns is a large part of that. As a recent graduate, Niibu-Akau knows what the importance of a good internship experience can provide for students.

“I know that students are very capable and I believe that if given the opportunity, our UH Hilo students have great potential for self-development and personal growth,” she says.

Of the nine students that have been hired, seven are focusing on accounting and two are focusing on marketing.

Niibu-Akau says, “The cool thing is that the interns are so diverse in skill and background.”

The Akau Accounting interns hail from different areas of the globe including China, the Marshall Islands, Hawai‘i and the mainland United States. They come from culturally diverse settings and bring expertise from various walks of life. Niibu-Akau expects the interns will also help a lot of small businesses in the community.

“Interns bring a lot of great ideas, a high level of energy and will grow in their knowledge,” she explains.

Meet the interns on Lara Hughes’s blog post.


-A story written by Lara Hughes (senior, business administration, a former intern in the UH Hilo Office of the Chancellor) and originally posted on her blog.

Feb 162017

Each semester, the endowment will fund a scholarship of $500 to several students enrolled in one of the college’s degree programs who have been accepted into an internship program.

By Susan Enright.

Three Fujimoto Scholars—(center, l-r) William Lewis, Rissa Domingo, and Julia Jaitt—were honored at a recent scholarship inauguration ceremony held at UH Hilo. At far left is Drew Martin, dean of the College of Business and Economics, and at far right is benefactor Bobby Fujimoto. Courtesy photo.

Students majoring in business and economics at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo can now pursue a new scholarship at the university thanks to an endowment bestowed to the university by a family of local business leaders.

The Robert M. and Alice K. Fujimoto Foundation established the $35,000 endowment fund last fall to support students pursuing a degree at the UH Hilo College of Business and Economics. An additional gift of $5,000 was given to make awards immediately available to students this year.

Students must also be doing or pursuing at least one internship to qualify for the funds.

“On behalf of UH Hilo, we are deeply honored and proud to be the recipient of Bobby Fujimoto’s generous contribution to establish this scholarship fund,” says UH Hilo Chancellor Don Straney. “His gift will inspire and motivate students to reach their highest level of achievement while applying their learning to the real world of business before they graduate with their degree.”

Three Fujimoto Scholars—William Lewis, Rissa Domingo, and Julia Jaitt—were honored at a recent scholarship inauguration ceremony held at the college.

Each semester, the endowment will fund a scholarship of $500 to several students enrolled in one of the college’s degree programs who have been accepted into an internship program. The funds can be used for costs associated with attendance such as tuition, books and fees.

“The Fujimoto Family Scholarship is a game-changer for our students,” says Drew Martin, dean of the college. He notes a student he met recently who is taking the term off from school because he is $300 short for expenses. “Our students walk a fine line between working enough to pay for their educations and finding enough time to study.”

The benefactor

HPM Building Supply, a longtime local business run by generations of the Fujimoto family, has been a strong supporter of internship programs for many years.

“The company’s management believes applied learning is an important part of a student’s education,” explains Martin. “Support from the Fujimoto family demonstrates how the community can support our efforts to provide a quality business education.”

Robert “Bobby” Fujimoto, third generation at the family-run lumber and building materials business who became president of the company in 1954, has met with—and been impressed by—several UH Hilo business and economics students enrolled in internship programs.

“Mr. Fujimoto decided to take his commitment to student education and the community to a higher level,” says Martin. “He has provided a very generous gift to help students pay for their education and to support applied learning experiences. The outcome is our students are better prepared to become productive members of society.”

In addition to his $40,000 gift to the College of Business and Economics, Fujimoto has also made smaller but meaningful gifts to the UH Hilo ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, UH Hilo Vulcan Athletics, UH Hilo Enrichment Funds and Hawai‘i Community College Enrichment Funds.

“We are also grateful for [Bobby’s] long years of service as a member and chairman of the Board of Regents,” says Straney. “His leadership was critical to shaping the University of Hawai‘i System as it is today.”

Scholarship inauguration ceremony

A scholarship inauguration ceremony was recently held at the College of Business and Economics. In addition to the three honorees, students, administrators, faculty, members of the local business community and members of the Fujimoto family attended.

Giving a few remarks at the event were Mariko Miho from the UH Foundation, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Matt Platz, UH Hilo alumnus Kā‘eo Awana who works at HPM, Bobby Fujimoto and son Michael Fujimoto.

Faculty, administrators, and members of the Fujimoto family gather for photo at the Fujimoto Scholarship inauguration ceremony. (l-r) Mariko Miho, Drew Martin, Tam Vu, Roberta (Fujimoto) Chu, benefactor Bobby Fujimoto, Wendy (Fujimoto) Matsuura, Mike Fujimoto, Emmeline dePillis, and Peter Matsuura. Courtesy photo.

At the event, Lara Hughes (former public information intern in the UH Hilo Office of the Chancellor) was asked by Martin to share her personal story about the importance of internships during her studies at the university.

In her remarks, Hughes spoke about her experience receiving a scholarship to be an intern at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia over the summer; she was one of only two interns at the convention who earned a promotion during their internships.

“Receiving that scholarship and working as an intern for such a historic event, with such incredible professionals has opened my eyes to what the world can provide for me, and just how capable I truly am,” says Hughes in her inspirational message to the new beneficiaries and other students in attendance.

“This experience and all it has taught me, will stay with me for a lifetime. I also have no doubt that it will serve to help me move into the type of career that I hope to pursue.”


About the author: Susan Enright is a public information specialist in the Office of the Chancellor. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

-UH Hilo Stories.

Dec 232016

UH Hilo astronomer Pierre Martin and student Callie Crowder began work on the new educational telescope in September—they assembled and calibrated the various components, including the computers, dome, and instruments. Now they have to make everything robotic.

By Lara Hughes.

(l-r) Callie Crowder and René Pierre Martin working on the PlaneWave CDK700 0.7-meter telescope system at the UH Hilo Sciences and Technology Building.

The Hōkū Ke‘a Educational Observatory is a facility currently in development at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. At the core of the observatory is a state-of-the-art PlaneWave CDK700 0.7-meter telescope system, now under development on campus but eventually to be housed in a yet-to-be-built modern “clamshell” dome.

Thanks to funding from the State of Hawai‘i’s Capital Improvement Program (through a proposal by the UH Institute for Astronomy) and NASA’s Hawai‘i Space Grant Consortium, the team vision of astronomer René “Pierre” Martin and student Callie Crowder is becoming reality.

For several months, the two have been working on assembling and calibrating the telescope at the Sciences and Technology Building on the campus of UH Hilo.

Martin is an assistant professor of astronomy at UH Hilo and the director of the observatory. Before taking on his current roles, Martin served as the science director of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope for 11 years and the executive director of the WIYN Observatory in Arizona for three years.

He is now overseeing the development of the Hōkū Ke‘a Observatory and working closely with Crowder, an astronomy student at UH Hilo and recipient of a Hawai‘i Space Grant award.

Crowder wrote a proposal and received award funding from the Hawai‘i Space Grant Consortium for her traineeship with Martin on the integration and commissioning of the Hōkū Ke‘a Observatory. She is a dean’s list honoree and plans to graduate in 2017.

The PlaneWave CDK700 0.7-meter telescope currently located in the UH Hilo Sciences and Technology Building.

Part of the Hōkū Ke‘a mission will be to undertake research and educational projects and work with local communities to bring opportunities to children.

Once the observatory becomes fully operational, high school and college students from across the state will be able to operate the telescope either on-site, remotely or robotically.

Martin and Crowder began work on the telescope in September of 2016. They assembled and calibrated the various components, including the computers, dome, instruments and telescope.

“Essentially the observatory is a large ensemble of components, and it has to work all together to make a whole,” explains Martin. “All of these systems have to be controlled through different layers of software. Our role is to try to integrate all of that, to provide an observing environment where it is very easy to take data.”

Although many of the main components have been assembled, Crowder says there is still a lot more to be done. She has reapplied for the Space Grant for the spring 2017 semester and her request was recently approved.

“We have to make everything robotic,” she says.

Crowder is very interested in the possibilities surrounding the robotic features, since it will benefit students who are not on-site and allow them to use the telescope remotely at times that best fit their schedules.

The endeavor has been a great opportunity for Crowder and has made a positive impact on her future as she plans to attend graduate school in the fall of 2017.

“I’m super excited,” she says. “It’s really been a good experience for learning for the future.”

Of their work together on the telescope, Martin is very positive.

“It’s always fun,” he says. “We do this for the students. We need them to learn about techniques in astronomy. This should help them to go to grad school or to join the job market, so this is for them. It’s been fun for Callie, but it’s been fun for me, too.”

With the mission for the telescope to be of use to students, Martin is glad that right from the start students like Crowder are getting involved.

“Having a lot of help doing this is also very good,” he says. “I see Callie as a collaborator.”

Looking toward next semester, the team is excited to work on their biggest challenge yet: software set-up. The amalgam of software components will help to robotize the telescope, allowing it to be remotely operated using different devices, including mobile, and be completely automated.

The team will need to configure all of the various components to work together autonomously, using software that they will be configuring to the specifications particular to the telescope and other observatory components.

They also plan on looking very seriously at site options for the telescope and the Hōkū Ke‘a Observatory.

Crowder hopes to see what she refers to as the “first light” of the project, where the telescope will be used in full functionality to observe the cosmos.

“I would love to get a picture of the Orion Nebula,” she says.

Depending on the development of a site, the Hōkū Ke‘a Observatory should become operational in 2017 and holds promise to move astronomy education forward in Hawai‘i.


About the author of this story: Lara Hughes (senior, business administration) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

-UH Hilo Stories.

Dec 152016

The new center is quickly developing into an important place for LGBTQ+ students to have an open space where they can engage and find allies.

By Lara Hughes.


Laura Sherwood

There is a new LGBTQ+ Center on the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus. Laura Sherwood was chosen in September to lead the center’s development and serves as the program coordinator. The purpose of the center is to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all regardless of identity or sexual orientation.

For the fall 2016 semester, the LGBTQ+ Center has been involved with many events around campus aimed at benefiting students and raising awareness. The center organized a showing of the film Kumu Hina, about a transgender Native Hawaiian kumu hula, and hosted Coming-Out Day, and most recently, World AIDS Day, which was held on the first of December at Campus Center.

The LGBTQ+ Center—which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, and questioning students and their allies—celebrated its grand opening in Oct. Around 50 community members were in attendance, and Sherwood was grateful for the support that the various students, university deans, faculty and staff provided throughout the day.

The center also held a book drive on the same day and received over 20 donations from various contributors, notably the English department.

“We’d like to get a little library going, so we’re always open to donations,” says Sherwood who aspires to make the center a go-to safe space for students.

On her inspiration to lead the UH Hilo LGBTQ+ Center, Sherwood says, “I feel very passionate about social justice issues. I’ve worked with a lot of adolescents transitioning and I’m highly involved in the LGBTQ community.”

She also says that in her experience there have been individuals who don’t know how they identify.

“We can be so fixed on labels, and when people don’t fit into those labels they don’t know how to identify,” she explains. “So we’re creating a safe space for them to be able to just be okay wherever they are.”

Safety pins

Above, messages created on safety pins during a recent event at the UH Hilo Campus Center Plaza. People across the country are attaching  safety pins to their clothing to signify they are willing to support members of the LGBT community and others who are vulnerable to abuse (see NYT article on the trend).

Sherwood, currently a candidate for a doctor of philosophy in human development with a focus on social justice in leadership and change, emphasizes that being a community and educational resource is her vision for the center.

The next goal Sherwood has on the agenda is starting a Gay-Straight Alliance to encourage inclusion among students. According to the GSA website, the alliance is described as a student-run club, “which provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and work to end homophobia and transphobia.”

Sherwood expressed how important she believes it is for students to have an open space where they can engage and have allies. She wants the center to support the Pride Club, as well as other groups and individuals in the community.

Sherwood is working on writing grant proposals and finding ways to help fundraise for the center.

“I would like to see the center be able to do bigger community events that are inclusive and promote collaboration with outside community organizations, and provide food and entertainment,” she says. “I want it to be something that students want to attend. Ideally, I’d like to see some really amazing speakers that can set the tone that we are a community space that embodies diversity and inclusion.”

She places a lot of importance on personal interaction and hopes to engage with students and the community in that way, working toward satisfying the needs of the UH Hilo community and its student body.

Sherwood is also interested in having student interns at the center and would consider taking on interested individuals in the coming fiscal year.

“They should be aware of social justice issues and believe in the vision,” she says. “I think it would be amazing to have diverse areas of knowledge, to be passionate and want to be of service.”

Students interested in visiting the center or looking for somewhere to relax can visit Sherwood in PB9 on campus. There are also different types of coffee, tea, books and crafts in the center for students to enjoy.


About the author of this story: Lara Hughes (senior, business administration) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

-UH Hilo Stories.

Dec 142016

The video is supported by an award from the national Gallagher Student Innovative Practices in College Health Fund, which supports innovative practices to improve access to quality healthcare for students.

By Lara Hughes.


Filmmaker Matthew Nagato (at left) interviews UH Hilo alumnus Zaq Tman for an educational video to encourage students to seek health support services. At right is co-creative director Alexander Bocchieri. Courtesy photos.

With funding received last summer, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo has produced an educational video this semester to encourage students to seek health support services.

Connie and Sulma

(l-r) Connie Crihfield and Sulma Gandhi at the award presentation in June.

The $3,500 national Gallagher Student Innovative Practices in College Health Fund award was presented in June to Sulma Gandhi, director of UH Hilo Student Health and Wellness Programs, by Connie Crihfield, chair of the award’s administrative organization, the American College of Health Foundation. The purpose of the fund is to provide financial support to student health centers and their staff for the development of innovative practices that improve access to quality healthcare for students.

Student Health and Wellness Programs at UH Hilo provides care that integrates education and prevention efforts with medical and mental health services, programs, and activities. The Gallagher award was used to produce an educational video entitled, “No Shame, No Blame.”

Gandhi, who applied for the award, says she hopes the film will spark dialog.

“The point of the film is to have a conversation, to understand what are the challenges and barriers for these populations from accessing our services and what we could do to improve our programs,” she explains.

The main focus of the project is to reach segments of the university population that have been less likely to access UH Hilo student support programs. In particular, the film is being produced with a Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island student audience in mind.

The decision to focus on these groups came about as those involved with the program looked at the UH Hilo campus’s statistical data as it relates to students and their wellness. Data shows that these groups of students do not receive counseling services at the same rate as other populations, yet they struggle at the same rates as other students.

Recent UH Hilo graduate Zaq Tman assisted in the making of the film, sharing information with the intended audience as an interviewee. Tman was a peer mentor from the island of Yap who trained in suicide prevention as a gatekeeper while he was a student at UH Hilo.

Gandhi says he was willing to share his experience as a gatekeeper and peer mentor.

“Part of this highlights our diversity at our campus,” Gandhi explains. “It’s a great opportunity for our students to learn and grow.”

Essential to initiating the production of the film was Yolisa Duley, a sociology lecturer specializing in indigenous leadership, health and wellness. Anthony Liu, a specialist in information technology, also assisted in production. The two gave forward momentum to the process by initiating conversations with those who work directly with the Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Anthony recorded the video interviews with Tman and a few staff members.

Gandhi also enlisted the help of Matthew Nagato, director and founder of Lumos Media, a local production company that has earned acclaim for two films at the Hawaiʻi International Film Festival.

Nagato has experience working in the field of healthcare and is an expert storyteller, which Gandhi says makes him the perfect candidate to bring the project to fruition. Nagato is working on the film with his co-creative director Alexander Bocchieri.

Receiving the Koster award serves as affirmation for Gandhi.

“What I’m thrilled about is that, from a national perspective, they are recognizing that we are such a diverse community and have much to offer to the conversation,” she says. “So, they’re looking at us as leaders to help the discussion, not just here locally, but also nationally.”


About the author of this story: Lara Hughes (senior, business administration) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

-UH Hilo Stories.

Dec 022016

UH Hilo joins a collaborative project that’s making healthy choices easier across the state. It’s part of a nationwide effort to create healthier, happier places to live, work, and play.

By Lara Hughes.


The Blue Zones Personal Pledge lays out a four-step plan to help understand and implement steps that can help promote health and longevity. UH Hilo has joined the Blue Zones movement to provide support to members of the campus community who would like to participate in the project.

blue-zones-project-logoBlue Zones Project Hawai‘i is inspiring members of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo community to create a campus where people are supported in having a healthy lifestyle to live long lives. The project’s parent agency, Blue Zones, is leading a movement across the country that focuses on longevity and community health.

The healthy lifestyle concept was launched in 2012 by founder Dan Buettner, who traveled around the world to discover why people in some parts of the world live longer than others. Buettner studied communities in Greece, Nicaragua and Japan, among others, where people are living long, healthy lives, and then he returned to the U.S. with recommendations on how communities can implement changes in support of a healthier citizenry. And now his Blue Zones organization is working with local communities nationwide to create “permanent changes to environment, policy and social networks” to make healthy choices easier for people.

Blue Zone communities

From the Blue Zones website: “A growing number of U.S. cities are adopting the secrets of longevity discovered in Blue Zones around the world. Discover how these neighbors, teachers, community leaders, and people just like you are transforming where they live, work, learn, and play so healthy choices are becoming easy for everyone in the community.”

After finding success with projects at various locations on the mainland, the Blue Zones Project has made its way to the Hawaiian islands, and a large section of Hawai‘i Island has become Blue Zone friendly.

Jana Ortiz

Jana Ortiz

“Blue Zones provides a framework asking, ‘What would work with your community?’” says Jana Ortiz, the project’s lead organizer for East Hawai‘i. “We want people to be living longer and better. Blue Zones aligns with Hawai‘i culture. We love our kupuna; we respect and revere our elders. We need to tie in many of the strengths that we already have and work together to uplift our community.”

The local Blue Zones Project is “a community well-being initiative that makes healthy choices easier in all the places we live, work and play,” according to the group’s Facebook page. Organizers are currently finding and working with partners in the East Hawai‘i community—UH Hilo is one of those partners and Blue Zones experts will be working with staff and students via the Campus Center to promote healthy living through such activities as gardening, group walks and eating well.


Maile Boggeln

Maile Boggeln is the interim campus and community service coordinator at UH Hilo and an advisor for different student groups on campus. She is serving as a liaison between the UH Hilo community and the Blue Zones Project.

“Blue Zones helps to consolidate a lot of great research which then makes the implementation of healthy choices more accessible,” Boggeln says. “I was really interested in how tangible and actionable the Blue Zones Project is. I really hope that the Blue Zones Project will help to create more awareness and give people more knowledge about making healthy choices.”

The Blue Zones Project on Hawai‘i Island is funded in part by Healthways (a partner of HMSA), and in addition to UH Hilo, has partnered locally with KTA Super StoresHawai‘i Electric Light and others. Global partners include organizations such as National Geographic that publishes the Blue Zones books that guide the movement.

The Blue Zones philosophy

Buettner began his investigation by traveling to global locations where life expectancy and overall happiness of the communities are higher than average (see TedEd Talk video at right to learn more).

He focused on five key communities: Sardegna, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California. In these locations studies have found that there is a lower rate of cancer, people live longer, and the general population is happier and more content.


Click to enlarge

Upon closer inspection, nine factors show close correlations and occur frequently in all five locations (see more about the Power 9). It turns out, people in the world’s longest-lived populations do the following as normal, usually daily, activity:

  1. Move their bodies often throughout the day.
  2. Have a purpose in life.
  3. Take time to relax.
  4. Stop eating a meal before they are full.
  5. Eat lots of beans and plant foods.
  6. Drink a little wine with meals.
  7. Belong to faith-based groups.
  8. Put family first.
  9. Have support systems in place to sustain this type of lifestyle.

These nine points are the foundation of Blue Zones.

Creating Blue Zones for East Hawai‘i and UH Hilo

Many of the community projects around the country that Blue Zones has helped start include food baskets, community garden projects, walking groups, health focused potluck groups, more effective school and community scheduling and infrastructure planning. Reported benefits have included weight loss, reduced amounts of injury, increased productivity, and improved healthy lifestyles.

Local initiatives on Hawai‘i Island include food baskets with healthy donations and recipes, walking and pot luck groups, the Waimea KTA becoming the first Blue Zones grocery store in Hawai‘i, and even a “stone soup” that was hosted by the Waimea KTA that brought members of the community out to share fresh local ingredients that the store’s kitchen then prepared and gave to everyone wishing to sample a bowl.

As a first step at UH Hilo, the Blue Zones Project Hawai‘i is collaborating with the Campus Center to create a Registered Independent Student Organization (RISO) to be geared toward implementing applicable Blue Zone practices on campus.


Jade Iokepa

A presentation about Blue Zones was recently given at UH Hilo by Jade Iokepa of Blue Zones.

Various checklists were provided at the presentation to help people start making healthier life decisions. Among them were home, bedroom, kitchen and personal checklists, which included things like owning a bike, removing TVs and computers from the bedroom, dedicating the top shelf of the refrigerator to fruits and vegetables, and designating a space in the home for quiet time, meditation, or prayer.

“We can help create healthier choices and make the healthy choice the easy choice through grocery stores, restaurants, worksites and our entire community’s schools and policy,” explains Iokepa. “We can get everyone together and make little steps.”



About the author of this story: Lara Hughes (senior, business administration) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

-UH Hilo Stories.

Nov 212016

The event gave people a safe place to voice their feelings and offered a platform to share thoughts on the election, the future, and how to best nurture social rights and protect the environment moving forward.

By Lara Hughes. Photos by Bob Douglas.


The teach-in focused on how to best nurture social rights and protect the environment moving forward after the 2016 presidential election.

A teach-in was organized last Friday at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo in response to the recent presidential election.

The event was organized by a group of university professors, students, and an academic counselor. The idea behind the event was to give people a safe place to voice their feelings and offer a platform to share thoughts on the election, the future, and how to best nurture social rights and protect the environment moving forward.


The teach-in was held at the Campus Center Plaza.

Marina Karides

Marina Karides speaks at teach-in. Other speakers below.


Marina Karides, associate professor of sociology, was one of the organizers and the first speaker to address the many students, administrators, academics, and community members who had gathered in Campus Center.

“This is a solution oriented event,” Karides explains. She invited those who were interested in speaking to take turns addressing the audience and sharing their thoughts.

Jeanne Batallones

Jeanne Batallones

Jeanne Batallones is an academic counselor with the Student Services Center at UH Hilo. She was the second speaker and event organizer to stand before the crowd and offer her support, saying, “This space is for healing and for student voices to be heard. It’s not about Democrat or Republican. It’s about human rights and human values that are rooted in love, justice and unity.”

The UH Hilo campus has gained national renown for the vast diversity it encompasses and has, in past years, been recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the United States. A new LGBTQ+ Center was established this year.

Batallones introduced Marguerite Stith, who also stood to speak. Stith is a sociology student who helped with event organization as well. Other organizers present were Celia Bardwell-Jones, an associate professor of philosophy and the chair of the gender and women’s studies program, and Charmaine Higa-McMillan, associate professor of psychology. Also attending was Ashley Magallanes.

The guidelines for speakers posted at the teach-in.

The guidelines for speakers posted at the teach-in.

Bardwell-Jones sat with the crowd and listened to the different speakers, then rose to say, “We had to do something on-campus. We believe that these ideas need to be intellectually cultivated: education, critical thinking, and active democratic participation. This is where it should start. It should start here at the UH Hilo campus. This is just the beginning. This is one of many events that we will be organizing.”

More events

Other events are already being planned around campus and out in the local community. One of the student speakers, Emma Gerish, urged those in attendance to join-in and be a part of a peaceful protest march happening on Nov. 29, that is set to start on the sidewalk in front of the Merryl-Lynch building in Hilo. No start time was specified.

A Women’s March in Hilo is also being organized for Jan. 21, 2017, the day after the presidential inauguration in Washington, DC. This march is a national event with the main gathering in DC; marches will be happening across the country in every state. The official mission statement begins, “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families—recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.” Info on the Hilo march can be found on Facebook.

A sign-up sheet for the Hilo Women’s March was passed around, and student Mary Fem Urena added her name to the list. Fem Urena is studying environmental science at UH Hilo and says, “We need a community of love, activism and acceptance of the people around us in order to move as a country and fight the biggest threat to humanity, climate change.”

The National Science Foundation recently released $1 million to continue climate change research at UH Hilo.


Kathryn Besio

Kathryn Besio

Kathryn Besio graduated from UH Mānoa and is a geography professor who has been at UH Hilo for 12 years. She also serves as faculty for gender and women’s studies program. As she stood and spoke to the people who were at the teach-in, she put on a baseball cap that had the word feminist printed on the brim.

Besio offered these words: “Participation is going to be incredibly important in the years and months ahead. After the [presidential] election, students told me they felt gutted, afraid about their futures. They were very despondent. But we see connections between environmental and civil rights activists. We need to keep pushing forward and looking for these connections.”


About the author of this story: Lara Hughes (senior, business administration) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

About the photographer: Bob Douglas is a local artist, photographer, and student who volunteers his photography skills to the Office of the Chancellor and UH Hilo Stories. 

-UH Hilo Stories.

Nov 182016

The public event encourages students to hand paint t-shirts with messages to heighten awareness and provide support for survivors and victims of violence against women.

By Lara Hughes.


Above, UH Hilo student Juvette Kahawaii, at the UH Hilo Clothesline Project, shows a t-shirt with a famous quote from the The Help, a novel written by Kathryn Stockett: “You is important.” Below, Kahawaii, Shanelle Elizabeth, and Brenda Burch create their messages.


Students gathered last month at the Campus Center Plaza, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, to support each other and paint inspiring t-shirts for the annual Clothesline Project. The National Clothesline Project started on Cape Cod, MA, in 1990 to address the issue of violence against women. The annual event encourages people to append hand-painted t-shirts from clotheslines, displayed in a public area, to heighten awareness and provide support for sufferers, survivors and victims of violence against women. The project is held each year world-wide.

The Oct. 26 UH Hilo event was organized by Lehua McClung of the UH Hilo Women’s Center. McClung is the coordinator for the center and a diversity initiative specialist.

This is the second year she has chaired the Clothesline Project at UH Hilo.

“We like to do this annually because it brings about education and awareness of domestic violence,” McClung says. “There are a lot of women, and men as well, in the community that do experience domestic violence. I feel that it’s important to put this event on, knowing that students have a place to go to, as well as community resources and partners that they can go to, for support.”


Lehua McClung (left) and her Women’s Center team.

Students were free to stop at a stocked table of art supplies on the plaza and design a message on a shirt. They were invited to talk with each other, or paint in silent reflection.

Students who attended the event also offered their support to others.


Brenda Burch

Brenda Burch is a student who has been active in multiple campus clubs and is a leader in the UH Hilo community. She is also a survivor of domestic abuse.

“I feel it’s important for everybody to have a support system, and this is important to me because I am a survivor of DV (domestic violence),” says Burch. “Me being able to create my story through a shirt will maybe help somebody else that isn’t strong enough to speak up about it.”

Two of Burch’s friends were also present: Juvette Kahawaii and Shanelle Elizabeth.

Kahawaii is a business administration major and student leader of various groups and on-campus organizations. She painted and displayed a shirt with Burch.

“This shows those who are in need of help, that there is a support system out there for them,” explains Kahawaii. “Sometimes it’s just hard to sit back and watch someone go through that. This is allowing me to share my words of affirmation with domestic violence abuse survivors.”


Shanelle Elizabeth

Elizabeth is involved with the Student Activities Council at UH Hilo.

“I think this event is important for people who are also not victims of domestic violence, because it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in your community,” says Elizabeth. “Just seeing how the community comes together to put on an event like this, it makes everyone feel loved. It lets everyone know that someone’s there for you.”

The three women were among various members of the student body whose messages on t-shirts adorned the plaza.

Several organizations were present to show their encouragement.

The new LGBTQ+ Center’s coordinator, Laura Sherwood, had a booth at the event to help show her support.

“Nobody deserves to be in any form of domestic violence,” says Sherwood. “I hope to raise awareness and get people involved. We still have a lot of violence against women in our nation.”


About the author of this story: Lara Hughes (senior, business administration) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

-UH Hilo Stories.