The University of Guam recently hosted a Presidential Forum for presidents and chancellors from Asia, the U.S. mainland, Hawai‘i, the Virgin Islands and the South Pacific. Donald Straney, chancellor at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, attended the forum and was on a panel discussing the role of universities as agents of political and social change.
“Universities that serve islands have some shared opportunities and constraints,” says Straney. “All islands represented at the forum face the same challenges. We can learn from each other.”
Straney says good examples of similar challenges are environmental issues and sustainable energy use. The Virgin Islands has started a new sustainable energy program, he says.
The forum was hosted by Robert Underwood, president of the University of Guam. In addition to Chancellor Straney, panel participants included David Hall, president of the University of the Virgin Islands; Reynaldo Vea, president of Mapua Institute of Technology; Ganesh Chand, president of Fiji National University; Mary Okada, president of Guam Community College and president of the Pacific Postsecondary Education Council; and Alfred Pascual, vice chancellor at the University of the Philippines. Keynote speaker was Ricardo Fernández, president of Lehman College, the City University of New York.
Chancellor Straney gives President Underwood high marks for hosting the forum and starting the dialogue.
“It was great that President Underwood got us all together,” says Straney.
Daniel Brown, UH Hilo’s interim vice chancellor for research and economic development, arrived in Guam a couple of days ahead of Chancellor Straney and attended the University of Guam’s Founder’s Day Recognition Ceremony.
“The University of Guam shares many similarities with UH Hilo: size, regional importance, primary focus on undergraduate education but also having graduate programs,” says Brown. “We already have collaborations with the University of Guam in STEM programs and the newly created Climate Science Center. It makes a lot of sense to expand these collaborative efforts for the benefit of the Pacific region.”
Brown also attended a formal Founder’s Day Gala where officials and others enjoyed dinner and entertainment. Guam’s governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, and many other dignitaries were present.
The following day, the group was given a tour of the island, which included much historical background. Chancellor Straney arrived that evening and attended a dinner honoring the 60th anniversary of the University of Guam.
The Presidential Forum was held on July 2. Panel discussions covered the changes in higher education over the past 60 years, current changes in higher education and how universities are adapting to those changes, and the role of universities in the economic, cultural, and political aspects of their regions.
In Chancellor Straney’s panel, he discussed the role of a university on an island and UH Hilo’s responsibility to improve the quality of life of the people of Hawai‘i, the Pacific region, and the world. Within the context of regional issues, Straney said UH Hilo is actively engaged in projects such as the Micronesia and American Samoa Student Internship Program, UH Hilo’s Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Center, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center. Also discussed was the Pacific Island Climate Science Center, which is a project of the United States Department of the Interior established in 2011, hosted by the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo with UH Mānoa in Honolulu and the University of Guam as a consortium.
After the forum, Chancellor Straney and Vice Chancellor Brown were given a campus tour by a University of Guam professor who serves as the Guam campus coordinator for the Islands of Opportunity Alliance, a program funded by the National Science Foundation and led by UH Hilo.
“UH Hilo and the University of Guam have joint research and education programs underway and I’d like to build on that,” says Chancellor Straney.
Photos courtesy of the University of Guam.