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Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column, March 2019: UH Hilo moving into the future

At UH Hilo we embrace our kuleana to help provide the workforce for new growth sectors in our economy. Our eyes are on the future.

By Marcia Sakai.

Marcia Sakai
Marcia Sakai

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo mission is to challenge students to reach their highest level of academic achievement by inspiring learning, discovery, and creativity inside and outside the classroom. This prepares them for the workforce needs of our island, state, and the global community. In this column, I’d like to share with you a few of our new programs that directly answer these needs.

Our new bachelor of science in aeronautical sciences program, approved earlier this year by the UH Board of Regents, has two tracks: one in commercial professional pilot training and the other in commercial aerial information technology (drones). Both are projected growth areas for the state. The pilot training track is cost effective compared to mainland programs and would support the state’s tourism-related transportation services sector. The drone track trains students for growing career opportunities in agriculture, natural disaster response, natural resource management, search and rescue, security services, and expected air transport services.

UH Hilo drone team took a lead role in collecting data during the recent lava flow in Puna. Read story about new aeronautical sciences degree program. Photo via UH System News.

In the fast-growing field of data science, UH Hilo launched its long-planned data science program this past fall. Technology is enabling the production of data at an ever increasing rate, but there are not a lot of people trained to analyze that data, develop information, and make conclusions. Here on our island, for example, there is great need for data analytics in conservation efforts, water resource management, and climate change research.

At UH Hilo’s Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center located at Hilo Bay, hundreds of students have gained valuable hands-on experience at the nine-acre center, developing aquaponics and raising ornamental and food fish, shellfish, and algae throughout the year. Interns, volunteers, and research students have learned everything about aquaculture production from the hatchery where juvenile fish and juvenile oysters are raised to actual farming of the organisms.

UH Hilo has the only four-year aquaculture program in the state, and the center has the only facility dedicated to aquaculture and coastal management education, research, and outreach to the community and industry. In addition to training the workforce and researchers of tomorrow, our center is helping to develop sustainable seafood production, moving the state closer to self-reliance in food while also promoting ocean conservation.

We are working with Hawai‘i Community College to develop articulated 2+2 transfer pathways to UH Hilo baccalaureate opportunities and targeting completion of   pathways in administration of justice and psychology by the end of this academic year.  We will extend these and look at other pathways across all the UH community colleges, in order to develop a robust transfer population. Looking ahead, we are investigating collaborative work to develop a pathway into the natural sciences and STEM teacher education programs, two fields for which there is already an important workforce need.

To meet future needs for highly educated professionals in health care, we are looking toward preparing students to pursue doctoral studies. The Students of Hawaiʻi Advanced Research Program (SHARP) is a relatively new program, largely supporting under-represented students, particularly Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who would like to do research in preparation for doctoral studies. The students are mentored by expert faculty researchers to develop interest and competence in biomedical and behavioral sciences research. The program is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) and is administered through the UH Hilo Department of Anthropology.

Group viewing poster presentation.
SHARP student Jasmine Hiking (center facing right) with a group viewing the poster presentation on her research. Read story about SHARP symposium.

At UH Hilo we embrace our kuleana to help provide the workforce for new growth sectors in our economy. Our eyes are on the future. We strive to anticipate the needs of our island, state, and global community and to help prepare the professionals needed to navigate the challenges to come. Our students will not only have the chance to compete successfully in the future for well-paying jobs, but will also help raise the quality of life for their families, communities, state, and region for years to come.


Marcia Sakai

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