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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Sept. 2019: The magic of higher education

The magic of higher education: When we are successful at it, we open the door to opportunity for individuals, families, and communities.

By Bonnie D. Irwin

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

The opening week of the fall semester is here! It’s second only to commencement week in its level of activity, enthusiasm, and hope for the future. Students are arriving to the campus of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo from across the state, nation, and the world as well as from down the street. UH Hilo rightly prides itself on the wide diversity of ethnic and cultural origins of our students. Indeed, The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked us last year as the most diverse public four-year university in the country.

Yet there is still one over-arching thing all these students have in common: the desire to better themselves and to provide a bright future for themselves and their families. And that is the magic of higher education when we are successful at it; we open the door to opportunity for individuals, families, and communities.

The UH Hilo Student Success Leadership Team has been hard at work both on recruiting students and keeping them here. We have bold goals for student success, and I am pleased to see so many good initiatives underway. We are continuing to work on pathways for students from UH community colleges into UH Hilo baccalaureate programs. We are creating more organized and intentional opportunities for community service and community-based research projects for our students. We are trying to expand employment opportunities for students on campus, so they can hone their job skills and build their resumés while helping their peers succeed.

Our new students were so excited to participate in First-Year Experience activities during Orientation last month. The campus community welcomed our newest Vulcans warmly with four days of activities—workshops, fairs, tours, shuttles, various socials, and a beautiful convocation ceremony—introducing them to our university and our community. The enthusiasm was palpable and I was honored to participate. Students are excited to be in college, excited to be at UH Hilo, and of course, a bit anxious about life at the university and how it might differ from the high school or community college they have come from.

We are also focusing on activities for continuing students: research experiences, internships, community service, study abroad. All of these provide valuable opportunities for students to apply what they are learning in class to real world situations. One of my goals for UH Hilo is to provide more of these opportunities for more students, so that they are competitive for good jobs and good graduate schools. At UH Hilo, they get the one-on-one attention that really enhances their learning, something larger schools cannot compete with.

Woven into all of this activity is a feeling of ‘ohana; our campus is relationship driven. We create lasting bonds and friendships among our students and between our students and members of the entire campus community, including faculty and staff, relationships that take them forward into life with the full support they need to succeed.

Thank you all for your support of our students! I am looking forward to the coming year.

Aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

 

Photo: New Vulcans on the Campus Center Plaza for the start of UH Hilo Student Orientation activities on Wednesday, Aug. 21. Nyssa Kushi, University Relations.

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