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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Dec. 2019: Expressing gratitude for what the community does for UH Hilo

Above: Interns, mentors, alumni, and staff from the Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science, known as PIPES, celebrate winning the Outstanding Leadership Award at the 26th Annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference held in Honolulu, July 10, 2019. PIPES is a wonderful example of professionals and experts in the local community providing some of the best learning experiences for students. Courtesy photo.

By Bonnie D. Irwin

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

One of the things I love most about the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is the way the community is so intricately woven into the university’s success. This is the beauty of regional universities: the community and university are interconnected, so the people are interconnected, and all are working together to help everyone move successfully into the future.

As we near the end of the year, a time to celebrate the holidays, I’d like to take this opportunity to express gratitude for what the community does for UH Hilo, especially for our students.

For example, a mainstay to the university’s success is the many partnerships we have with businesses, schools, organizations, agencies, and community groups across the island that provide some of the best learning experiences for our students. One area where this is especially effective is in internships.

Internships put students in real-world situations that give them the opportunity to use the skills and knowledge they are developing in their academic work. Many of our students are working with local groups to conduct research and do community outreach that befits everyone and, in many cases, the environment. None if this would be possible without the successful business people, exemplary professionals, and dedicated public servants who mentor and support our students.

For example, a cohort from our tropical conservation biology and environmental science graduate program has recently completed internships on the island at several different organizations: Hawai‘i Island Hawksbill Sea Turtle Recovery Project, the Big Island Invasive Species Committee, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Hui Mālama I ke Ala ‘Ūlili, and Hawai‘i Natural Area Reserve System. In each of these projects, experts in their field mentor our students in research and/or community service projects—on behalf of the university, let me say mahalo to each and every one of you for taking these students under your wings.

About 35 of our business students did or are doing internships in the community in 2019. Some of these are with local businesses such as HPM Building Supply (owned by the Fujimoto family, who also has established an endowment that benefits students in the College of Business and Economics) and Suisan, Hilo’s commercial fishing hub. These internships are established by longtime Hilo families who care about our students and who value our students’ contributions to their companies—our appreciation to the owners and employees of these businesses is immense.

Over the years, marine science students have interned with several local businesses in both professional and research-based positions: Kampachi Farms, Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System, Ke Kai Ola of The Marine Mammal Center. Quite a few of the interns have been hired at the place where they interned such as at the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center, Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm, Kona Diving, and Hawai‘i Wildlife Center. At each of these places our students found dedicated mentors who not only guided them in the task at hand, but also helped them find the path to their future—mahalo to you.

These are just a few examples of members of our community who dedicate their time and expertise to our students and to whom we feel much gratitude—mahalo all.

I would be remiss in writing a column on gratitude to not include two groups of people who are foundational blocks of UH Hilo.

I send a big aloha to our Vulcan Booster Club. The club receives donations from alumni, friends, and family to provide student-athletes with the support they need—through scholarships and other funding—to succeed in sports AND in their academics. And Boosters are the biggest, most enthusiastic fans at the games! A big mahalo to all members of the club.

Before I close, let me send a big aloha and mahalo to the many donors who contributed to UH Hilo this year. Behind every donation is someone who really cares about our students. Some donors see it as an investment in the future. Alumni donors may see it as a way to pay it forward. All see it as a way to expand access to higher education and help students get their degree so they can successfully move into the future to change the world.

From the bottom of my heart, mahalo to all for your support of UH Hilo.

Aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

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