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Column by the Chancellor in Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce Newsletter: Feb. 2011

Message from UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
Chamber Connection Newsletter
Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce
Feb. 2011

UH Hilo:
A university with high quality faculty, strong programs, and a commitment to our island’s economic growth

Logo with the words Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce Since 1898I’ve just completed my first semester as chancellor at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. It’s been an extraordinary learning experience, and I’ve found a good deal to admire about our university. I’d like to share a few of the attributes I’ve discovered about UH Hilo that give us a competitive edge in the higher education marketplace.

Our small classes are a key advantage. They allow students to have the personal attention of PhD faculty who are active scholars in their fields. Our faculty regularly collaborate with students on research and service projects. In fact, I think of UH Hilo as a “practical university,” one that prepares students well for meaningful and productive careers here at home that will help build our island economy and strengthen our island communities.

Our island is the best place in the world to study environmental and marine science, astronomy, volcanoes, sustainable agriculture, integrated energy systems, heritage studies, and rural health delivery, among others. There is a strong “sense of place” in these fields, and they all present opportunities for our graduates to make lifelong contributions to their own communities and help build a prosperous future.

Our island also provides the perfect “living laboratory” to study our host culture. UH Hilo’s indigenous and Hawaiian language and culture revitalization programs attract international attention and students. In December, we presented the first two doctorates in Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization. The honors went to Katarina Edmonds, a Maori educator from New Zealand, and Kauanoe Kamanā, the first of Native Hawaiian ancestry to receive the PhD awarded by UH Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language.

UH Hilo is committed to expanding programs that will have a positive impact on our island economy. Some key areas we are considering for program growth are environmental sciences, sustainable agriculture, and rural health. These and other areas of importance to the island and our students will be where the future programs emerge at UH Hilo.

UH Hilo has already begun to provide leadership in rural health care. The new Center for Rural Health Science, located in our College of Pharmacy, is bringing together physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other health care professionals to solve rural health care problems through research, education, community service, and policy change. The goal of this program is to produce solutions not only for our island and state but for other rural communities throughout the country.

The island of Hawai‘i offers research environments that are ideally suited to our master’s program in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Sciences, including marine and coastal habitats, forests, shrublands, and streams. The program, which fosters sustained collaboration among faculty, students and government agencies on the island, takes a multidisciplinary, highly collaborative approach to our environmental challenges. One of the program’s strengths is that it is delivered by committed faculty from a number of UH Hilo departments: Anthropology, Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Geology, and Marine Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, and in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management.

UH Hilo also recognizes the tremendous potential in research and development of sustainable energy. Our island is one of the very few places in the world where all forms of non-petrochemical energy are available and already being used to generate power, notably wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal. This potential gives us a big advantage in developing educational programs and research that will have local, national and international applications.

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