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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, March 2020: Looking back, looking ahead

The last UH Hilo Strategic Plan guided our efforts in student success, diversity, research, and community collaboration. But the work of bettering ourselves and our campus is not over; hence the strategic doing initiative that we begin now.

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

Preparation is well underway in developing a new Strategic Plan at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. As we prepare to launch our “Strategic Doing Initiative” that will lay out new long-term goal areas for the campus and identify priorities for action, it pays to reflect on our previous strategic plan and how far we have come over the last decade, despite the many challenges faced as a campus and community.

Too often strategic plans are put on a shelf or posted on a website and forgotten, but just because we may not be able to rattle off all the goals and objectives in the last plan, it does not mean that plan has not guided our efforts in student success, diversity, research, and community collaboration.

Let me share a few examples of our progress.

Place-based learning experiences

One of our main goals is to provide learning experiences and support to prepare students to thrive, compete, innovate, and lead in their professional and personal lives. We are making good progress in this area.

Our students are doing their studies in a culturally, economically, socially, and geographically diverse place, the perfect preparation for being productive citizens in a global community. Anchoring this diversity is the recognition that an important knowledge base resides in the indigenous people of Hawai‘i—a concept now policy for the UH System.

It is from this foundation of diversity and Native Hawaiian ways-of-knowing that UH Hilo now grows, and you can see it in new programs.

For example, the kinesiology and exercise sciences program just won a national award for inclusive excellence and diversity; the nursing program has a strong transcultural component; medical anthropology focuses on effects of globalization on health disparities; and programs in sustainable agriculture and environmental science have strong Native Hawaiian influence. These programs and more are building relevant intellectual capital for our region to address the challenges of a diverse population and fragile environment. Our graduates are prepared to lead the way.

Vibrant campus

Another goal, aimed to foster a vibrant and sustainable environment in which to study, work and live, has also made great strides.

We now have six living-learning communities where students thrive. Technology upgrades, new student media rooms, and expansion of Wi-Fi have helped bring our campus into the modern world. Several solar-powered gathering spaces have been built with more planned. Library hours are extended. Both the Campus Center Dining Room and Mookini Library have undergone redesigns that engender rest, conversation, and rejuvenation.

And a UH Hilo Sustainability Policy is now in place, governing virtually all growth on campus. Photo-voltaic is part of all new construction. Electric demand meters have been installed to track usage. LED light conversion is completed in over 20 buildings. Student-driven programs to recycle, compost (including food waste), and maintain sustainable gardens on campus are established. The new data science program, supported by the National Science Foundation, is part of a statewide water sustainability project. This is great progress.

Regional stewardship

I’d also like to highlight the good progress we’ve made in the goal that addresses our impact on the community, island, and state through responsive higher education, community partnerships, and knowledge and technology transfer.

We have strengthened the P-12 pipeline through programs such as Early College and Upward Bound; Nā Pua No‘eau, established at UH Hilo, now a UH systemwide program in support of Native Hawaiian students; and Hawaiian language medium schools thriving throughout the state.

We work with and provide technology, expertise, and research data to many government agencies—County of Hawai‘i, National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service, to name a few—in tackling local environmental problems such as lava flows, soil erosion, and Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death.

On campus, the tenants at UH Hilo University Park of Science and Technology help advance our entire community through partnerships between the university and public and private organizations. UH Hilo also now partners extensively with Hawai‘i Community College, sharing resources, facilities, services, pipelines for transfer, Hawaiian protocol development, and expertise.

Of course, the work of bettering ourselves and our campus is not over; hence the strategic doing initiative that we begin now. What we value remains constant: creating environments in which students will thrive and succeed; bettering our local community, island and state through our research and community outreach; and, fostering a respectful and supportive workplace for our staff and faculty.

Aloha,
Bonnie D. Irwin

 

Feature image at top of post is of painting, “Voyage of the Navigator,” by Clayton Young (11X14, 2013), courtesy of ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

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