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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Oct. 2021: Recognition of our strengths

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo has been recognized three times in the last few weeks by national publications.

College Raptor, a website filled with information for students deciding where to apply for college, named us a “Hidden Gem” in the Far West region. Of course, UH Hilo’s quality is not “hidden” from us, we all know what a special place it is. Individual attention, opportunities for hands-on, ‘āina- and community-based learning is our trademark, and more and more students are coming to realize how valuable those experiences are.

The town of Hilo itself was recognized as one of the 50 Best College Towns in America by msn, a Microsoft portal. They wrote, “this charming small town on the northeastern coast of the Big Island lets you get a feel for what living that dream feels like. Explore the local waterfalls and rainforests by day, take to the art-centric galleries and shops in Hilo’s hip downtown district by night.”

While all that is true, I like to think that what students really appreciate about Hilo is the sense of aloha that permeates our town and our island. Students are made to feel welcome in our community, and that makes those community-based learning experiences all the more special, as students get to know what makes Hilo special.

One of the things that is particularly valuable about Hilo town is its diversity, not only the diversity of things to do, but also the diversity of its people. UH Hilo, too, finds its strength and value in its diversity.

Reflecting that, we’ve been named for the third consecutive year as the most diverse national university by U.S. News & World Report. This year we have some company at the top, including Stanford University and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, but I think that is actually a good thing, as more universities are realizing the value to all of their students of a diverse campus.

Our forthcoming strategic plan will help us move beyond diversity to tackle equity and inclusion, so that we can ensure that all our students can take advantage of the opportunities that UH Hilo has to offer.

Diversity, ‘āina- and community-based learning, and a sense of aloha are all things we highly value. We will build on these strengths with the goal of creating an even better experience for our students and creating a campus that is no longer a “hidden” gem! We will also continue to find ways to give back to the Hawai‘i Island community we call home.


Bonnie D. Irwin

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