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Testimony by the Chancellor to the Hawai‘i State Legislature

Legislative Testimony
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
January 3, 2011
Hawai‘i State Legislature

UH Hilo has distinguished itself by combining teaching, service and scholarship to improve the wellbeing and status of citizens on Hawai‘i Island and across the state. We are the only university serving our island; our reach continues to grow beyond East Hawai‘i to centers in other areas of our island. Our smaller classes are taught by full-time faculty who bring their research to student learning. On-campus labs are complemented by the island’s vibrant “living laboratory” – making UH Hilo an ideal place to study astronomy, volcanology, marine science, indigenous language revitalization, and other fields. The College of Pharmacy and School of Nursing provide shared leadership to improve access to and quality of health care for our rural communities. We oversee the statewide Small Business Development Center and the Office of Mauna Kea Management, both of which are crucial to the State’s economy and future. Lastly, we contribute to quality of life and a “university town” through our performing arts, athletic events, and cultural enrichment offerings.

UH Hilo’s cumulative budget reduction now totals $8.5 million, which is 24% of our FY 2008-09 general fund allocation. Yet, UH Hilo continues to specialize in serving students who are economically disadvantaged, first generation in college, and/or from underrepresented minority groups, including 22% who are Native Hawaiians. Half of our students are from Hawai‘i Island (with a growing number from the other islands) and 70% are Hawai‘i residents. We have coped with the cuts by reducing non-instructional programs for students, increasing extramural awards to $27 million (from an average of about $4 million/year in the 1990s), generating $15 million in private gifts via the UH Centennial campaign, eliminating temporary positions, freezing civil service positions, and implementing collective bargaining salary reductions. More specifically:

  • Our Long Range Budget Planning Committee has encouraged innovative budget efficiencies ranging from updating light fixtures to reducing energy consumption and consolidating service agreements. For example, we recently equipped a residence hall cafeteria to also serve as a large-capacity classroom during certain hours of the day. Similarly, we merged all of our various academic support services into one center and consolidated existing medical and counseling services into one unit to reduce overhead.
  • Our Enrollment Management Implementation Team led efforts to offer fewer classes to more students in Falls of 2009 and 2010, with a higher seat fill-rate. We also generated more student semester hours. EMIT monitors and manages recruitment, admissions and registration efforts to generate incremental, manageable enrollment increases so that we can balance the University budget with tuition revenue.
  • Hiring of faculty positions were deferred in such high demand fields as biology, chemistry, psychology, communications, and English; search processes to fill vacant positions in student affairs, administrative affairs and university relations were also delayed.
  • We protected certain priorities to ensure health/safety and minimize institutional liability/risk. These included medical services, counseling services, campus security, classroom instruction, and essential repairs/maintenance. However, this meant that other departments received larger cuts proportionally.
  • We are generating new revenue streams through entrepreneurial efforts, particularly at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, in the Office of Intercollegiate Athletics, and elsewhere across campus. Similarly, to fulfill capital construction project needs, we are pursuing private-public partnerships (in the case of new student residential facilities) and using revenue bonds (in the case of temporary buildings).

For every $1.00 in state investment, UH Hilo generates an additional $3.06 in direct expenditures. We infuse $240 million per year into the local economy and provide 3,900 direct and indirect jobs [1]. Your continued support and investment will allow UH Hilo to continue serving our community in vital, meaningful and critical ways. Thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony.

[1] David Hammes, UH Hilo Economics Professor, February 2008.

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Column by the Chancellor in Hawaii Tribune-Herald: Dec. 2010

Column by UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
UH Hilo Today
Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Dec. 2010

Logo with the words Hawaii Tribune Herald

UH Hilo: An active partner in K-12 Education

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo has never been an “ivory tower” university. From its beginning, UH Hilo has been deeply grounded in the community we serve and especially committed to programs that help prepare school children for a lifetime of learning.

To carry this tradition forward, I’ve begun a series of discussions with island education leaders about the needs of our schools and how UH Hilo might be more involved. I’m impressed with the passion everyone shares for giving our island children the best possible education at every level, from K-12 right up into higher education and beyond.

I’d like to share some of UH Hilo’s K-12 programs and partnerships that support K-12 education.

To begin with, UH Hilo has two outstanding teacher education programs, one in our Department of Education and one in our College of Hawaiian Language. Both help address Hawaii’s shortage of qualified teachers. We offer a master’s degree in education as well. UH Hilo also works with local teachers to improve student writing through the Lehua Writing Project, a federal grant that partners faculty from UH Hilo with K–12 schools.

High school principals have told me they are interested in increasing the number of students who take college-level courses while still in high school. UH Hilo’s existing Running Start program encourages academically talented high school juniors and seniors to supplement their regular high school work with college courses. We’re discussing ways to extend the benefits of this program around the island and increase participation overall.

Because a love of science must be sparked at an early age, UH Hilo is leading the way to encourage kids to explore science, technology, engineering and math, known as the “STEM” subjects.

Graduate students from UH Hilo’s Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science master’s program have been working with K-8 teachers to develop a curriculum focusing on Hawaiian marine and terrestrial environments. This grant-funded program is called PRISM: Partnerships for Reform through Investigative Science and Math. Inquiry-based lesson plans are now freely available to help excite students about science by doing science.

UH Hilo’s ‘Imiloa Astronomy Education Center welcomed 12,300 students in grades 1-12 from 62 Big Island schools over the past two years thanks to the Adopt-a-Class Program and a generous $637,000 grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Our Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems is a another good example of collaboration that benefits our school children. PISCES partners with international scientists and engineers in designing “next generation” technology for future space missions. K-12 programs are built right in.

UH Hilo’s annual Astronaut Ellison Onizuka Science Day, coming up on Saturday, January 22, offers exciting interactive workshops for students in grades 4-12. It’s an excellent venue to capture the interest of future university students and to let them know about UH Hilo’s cutting-edge science programs.

Native Hawaiian K-12 outreach also enriches our island communities. Nā Pua No‘eau Center for Gifted and Talented Native Hawaiian Children, a statewide program based at UH Hilo, serves K-12 students of Hawaiian ancestry with activities that embrace Native Hawaiian history, culture, values and language.

One of the most successful K-12 programs in the state is the Hawaiian Medium Laboratory Schools, facilitated by UH Hilo’s College of Hawaiian Language and Aha Punana Leo, a non-profit dedicated to Native Hawaiian family-based education. Laboratory schools are on the islands of Hawai‘i, O‘ahu, and Kaua‘i.

These are just some of UH Hilo’s programs and partnerships helping to support K-12 education. Together, we are making a difference in the lives of our young people, but I know we can do more. Our island principals have been telling me they would like UH Hilo students to tutor in the public schools, perhaps through an after-school program. We’ll continue exploring such options in the new year.

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Remarks by the Chancellor at White Coat Ceremony

Remarks by Chancellor Donald O. Straney
UH Hilo College of Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony

October 17, 2010
UH Hilo Performing Arts Center
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo

Pharmacy logo with graphic design of volcano and flame with the words College of Pharmacy University of Hawaii at HiloGood afternoon ladies and gentlemen, friends and relatives, and most importantly, Class of 2014.

We are all sharing “firsts” today. This is my first White Coat Ceremony, too. This is a special day for you, because you join the ranks of the profession you are studying to join. It is a profession that is centuries old and you will follow the traditions your predecessors developed, and you will in turn be part of the continuing change in its practices. My guess is that, when you retire, you will be helping people in ways that we cant even imagine today.

UH Hilo began as a small branch campus of the UH in Mānoa. Its mission was to prepare Hilo students to transfer to receive their degrees on O‘ahu. UH Hilo is no longer a branch campus—it is a university in its own right. UH Hilo has grown to be a university of national stature with an international scope.

The island of Hawai‘i is the best place in the world to study a surprisingly long list of subjects: astronomy, marine biology, evolution, natural products, rural sociology, and so forth. Because this is such a perfect place for scholars to work, UH Hilo has attracted some of the best faculty in these fields. They bring to the Hilo community not just a way to begin a college education—they bring to Hilo one of the best college educations you can find anywhere in the country. UH Hilo gives students an opportunity to learn from the very best what matters most to this island to the state and to the world.

The College of Pharmacy is an excellent model of what UH Hilo can do. Four years ago, you could not have studied pharmacy on the island of Hawaii. Today, not only can you study it here, but you work with faculty recruited from across the world for their skills and abilities as scientists. They will teach you as well or better than at any other school in the country.

One reason I believe the education you will receive here is so good is that the college is committed to preparing you to take what you learn here and use it to make your communities better. The faculty of the college are nationally recognized for that commitment, most recently with the award of a $16 M grant to establish an integrated health information system on the island.

The College of Pharmacy serves as the nucleus for building a center of excellence in health care, delivery and development at UH Hilo. As we build our program in health care, we will focus our attention on the needs of communities like those found on the island of Hawaii—rural, dispersed communities where access to health care is a critical social challenge.

Today, I am pleased to formalize this UH Hilo health care initiative and to announce the formation of the Center for Rural Health Science at UH Hilo. It will be housed in the College of Pharmacy and draw together physicians, pharmacists, nurses and other health care providers to solve rural health problems in Hawai‘i and throughout the Pacific by means of research, education, community service and policy change.

The founding director will be Dr. Karen Pellegrin, director of strategic planning and continuing education in the College of Pharmacy, and principal investigator of the $16 million federal Beacon Community grant. I want to thank her for agreeing to serve in this capacity.

The Center for Rural Health Science is an extraordinary opportunity for UH Hilo to help improve life in the rural communities of Hawai‘i through new and better models of health care. It will have the resources, the expertise and the partners to succeed. Our College of Pharmacy collaborates effectively with hospitals and health care providers all over the state, and UH Hilo’s School of Nursing has enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to support the center’s work. The center will be an important means for UH Hilo to contribute to improving the health status of our region.

Dean Pezzuto, and the extraordinary faculty he has assembled, are helping UH Hilo contribute to our community in ways we didn’t imagine a few years ago.

Even beyond the new center, the College of Pharmacy is planning new programs, such as physical therapy, as well as dual degree options. A new building is being planned that we hope will lead to a larger health care center. Pharmacy will be the anchor for these initiatives.

You can take pride in the fact that, as the fourth class to be seated, you represent the maturation of the College. You and the three classes before you comprise the foundation that will support the college’s future.

So congratulations to you, Class of 2014, on being admitted to such a dynamic program. The faculty have every confidence that you will succeed in your studies. I know you will continue to make your family proud, to make the faculty proud, and to make the community proud, as you continue your journey. See you at graduation!

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Column by the Chancellor in Hawaii Tribune-Herald: Oct. 2010

Column by UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
UH Hilo Today
Hawaii Tribune-Herald
Oct. 2010

Logo with the words Hawaii Tribune Herald

UH Hilo center to help improve health care in the islands

As an institution of higher education, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo plays a critical role in shaping the quality of life in the communities we serve. With the maturation of the College of Pharmacy, UH Hilo is ready to take a leadership role in addressing health care issues in the state.

Rural communities all over America suffer shortages of physicians, pharmacists and other clinicians, and rural hospitals struggle to stay afloat. These challenges are more complex in the remote islands of Hawai‘i, some 2,400 miles from the nearest continent. It’s clear that improved access to high quality health care for our rural citizens is not going to happen on its own. We need coordinated action to maximize the effectiveness of existing resources.

To this end, UH Hilo has established the Center for Rural Health Science, which will be housed in the College of Pharmacy. The center will draw together a wide range of health care providers to solve rural health problems through research, education, community service, and policy change. Our College of Pharmacy has the capacity to lead such a major initiative, and our School of Nursing embraces the opportunity to support the center’s work.

The center’s founding director will be Dr. Karen Pellegrin, the College of Pharmacy’s director of strategic planning and continuing education. She is also the principal investigator of the $16 million federal Beacon Community grant, which serves as the cornerstone for the center’s work.

Incorporated as a non-profit, the Hawai‘i Island Beacon Community recently hired its core management team. The president and chairman of the board is Dr. Ed Montell, a gastroenterologist who has practiced on the Big Island for 30 years and served in numerous leadership positions for health care organizations. Dr. Montell’s leadership has been critical in bringing the community together to pursue the Beacon Community’s goals: to improve access to primary care, specialty care, and behavioral health care; to avert the onset and improve management of chronic disease; and to reduce health disparities among Native Hawaiians and other populations at risk.

The new center will also be the home of a grant from the US Department of Agriculture to improve medication safety for rural Hawaii’s older adults. Dr. Anna Barbato, assistant professor of pharmacy practice in the UH Hilo College of Pharmacy and a certified geriatric specialist pharmacist, took the lead in developing community educational programs. To date, the College of Pharmacy has delivered medication safety programs to over 500 seniors in rural areas, including the Big Island, Maui, Lāna‘i, and Kaua‘i. Additional public seminars are being planned.

The USDA grant also provides funds for continuing education for physicians, pharmacists, and nurses to help them improve medication safety in the older adults they treat. Dr. Scott Holuby, affiliate faculty member in the College of Pharmacy, has taken the lead in developing this program, which has been delivered via webinar to over 20 clinicians to date. The convenience of attending via webinar has been a key factor for clinicians in rural areas, where opportunities for live continuing education are rare.  Additional sessions will be held to reach our goal of over 100 clinicians attending from rural areas throughout Hawai‘i.

These are examples of ways the Center for Rural Health Science will bring together health care resources on the island. Ultimately, the center seeks to produce measurable improvements in the quality of health care, its cost effectiveness, and the overall health of Hawaii’s rural communities. The center is an important means for UH Hilo to contribute to quality of life in the islands that sustain us all.

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Column by the Chancellor in Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce Newsletter: Oct. 2010

Message from UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
Chamber Connection Newsletter
Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce

Oct. 2010

Input needed for UH Hilo’s next strategic plan

Logo with the words Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce Since 1898In tough economic times, publicly funded universities like the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo must be especially responsive to community needs for educational opportunities and economic development. Consequently, since becoming chancellor last July, I’ve been asking members of the public for their thoughts about how UH Hilo could enhance the well being of our island.

The comments I’ve received include encouragement to expand student housing, educate students for jobs needed in the community, develop a “college town” environment around the university, keep the public engaged in decisions affecting Mauna Kea, and expand access to the west side of our island. It’s clear that the public expects UH Hilo to continue evolving, improving and extending its reach throughout the island in order to deliver a solid return on investment into the future.

To ensure that we do, I’m taking this first year of my chancellorship to engage the energies of the university in strategic planning. In this process, UH Hilo will take stock of our current situation and commit to our vision of what our university could become and accomplish in the next five years. We will make sure our mission statement clearly conveys the unique benefits UH Hilo offers to students and the community. The plan itself, which should be complete by May 2011, will contain clear goals and the actions we will take to realize those goals.

In this way, strategic planning will help UH Hilo focus its tremendous funds of energy and creativity on an affirmed mission and a widely accepted set of goals. Moreover, UH President MRC Greenwood has challenged us to increase the number of our graduates by 25 percent over the next few years, and UH Hilo is expected to meet additional performance benchmarks set by the UH system.

Last April, the university started its “pre-planning” initiative to gather information from faculty, staff and students to use in developing the plan. Their views were solicited through a survey and a “listening tour.” Results are being made available at the strategic planning website.

We want to hear the thoughts and opinions that Chamber members have about UH Hilo. We would particularly value your feedback on what you think we currently do well, where you think we need to improve, and what our major priorities should be for the next five to ten years.

You can provide input by emailing, or by writing to Siân Millard, Strategic Planning Coordinator, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Hilo, HI 96720-4091.

Work on developing the strategic plan begins this fall. This invitation for input won’t be a one-time request. We will ensure that community groups have the opportunity to comment on the draft plan once it’s available.

University strategic plans are dynamic documents that respond to changing conditions, and as such they are frequently adjusted. Universities engage in more or less continuous planning and implementation of plans. We also monitor results, which are used to inform the next round of planning. I hope we can count on Chamber members to continue to give us their views and insights as UH Hilo plans for positive change into the future.

Donald O. Straney
Chancellor, UH Hilo

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