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Chancellor’s Remarks at 2022 Spring Welcome Event

The action plan has launched, and staff and faculty across the campus have volunteered to sponsor or collaborate on the action items, each of which will help us forward our goals of equity, ‘āina- and community-based education, and a healthy and vibrant campus ‘ohana.Screenshot of banner: Connecting Learning, Life and Aloha.

Following the introductions of seven new admin, faculty and staff, Chancellor Bonnie Irwin delivered these remarks with slides at the 2022 Spring Welcome held in person on Feb. 9 at the Performing Arts Center, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. View entire event on YouTube.

I’d like to share with you a few thoughts about the university and spring semester.

While the number of people we welcome aboard in spring is relatively small, each has an integral role to play in our success. I am so happy to be celebrating the addition of these wonderful people to our UH Hilo ‘ohana, and we anticipate even more new employees joining our ranks in the fall. We have many searches ongoing for staff, faculty, and administrators.

You and the new colleagues who will start in the fall join our community at a pivotal moment: as we emerge from the pandemic (we hope!) we implement a new strategic plan.

The action plan has launched, and staff and faculty across the campus have volunteered to sponsor or collaborate on the action items, each of which will help us forward our goals of equity, ‘āina- and community-based education, and a healthy and vibrant campus ‘ohana. The goals and the actions to implement them will be featured when the WSCUC visiting team comes to our campus in April.

Screenshot of graduate in regalia.Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to thrive. Our enrollment was up a bit last fall, for the first time in many years. Recruitment and retention are really the kuleana of all of us. Our admissions staff is on the front lines, but the way each of us talks about UH Hilo in the community, the way we care for our students, the high expectations we set for students and ourselves, all contribute to the success of our students and our institution.

And what remarkable students we have! Throughout the pandemic, they have persisted in their education as they always have, regardless of personal challenges or natural disaster. We have also stepped up to help as we can. We have disbursed millions of dollars in federal emergency aid on top of our usual financial support, and we are getting ready to disburse another $1.5m this semester. We have assembled a campus team to support student basic needs, and you will be hearing about their work in the coming months.

One partnership we have already taken advantage of is our relationship with Vibrant Hawai‘i, which provided food assistance, allowing us to distribute bentos and meal bags to students in need. We have continued this program with institutional funds. Our student leaders have also stepped up in the area of health equity, finding funds to support free feminine hygiene products on campus. All of these efforts around basic needs enable students to focus their attention more on their classes and less on where their next meal may be coming from.

Screenshot of athletes playing basketball.I always like these welcome events, but even more so this year, as we are opening up the campus to more in person events and activities, with safety protocols in place. As of this month, for example, spectators are once again allowed at athletic competitions, and it was thrilling to see people in the stands and on the sidelines at basketball and baseball last week. And we know our student athletes appreciated the warm support of their fellow students and members of our community.

Last spring when I left my office to each lunch outside, I had my choice of dozens of places to sit. The campus was quiet and relatively empty. Last week, I saw students at every table on the library lanai, in front of COBE, and at the little tables scattered about the campus, and it felt good to see campus coming to life again.

Screenshot of flyer for Black History Month events.

In February our diverse campus community also celebrates the lunar new year, Black History Month, and Mahina ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i. You will have read about many upcoming activities in Ha’ilono [faculty/staff newsletter], but I will offer a brief recap here. Some events are virtual, some in person, but all enrich our campus in myriad ways. For Black History Month, our UH Hilo History Club is sponsoring an exhibit about chemist Alice Ball in the Mookini Library, and there is an engaging film series organized by the Black History Month planning committee on Black Health and Wellness, starting tonight with “The Ball Method.”

Screenshot of slide with princess and Hale Olelo.

As part of our celebration of Mahina ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i, we also celebrate Princess Ke‘elikōlani, for whom our College of Hawaiian Language is named. Indeed, there is an event at noon today on Zoom where you can learn more about this remarkable woman and her legacy.

Screenshot of flyer for dinosaur exhibit.

During the pandemic, our ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center stepped up with keiki programs to serve children when the DOE schools were virtual, and they more recently opened to the public. And now, they have dinosaurs! Dinosaurs are the most requested exhibit from our community, and ‘Imiloa, in partnership with the Bishop Museum, is hosting a dinosaur program this month and next. Check out the ‘Imiloa webpages for more information.

A flurry of activity on campus this month!

SCreenshot of slide with "Mahalo!

I end with a series of mahalos. My thanks to all the people involved in the February events and exhibits. Mahalo to our faculty for their innovation and flexibility in creating hybrid, online, an dHi-flex classes so that our student can stay on track.

My thanks to our RCUH staff would work side by side with our UH Hilo employees. We are indeed one community, one ‘ohana.

Mahalo nui loa to the staff across the campus and the island, many of whom have continued to work on campus to ensure that we learn and teach and live in a welcoming, service-oriented, safe space. The last two years have indeed been challenging, but I am repeatedly humbled by and grateful for the efforts of everyone, whether you have been part of our ‘ohana for a week or for decades.

Screenshot of graduate with Aloha banner in background.

Their journey remains our focus. UH Hilo is the future of Hawai‘i Island, our communities, and our students and their families. I am proud to build this future with you and I welcome those members of our community that we recognize today.

I mua!

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