Remarks by UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawai‘i
August 17, 2010
‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii
UH Hilo University Park of Science and Technology
I’m really happy to be here in Hilo. Since July, I’ve been working with the faculty and staff at the university and interfacing with the community every chance I get. There is a lot of talent and expertise on campus and some great opportunities on this island and in the state.
Part of the reason I took this job is because of the UH Hilo’s special role in access to higher education.
Along with Hawai‘i Community College, we are the only source of higher education on this island. The island of Hawai’i is as big as the rest of the state combined, but there are eight UH campuses and several private colleges to meet their needs. We are responsible for taking students as they come—we are not selective in the way many other campuses are. But we graduate students who compete well for jobs with people who went to those selective schools. UH Hilo meets the needs of students who would not thrive at a big, urban university. We offer small classes, close contact with instructors, hands-on approach to learning.
I was also intrigued because you can easily see and gauge the impact that this university has on the island’s economy and social life. In Los Angeles, we served 12 million people; our impact was invisible. Here, we can see where UH Hilo graduates work and what UH Hilo programs can do to build the economy of the island. We are accountable for our impact.
Accountability is important. In this election season, it is easy to be reminded how accountable politicians are, and how closely we look at their accomplishments. Senator Daniel Inouye has been here today, I’m going to thank him personally for the impact he has had on UH Hilo students and our community. My predecessor, Rose Tseng, truly feels that his support and encouragement have been crucial to UH Hilo’s progress. The projects he supports are hands-on, problem solving, and results oriented—just the type of thing that UH Hilo can do well.
We are sitting in one example of how Senator Inouye’s vision has helped us create a facility that benefits not just the campus, but the community and even visitors. In just a few short years, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i has become an integral part of our community, embraced by Native Hawaiians and the astronomy community. ‘Imiloa now serves as a model for other science centers to show how science and culture may be integrated.
When I look at the success its programs have, I am led to wonder what the next step is that we can take. There is often a tension between technology and culture. I think we can learn from ‘Imiloa’s success to learn how technology and culture can be mutually beneficial.
Our College of Pharmacy is another important initiative championed by Senator Inouye. The college is already giving back to the community, especially through its leadership of the Hawaii County Beacon Community Consortium, which has so much potential to improve health care on our island.
I hope our work can continue to benefit from the senator’s vision for the future of the state.
Since taking up the chancellorship, I’ve been asking a series of questions wherever I go. I’m trying to integrate the answers that I hear into my sense of what future we might create with the UH Hilo.
- How does UH Hilo integrate into the island of Hawaii’s economic and cultural community?
- How does the island benefit from our campus being here?
- Role of business—not done until it enters the market
- How do we tell students were graduate from Hawai‘i?
- What role do internships play?
- How can we serve the whole island?
- What programs, offered where?
- Special needs: rural health care?
- What is our role in food production/value added?
- What is our role in marine resources?
- Through our Center for Maunakea Stewardship, we will implement the Comprehensive Management Plan for the Mauna Kea Science Reserve. We will earn the community’s trust that the natural and cultural resources will be protected, thus maintaining the conditions under which science on the mountain may develop and evolve into the future.
- How can we enhance the quality of education in a way that also enhances quality of life for the larger community?
- Graduation, help students learn. The longer they take to graduate, the longer it is before they earn, and contribute.
In my years in administration, I’ve learned that it can be a creative activity when we develop and launch new academic programs or initiate projects–such as this science and technology park–to improve the local economy. It’s creative, but nothing is accomplished alone. We work with others–from the time a need is first identified. We then collaborate with others to fill that need.
I’m fortunate that UH Hilo has a close relationship with business, the community and political leadership over the years. We have a history of productive cooperation that I’m eager to continue.