Skip to content →

Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Feb. 2022: Legislative priorities and the post-pandemic UH Hilo

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

After some adjustments at the beginning of this semester—notably moving some classes online temporarily due to the omicron surge—all classes at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo are now returned to their originally scheduled course delivery mode (in-person or hybrid). It has been a successful transition and an important part of moving into post-pandemic life at UH Hilo.

With thoughts of moving forward into a bright and optimistic future, I would like to share with you our priorities for the upcoming legislative session.

Budget

In the big picture, restoring UH Hilo’s budget is a high priority. We have managed resources very carefully during the pandemic and we are grateful for the federal relief funds that have helped to see us through. But we cannot survive if we continue this austerity program. We are hiring this year—faculty, staff, administrators—and look forward to investing time and reserve funds into implementing our strategic plan.

Hiring

On the hiring front, the governor has recognized the importance of UH’s post-pandemic plan and has added faculty lines to his proposed budget. For Hilo, that means new positions in computer science, and nursing. It’s of the utmost importance that we strengthen these two programs due to state need for these professionals.

Computer science

In computer science, job opportunity continues to outpace the number of graduates. I’m pleased to report that enrollment is up in UH Hilo computer science this year. The program has fully embraced hybrid-flexible or HyFlex learning, meaning that for each class, students have a choice between learning in-person, synchronously online, or asynchronously online. The computer science department is doing this type of teaching quite well as they adapt and grow during these stressful pandemic times.

Nursing

Now more than ever, we also need more qualified health care professionals in the workforce. UH Hilo nursing enrollments continue to be strong. Our nursing graduates are on the front lines across our island communities, and even as undergraduates, our nursing students are making a big difference completing projects with local healthcare organizations. To strengthen and grow the program, we have opportunities to partner with other UH campuses to meet the demand.

Aeronautical science

Aeronautical science is another field where the governor supports our planning ahead to meet future job demand. A wave of retirements in the aviation industry, sparked by the slowdown during the pandemic, means that there is an upcoming employment gap. Since opening the aeronautical program two years ago, we have seen a lot of interest in the curriculum’s interdisciplinary components of data science; geography; various science, technology, engineering and math programs (STEM fields); and computer science through available electives. Our first class is getting ready to set off for flight school.

Athletics

For our athletics program, we have a $400,000 supplemental budget for athletics. We had temporary funding that we are seeking to make permanent. Like the campus in general, athletics has been able to cut back during the pandemic when travel was restricted. But we have a good staff of coaches and very promising teams, so we are looking forward to full seasons of competitions with the fans back on the sidelines to watch these student athletes compete.

PISCES

UH Hilo is happy to have PISCES back. The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems is a state agency once with UH Hilo but then moved to the Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism. Due to an oversight in the budgeting last year, we received PISCES but not its funding. The current budget seeks to rectify this. The center promotes the aerospace industry in our state, supporting economic development through technologies related to research in planetary exploration. We look forward to working with them on research and economic development projects for our island and state.

Staying on track

Despite all the challenges brought by the pandemic, UH Hilo continues our mission to improve the wellbeing and status of the citizens on Hawai‘i Island and across the state. With support of the State Legislature, we can stay on track with faculty and programs that will benefit everyone in a post-pandemic world.

Thank you for all your support.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

Published in All Posts Remarks, Messages, & Writings