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

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

September 2012

UH Hilo’s College of Business and Economics earns high marks in national assessment

We start the new school year with great news from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s College of Business and Economics. CoBE and the students in the college recently received scores from the nationwide Collegiate Learning Assessment. The CLA is a national instrument that evaluates students’ written responses to assess critical thinking, reasoning, problem solving skills, and the ability to communicate clearly and cogently.

Our student achievements were significantly above the average mean. Thirty-three graduating seniors enrolled in the capstone strategic planning course attained an average overall CLA score of 1,189, which puts our seniors in the 57th percentile of graduating seniors nationwide. Better still, the college’s Value-Added Score among the hundreds of institutions that administer the CLA is at the 93rd percentile nationwide!

Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s book, Academically Adrift, examined college students’ growth in critical thinking skills as measured by the CLA. They find that “at least 45 percent of students in our [national] sample did not demonstrate any statistically significant improvement in Collegiate Learning Assessment performance during the first two years of college.”

Business is one of the lowest performing majors on the CLA, while students majoring in natural sciences earn the top scores. In a New York Times editorial, Arum writes, “students concentrating in business related coursework were the least likely to report spending time studying and preparing for class. Given such modest investments in academic activities, it is not surprising that business students show the lowest gains on measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication.”

Faculty at UH Hilo’s business college attribute our students positive outcome to several factors: high quality faculty with terminal degrees who teach and are also active researchers devoted to student learning; small class sizes that allow personal attention and high levels of interaction; a strong culture of professionalism at the college; and applied learning activities such as internships.

Our graduates who participated in the CLA are pleased, but not surprised, by the results. Winona Chen (2012) remarks that our “professors have passion for what they teach, they are invested in our success as students and professionals, and they invite us to reach our full potential.” Chen is currently interning in an Executive Team Leader position teaching fitness classes and running triathlons.

Shaun McKim (2012), a double major in economics and political science currently enrolled in Clark University’s MBA program on a merit scholarship, says the “rigorous curriculum” and the opportunity to collaborate with professors and present papers at international conferences prepared him for the challenges of graduate school.

Emily Anderson (2012), an accounting graduate, says the courses are designed to emulate what students will encounter in the real work force. “I will be the first to attest to how much employers notice those things,” she says. “I am so lucky to have the fortunate problem this summer of having to turn down job offers because I was receiving too many.”

We are proud of our students and their performance on the CLA. This is confirmation of their critical thinking, analytical, and communication abilities. These results confirm that we offer a high-quality education and are preparing our graduates well for employment and advanced studies.

For more news from the Office of the Chancellor, visit my blog.

Don Straney

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