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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Dec. 2023: It takes a community to increase access to higher education

In November, the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation launched the public phase of the largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in Hawai‘i’s history, to raise $1 billion for all 10 UH campuses.

Bonnie Irwin pictured
Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin

Here at UH Hilo we are grateful for all the support we get from our community. Behind every support fund and scholarship is an individual or company with a commitment to help us remain accessible to all students. Members of the local community who give their support to UH Hilo see it as an investment in the future, recognizing the importance of an education. Many want to pay forward the opportunities given to them while at UH Hilo as a student, staff, or faculty member.

Giving access to these types of opportunities to as many students as possible is a high priority for us, and it’s clear the vitally important role private donors can play opening up access to higher education. This type of support helps students complete their education so they can launch careers and contribute meaningfully to their families and communities. Studies show people who possess a college degree have a much higher lifetime earning potential than those who do not. People with a degree are better able to contribute to their families and build healthy communities.

This is an important point: In an environment where there are many needs, supporting higher education, especially the local university, supports not only the good work that we do with our students, it also supports local families and our communities.

Donated funds for scholarships and other forms of aid that offset the costs of tuition are necessary if we want to remain accessible to all our island students. To make college affordable to all, this must be a priority for our campus and for our community.

Further, our student crisis fund supports students with unforeseen challenges they have in life. This was of the utmost importance during the upheaval caused by the pandemic, but there is still a great need. Not all students qualify for federal relief funding, so we need to rely on institutional or foundation funds for this kind of support.

Many other types of funds support the people and programs of UH Hilo. Private donations and endowments support not only scholarships and financial aid for our students, but also research in such fields as sustainability and conservation for our island environment, programs to strengthen cultural preservation, outreach to spark innovation and entrepreneurship.

I’d like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to our donors. I hope members of our university and local communities, business people, alumni, and others will be inspired to make an investment in the future of our island by helping us reach our goals during this history-making fundraising campaign.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

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Faculty and staff are invited to next University Forum, Nov. 29

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 Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, Noon to 1:00 p.m., University Classroom Building, room 127. This will be the last forum for the calendar year.

Questions may be submitted in advance to Alyson Kakugawa-Leong.

Call the Office of University Relations for additional information.

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RCUH honors Maunakea Rangers

Nahua Guilloz, Tommy Waltjen, Oscar Pouoa, Mark Ellis, Robert Madrigal and Bonnie Irwin stand for photo. Rangers have lei and hold plaque.
From left, Director of Stewardship at the Center for Maunakea Stewardship Nahua Guilloz with Maunakea Rangers Tommy Waltjen, Oscar Pouoa, Mark Ellis, Robert Madrigal and UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin. (Courtesy photo/UH System News)

The Research Corporation of the University of Hawaiʻi (RCUH), which services the entire 10-campus UH System, has awarded the Maunakea Rangers first place as an exemplary team for their contributions and impact to research conducted on the mauna. The rangers are Mark Ellis, Robert Madrigal, Oscar Poua, and Tommy Waltjen.

The RCUH awards were presented at a luncheon event on October 24. A selection committee comprised of Peter Adler, Sarah Guay and Taryn Salmon selected the awardees.

RCUH was established by the state in 1965 as a public agency and is attached to UH for administrative purposes. The Maunakea Rangers are part of the Center for Maunakea Stewardship, which reports directly to the Office of the Chancellor at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

The awards covered three categories (Team, Project Support Staff, and Researcher/Project Manager) based on the following:

  • Initiative, leadership and resourcefulness in carrying out their achievements.
  • Impact of their achievements on the project, professional field and/or larger community.
  • Other variables such as the significance or quality of their achievements.

Each individual received a certificate and cash award. First-place awardees received $1,000 (shared equally by team members), while second-place awardees received $500 (shared equally by team members).

The rangers received first place in the team category, tied with the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (Corinne Amir, Jonny Charendoff, Mia Lamirand, Frances Lichowski).

Second Place in Team Category: Ola HAWAII, UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (Grace Matsuura, Kimberley Spencer-Tolentino, JoAnn Tsark). Honorable Mention: Applied Research Laboratory, UH Maui (Yvette Gurule, Gerry Smith, Kelly Suzuki Payba, Lynette Yamamoto).

Maunakea Rangers

Shortly after its founding in the fall of 2000, the Center for Maunakea Stewardship established the ranger program to provide daily oversight of activities on UH managed lands to protect the resources and to provide for public safety. A key responsibility is informing visitors about the cultural, natural and scientific significance, as well as the hazards of visiting the mountain. They conduct daily patrols between mid-level (9,200′) facilities and the summit. Patrol reports are submitted daily.

Rangers perform a variety of other duties including providing emergency assistance, assisting stranded motorists, coordinating litter removal, conducting trail maintenance, inspecting the observatories for compliance with their Conservation District Use Permits, and providing visitors with cultural information about Maunakea.

Read full story about the awards at UH System News.

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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Nov. 2023: From scientific exploration to culture revitalization, UH Hilo plans for the future

Bonnie Irwin pictured
Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin

This is the last of my three columns on the six colleges at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and their impact on the community. This month I’d like to focus on the College of Natural and Health Sciences, and Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language.

The College of Natural and Health Sciences welcomed a new dean over the summer. Simon Kattenhorn comes to UH Hilo from the University of Alaska Anchorage where he was a professor and associate dean at the Department of Geological Sciences. In addition to extensive teaching in geology, geomechanics, and geohazards, he has an impressive record of research in both the geology of Earth and of other bodies in the solar system. He has mentored many undergraduate and graduate students in their research projects, and this experience will be invaluable to our students and faculty as the college expands its community-engaged research.

Also over the summer, the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES), a research and education program exploring Earth and space, is now officially a program of the College of Natural and Health Sciences. The program was founded in 2007 and focuses on research and the development of space exploration technologies with dual-use applications for Earth and space.

Originally, PISCES was part of UH Hilo, then in 2012 was transferred to the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. But funding was spotty after that transfer, and with the move back to UH Hilo, the hope is PISCES will find more stability where university students will benefit immensely. This is an incredible opportunity for our science majors, giving students more exposure to hands-on experience in scientific research, with the potential to launch exciting career paths.

There also is new leadership at Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, with Ka‘iu Kimura named interim director in August (the same month, former director of the college, Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a, was appointed interim vice chancellor for academic affairs).

Interim Director Kimura is long-standing executive director at UH Hilo’s ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, a position she will retain while serving at the college. A UH Hilo alumna, she received her bachelor of arts and master of arts in Hawaiian language and literature and is currently a candidate in the university’s Indigenous language revitalization doctoral program. She has been a lecturer and served on the leadership team of the college for years, and has developed Hawaiian language curriculum offered to Hawai‘i’s business and tourism industries. She is well acquainted with the needs of the college, its students, staff, and faculty, as well as the needs of the community-at-large for robust culture and language revitalization programs.

An exciting development, in conjunction with Haleʻōlelo (the building that houses Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani) is the proposed ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi Campus project, envisioned to be a complete educational system based at UH Hilo to cultivate a legacy of Indigenous language and learning. This is a critically important project that will position UH Hilo at the forefront not only of ‘ōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) revitalization, but also global Indigenous language revitalization and normalization.

The project is collaborative between members of the Hawai‘i ʻImiloa Institute: Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, Ke Kula ‘o Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u (our immersion laboratory school), and community-based immersion organization ‘Aha Pūnana Leo. It includes three new buildings, that recently won two architecture awards, for educational and ceremonial protocol spaces.

As Ka‘iu eloquently says, the proposed campus, located adjacent to the college, “is guided by a constellation of dedicated minds, including the visionaries at the Hawai‘i ʻImiloa Institute, we weave our heritage into the fabric of education. With each brick and beam, we echo the voices of generations past and empower the voices of generations yet to come. This recognition affirms our journey toward a future where our native languages thrive, our cultures soar and our people flourish.”

These two colleges—the College of Natural and Health Sciences, and Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language—are taking bold steps to help answer the needs of students, educators, researchers, our local communities, and the world at large, as we all plan for the future.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

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Chancellor’s remarks at the PacYES conference

Collage of photos taken at the Pacific Youth PAC YES Empowerment for Success conference. Dancers, weavers, looking through microscope, group photo, Mayor Mitch Roth at podium.
Photos from the 10th annual Pacific Youth Empowerment for Success (PacYES) conference, Oct 7, held at UH Hilo. Activities included workshops, discussions, dance, scientific exploration, navigation displays and more. At top center is Mayor Mitch Roth delivering opening remarks. (Courtesy photos from PacYES)

Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin delivered these remarks at the 10th annual Pacific Youth Empowerment for Success (PacYES) conference, Oct 7, 2023, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus. Learn more about the event at UH Hilo Stories.

Aloha mai kākou,

Hōʻoia ʻĀina (Land Acknowledgement Statement)

He kalahea kēia a ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi ma Hilo, mai ke Keʻena o ke Poʻo Kulanui:
He honua ʻōiwi ʻo Hawaiʻi nona ka poʻe ʻōiwi o ka ʻāina, ʻo ia nā kānaka Hawaiʻi. Aia kēia kulanui ma kēia ahupuaʻa ʻo Waiākea, ma ka moku ʻo Hilo. Kū nō ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi ma Hilo i ka hoʻohiki a Ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi e hoʻoulu i ke ola o ke kaiāulu ʻōiwi ma o ka hana kālaʻike ma nā kahua kula he ʻumi o ka ʻōnaehana papahana hoʻōiwi kulanui i kapa ʻia ʻo Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao. He leo aloha kēia i ka poʻe a pau e ʻākoakoa ana i ʻaneʻi.

Aloha mai kākou.


On behalf of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, the Office of the Chancellor acknowledges the following:
Hawaiʻi is an indigenous space whose original people are today identified as Native Hawaiians. The university is in the land division called Waiākea, in the district of Hilo. The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo aligns with the University of Hawaiʻi System’s commitment to fostering the wellbeing of indigenous communities through academic processes put into effect with the ten-campus, system-wide transformation called Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao. This land acknowledgement welcomes everyone who gathers here.

Greetings to all.

I am honored and thrilled to welcome you all to the UH Hilo campus. We pride ourselves on being one of the most diverse campuses in the country and, even more, that this diversity of people feel welcome on our campus and in our community.

Today you will hear about the rich array of opportunities before you. Listen with intention. Think and dream about what your voyage will be. At your local university and your local college here on Hawaiʻi Island, you have teams of people ready and waiting to help you realize those dreams. Here we can bring the world for you and also send you out into the world. You can nurture your island values through ʻāina-based education and carry them with you to study on the continent or internationally, all while being a student at UH Hilo.

I was at a meeting Monday where we were talking about how we can create an environment which will inspire and allow more of our Hawaiʻi Island students to stay here to live and work, and importantly, thrive. Those of us who live on islands know a lot about surviving—volcanoes, hurricanes, and many of your kūpuna also know about thriving. They valued what they had and did not worry so much about what they lacked. They honored the expertise of those in their community, those who fished, those who grew the taro, those who made the kapa. Each role was honored, each was valued.

Today we have lost some of those values of resilience, honor, and respect, but you have those values within you, and they are your strength, your mana. When you bring that mana to your educational journey, it will mean more to you, and it will help you thrive.

When I was thinking about what I might share with you, I thought I would tell you the story of an Algebra II quiz I took where I missed every single question. I really struggled with algebra in school, but I stand before you today as a university chancellor! The lesson here is that we all have challenges, but we all can overcome those challenges.

There is an old saying, the more you learn the less you understand. That is okay. The world is a complicated place. Each of us, no matter where we come from and how far we have come, each of us not only has the opportunity to learn, but also the responsibility to teach. As you continue your educational and life journey, don’t be afraid to explore, learn as much as you can, and teach others what you know. Connect learning and life with aloha.

That is how we survive; that is how we thrive.

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