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Column by the Chancellor in Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce Newsletter: January 2012

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

January 2012

UH Hilo hosts Community Vision Summit 

First, I want to wish all of you a Happy New Year! I know we all greet 2012 with optimism, looking forward to a bright and prosperous year—but also keeping our eyes wide open to the challenges of the here and now.

One of our accomplishments in 2011 was the university ‘ohana and surrounding local community working together to develop UH Hilo’s new strategic plan (see The long term plan gives us a pathway to the future and guides us as we start 2012, placing strong emphasis on our kuleana, our responsibility, to improving the quality of life for our island’s people and our local community as a whole. One of the ways to honor this commitment is to strengthen partnerships and collaborations, share our understanding, and work together with the community to discover innovative ways to educate our citizens and grow our economy.

In early December, I invited 27 leaders from our community—representatives of education, health, technology, business, local government, and community non-profits—to convene for a Community Vision Summit. The discussions were lively and fruitful, focusing on the strategic directions of UH Hilo in the coming years. The group talked about their shared vision of our island’s future, and how to build two-way relationships to reach our common goals.

Working together, the participants provided helpful guidance about the university’s role in strengthening our community. The importance of UH Hilo’s role in the P-20 education system was emphasized. There was a great sense of people wanting to work together to provide education and life-long learning opportunities matched to workforce development needs. In addition, emphasis was placed on undertaking research and development relevant to the people, environment, and culture of our island and state.

The discussion identified three key areas where UH Hilo could have the biggest impact on improving the quality of life on our island:

  1. Be a Catalyst for Local Economic Development. Participants highlighted the role that UH Hilo should play in building connections with local industries that could let students apply what they are learning to the workplace. Participants recommended that this can be achieved by the university educating and training local students to move into the island’s growing industries in health care, energy, agriculture and information technology.
  2. Bridge Our Island’s Multiple Sectors. A focus of discussion was the role that UH Hilo can play as a champion for dialogue and discussion between multiple sectors. Participants recommended the university develop an economic engine and model that is rooted in the culture, values, traditions and community of the island, one that connects the university, K–12 education, industry, community, and policy. Participants also recommended public-private partnerships that enhance applied learning with feeder programs, where opportunities can enhance student retention. 
  3. Strengthen Community Relationships. While bridging across sectors was identified as important, equally so was the need to strengthen and maintain such relationships over time so that UH Hilo’s continued impact occurs in partnership with the community. Particularly noted was the need for the university to actively strengthen and maintain reciprocal relationships with local businesses, government, and non-profits to empower higher education and workforce development. For example, internships with small businesses to fuel student ambition and problem-solving capacity, build entrepreneurial skills, creativity, and critical thinking.

The meeting was a great success and I appreciate the time and effort made by everyone. I was reminded that the greatest resource we have is the people of our island—when we put our minds to it, we can work together to create a bright future for our island and state. This summit is the first of a series of meetings where I plan to hear from different parts of the community about ways UH Hilo can drive local economic development, bridge our island’s multiple sectors, and strengthen the university’s relationships with the community.

The Hawai‘i island community is a vital partner in the mission of UH Hilo. We appreciate the excellent relationships that have grown strong over the years with groups like the Chamber and people in business across the island. I look forward to working with you in 2012 to create a prosperous future for the people of Hawai‘i.

Happy New Year!

Don Straney

PDF of Community Vision Summit Report 

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