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Message from the Chancellor: Public input sought on UH Hilo proposed teaching telescope

Comments may be made online today Sept. 23 through Oct. 24. To learn more, the public is invited to an open house on Wednesday, Oct. 5, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the UH Hilo Sciences and Technology Building, room 108.


Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

I want to share that the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) on its proposal to locate our 28-inch educational telescope at Halepōhaku will be available for public review and comment beginning today, September 23, 2022.

The proposed project includes a 14-foot high, 18-foot diameter dome that will house the teaching telescope. The dome will be placed on a yet to be constructed wooden deck that will connect to an existing building at Halepōhaku.

A DEA is required by the Hawai‘i Board of Land and Natural Resources for astronomy facilities placed within the state conservation district. The DEA for the UH Hilo teaching telescope anticipates a finding of no significant impact. The official State of Hawai‘i Office of Planning and Sustainable Development notice includes instructions on how to provide comments, which will be considered during the preparation of the final environmental assessment. The deadline to provide comments on the DEA is October 24, 2022.

The public will have the opportunity to learn more about the project at an open house on Wednesday, October 5, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the UH Hilo Sciences and Technology Building, room 108. There will be presentations by UH Hilo astronomy faculty and SSFM International Inc. SSFM will discuss its findings listed in the DEA. Topics will include proposed educational programs, such as culture-based STEM curriculum courses for local elementary, middle and high school students along with research opportunities for UH Hilo students. The public will also be able to see the telescope, which is currently housed in the Sciences and Technology Building.

The former site of the UH Hilo teaching telescope on the summit of Maunakea is now undergoing decommissioning that is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

I hope our local community takes some time to learn more about the teaching telescope and how it will benefit not only UH Hilo students, but the entire island. I am especially excited for the programming ideas that we have for the community-at-large to utilize the telescope.


Bonnie D. Irwin

Learn more about the teaching telescope project and environmental assessment project on the Virtual Open House for the UH Hilo New Educational Telescope Facility Environmental Assessment website

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Faculty and staff are invited to next University Forum, Sept. 26

Poster: University Forum, with flags

Faculty and staff at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo are invited to the next University Forum scheduled for Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, 1:00-2:00 p.m., University Classroom Building, room 100.

Questions may be submitted in advance to

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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Sept. 2022: Dawning of a new day

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

This month I would like to share with you a condensed version of my remarks at the 2022 Fall Welcome event, which we held in person this year. It was wonderful to see everyone, welcome new faculty and staff, and recognize faculty promotions and tenure. Traditionally at this event, the chancellor also updates everyone about the coming semester (you may view my full remarks here.)

Fall 2022 is the dawning of a new day at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, faculty are once again traveling to conduct research, students are re-engaging in their off-campus service work and research, employees are reconnecting through social and educational events, groups such as high school students are once again visiting campus, and new students were welcomed with lei at Convocation. This in-person activity reminds us that we are indeed a vibrant community.


We start the semester as beneficiaries of the hard work being put into our new strategic plan. Action items include developing workshops for faculty researchers to learn more about resources, creating opportunities for UH Hilo students who have studied abroad to share those experiences with local high school students, talking with members of the new Chancellor’s Community Advisory Board about ways to increase community engagement, and expanding outreach to tell UH Hilo’s story to more people across the state.


In the area of enrollment, it appears that our total numbers will be down this year. This is true for campuses across the country, as the population of traditional college-aged citizens has flattened or decreased in most places, and COVID has had some students re-thinking what they want to do with their lives. But while the total number may be down, our campus engagement is up. As of Sept. 1, 59.2 percent of our classes have some kind of in-person component, and of our home-based degree-seeking students, 79.1 percent have something on campus, indicating that the percentage of solely online students has shrunk as we have begun to offer more hybrid and in-person offerings. Further, the number of students living on campus is up from last fall. These are all good trends.


The budget that was cut in 2020 has been restored, and the governor added requests for new faculty positions that the legislature supported in nursing and aeronautical sciences. The legislature also recognized the vision of Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language and the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in revitalizing ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi, and approved numerous positions for the college to expand its curriculum development; we are so proud UH Hilo is taking the lead in helping the state accomplish the goal of renormalizing ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi. House Bill 2024, now Act 255, establishes a Maunakea Stewardship Authority, and by 2028, UH will no longer be in the primary position of stewardship of the mauna.


UH Hilo’s re-accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) includes commendation for our strong sense of place, our commitment to the revitalization of ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i, and our academic programs that engage with our community. The commission also notes we could improve our institutional research and data resources, program reviews, and the integration of strategic planning among different groups. Addressing these concerns is a high priority.

I mua!

We are not the same university we were at the turn of the millennium. The state and higher education generally have changed considerably in the last twenty years, and we need to keep pace with those changes. Through it all, we remain anchored by our values and strengths of engaged teaching and learning and service to students and community, in this amazing place we are fortunate to call home.

Bonnie D. Irwin

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Faculty and staff are invited to next University Forum, Aug. 30

Poster: University Forum, with flags

Faculty and staff at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo are invited to the next University Forum scheduled for Tuesday, Aug 30, 2022, noon to 1:00 p.m., via Zoom.

Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 998 7311 1737
Passcode: 241477

Questions may be submitted in advance to

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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, August 2022: UH Hilo’s new strategic plan is now in the action planning stage

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

This summer we’ve been busy moving forward with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s new Strategic Plan, focusing on the action planning stage. In this month’s column, I would like to share with you the progress on three of the plan’s goals.

Students and the Community

One goal of the plan is to strengthen and support ‘āina- and community-based learning for our students. A foundational component to this goal is our students going out into the community to work directly with local organizations, gaining hands-on skills that are of benefit not only to the student, but also to the organization and the local community or environment at large. This type of service learning teaches our students how to become good citizens and good stewards for the public good, while also preparing them well for employment or advancing their education immediately upon graduation.

Julie Mowrer pictured
Julie Mowrer

This summer, Julie Mowrer, acting director of our Center for Community Engagement, and the committee she heads tasked with finding ways to grow our service learning programs, began their work. They started by conducting a survey among faculty and staff who are experienced in this type of community engagement to better understand what people already do. One question they asked is “What do you believe UH Hilo can do as a campus to demonstrate the importance of our community partnerships?” The Chancellor’s new Community Advisory Board has also been asked for feedback. The information gleaned from this collective mana‘o will help guide our way forward in strengthening community engagement.


Jim Beets pictured.
Jim Beets

Another goal of our new strategic plan is to strengthen and support research. This initiative is led by Jim Beets, professor of marine science and chair of our Research Council. UH Hilo faculty conduct place-based, applied research of benefit to the people of Hawaiʻi Island and the state. It is crucial that in these tough economic times, our researchers remain fully supported in the work they do on important issues from climate change to environmental protection to cultural preservation and more.

The first item of business in strengthening our research capacity is to offer events and workshops that support research development. In addressing this goal, the Research Council conducted a faculty workshop last academic year on research opportunities and university resources for supporting research development, and the council is planning to conduct another workshop this fall. The group is also planning another round of Seed Money Grants this fall, which will be focused toward junior faculty and staff and interdisciplinary research.

The Research Council is also hoping to provide information for the New Faculty Orientation to provide new faculty with additional research support information.


Alyson Kakugawa-Leong pictured
Alyson Kakugawa-Leong

Our new strategic plan also has a goal of nurturing and strengthening campus relationships and campus culture. To address this, a new program for UH Hilo employees, “E Launa Pū: Reconnect, Learn and Enjoy!” launched in June, led by Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, our interim director of University Relations. The goal is to give staff opportunities for self-development while connecting with each other in meaningful ways. Topics for both indoor and outdoor activities are based on results from the recent University Relations Action Plan Employee Survey.

For June and July, an activity was offered every week, including workshops on gardening, food safety, professional development, auto maintenance, interactive abstract drawing, and cooking. There also are monthly professional development workshops scheduled through March 2023 presented by Ku‘ikahi Mediation Center.

I do hope the “E Launa Pū” program grows with more and more people participating, especially those who have been living in virtual isolation since covid restrictions were imposed. Connecting with others, especially in a fun learning environment, is a crucial part of feeling healthy, productive, and valued. I encourage all employees to join in!

I’m excited to see our new strategic plan already affecting change throughout our campus. I plan on updating you on more of our progress throughout coming the academic year.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor, UH Hilo


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