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Category: Announcements

Chancellor announces Pele Harman as inaugural director of Native Hawaiian Engagement

Pele Harman pictured.
Pelehonuamea Harman (Photo: Daniella Zalcman)

Chancellor Irwin sent this announcement via email to the UH Hilo community on May 31, 2024. It is published here on Chancellor’s Blog following Pele Harman’s appointment confirmation this week by the UH Board of Regents and UH President David Lassner.

Aloha kākou,

It is with great pleasure that I announce the appointment of Pelehonuamea Harman as UH Hilo’s inaugural Director of Native Hawaiian Engagement, pending notice on the June 6, 2024, Board of Regents Agenda and approval by President Lassner. Ms. Harman is scheduled to start in this role, which is of strategic importance to our university, on July 1, 2024, and we are confident in her ability to lead in this crucial area.

Ms. Harman brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the position, given her two-plus decades of experience in the Hawaiian Immersion Education context, teaching learners of all ages in UH Hilo’s own K-12 laboratory school of Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu through to our Kahuawaiola Teacher Education program of Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani (KHʻUoK). She is also a proud alumna of UH Hilo, having graduated from KHʻUoK with her BA in Hawaiian Studies, Teaching Certificate from Kahuawaiola, and Master’s in Hawaiian Language and Literature.

As a haumana ʻuniki of Kimo Alama Keaulana, Pelehuonuamea – alongside her kāne Kekoa Harman – is a Kumu Hula of Hālau I Ka Leo Ola O Nā Mamo, one of Hawaiʻi mokupuni’s hālau hula focused on raising new generations grounded in the practices of hula from a strong foundation of Hawaiian language fluency.

We are deeply honored and grateful to have Ms. Harman return to our UH Hilo ʻohana. Her acceptance of this role and her willingness to share her rich lineage of Hawaiian language and cultural knowledge as a moʻopuna kuakahi (great-granddaughter) of Mary Kawena Pukui, one of the University of Hawaiʻi’s most esteemed scholars of Hawaiian knowledge, is a testament to her commitment to our shared journey of reclaiming this ʻike in our endeavors moving forward as a university.

Pelehonuamea joins the growing Hawaiʻi Papa o Ke Ao team being established throughout our University of Hawaiʻi campuses that will be working in concert to develop, implement, and assess strategic actions to make the University of Hawaiʻi a leader in indigenous education.

Me ke aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin, Chancellor

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Message from Chancellor Irwin about Giving Day, April 10

This message was shared with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo ‘ohana on April 9, 2024.


Wednesday, April 10 is UH Giving Day!

Once again, we are featuring the UH Hilo Student Crisis Fund, and I am matching the first $2,000 that is donated. Participation is the goal here, so please consider giving if you can.

If you would like to donate to another fund at UH Hilo, please consider doing it tomorrow, so that we track our progress. You can browse the other funds here.

Help me spread the word through your networks and friends, so that we can support our students and programs.

Giving Day – for UH – for Hawaiʻi.


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Chancellor Irwin launches fund to enhance student experience

Bonnie Irwin pictured
Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin is launching a new fund to help students access important opportunities outside the classroom. The fund, called the Chancellor’s Fund for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity, will support undergraduates with expenses like travel for conferences or materials needed for their research.

“My dream for UH Hilo is that every student will be able to do something meaningful outside of class, whether it is research, studying abroad, an internship, or community service,” says Irwin. “A student told me that studying abroad at another university opened a door of opportunity she did not even know was there. This is what I see happening at UH Hilo.”

Access to these opportunities for as many students as possible is a high priority for UH Hilo. Behind every support fund or scholarship is a person or company committed to making higher education available to all students, Irwin says.

“Members of the local community who give their support to UH Hilo see it as an investment in the future.”

Building bonds

Irwin recounts how a past experience served as the inspiration behind the creation of the fund. Reflecting on her time at another university, she vividly recalls accompanying 17 students and four faculty members to a conference, traveling across many states by plane and car, and having their meals together.

“The rapport we established among the students and with their faculty created lasting memories and instilled in the students confidence in what they learned,” says Chancellor Irwin. “I still tell stories from that trip, and I am still in touch with those students, watching them grow in their careers. I want students and faculty at UH Hilo to have these same experiences, assuring students that they are ready to join the leagues of professionals in their fields.”

A vision for changed lives and transformed communities

Increased student engagement in research, guided by the exceptional faculty at UH Hilo, is expected to result in a higher number of graduates pursuing post-baccalaureate degrees. Irwin hopes this long-term vision will change lives and the Hawaiʻi Island community.

“Some students have the resources and knowledge to seek opportunities, but others find them beyond their reach…and I think funds like the one I am establishing help create more of these opportunities. UH Hilo is a hidden gem, a place where cool things are happening all the time. Our challenge is to make more people aware of our excellence, our dedication, and our aloha,” Irwin says.

Donate to the Chancellor’s Endowment for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity

Read full story at the UH Foundation website.

UH System News

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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Jan. 2024: New data science program designed for workforce preparation

Happy New Year!

Bonnie Irwin pictured
Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo starts off the new year with an exciting baccalaureate degree to announce. The data science program, ready to start in the fall, is designed for workforce preparation, formulated to address local and state needs in a data-driven knowledge economy.

We are proud to say that the new program is the first data science major in the UH System. Data science deals with studying and analyzing sets of data through statistical measures that can be applied to many different fields of study. It is considered an interdisciplinary endeavor because almost every branch of science collects loads of data—big data—and each field needs experts for analyzing the mass amounts of information.

We started building our data science program in 2017 with a certificate in data science, launched in fall of 2018, where all students interested in gaining basic training are welcome regardless of major or background. Students hone their data analysis skills by supporting the university’s active research faculty whose projects generate large amounts of data, such as investigations into coral reef health and studies on the impacts of climate change for our island, state, and region.

The new bachelor’s degree program in data science is an interdisciplinary degree, meaning it interfaces with other majors, where students can build an in-depth skillset in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and statistics. Students will choose one of four tracks to specialize further: astronomy, business, statistics, or computational.

Faculty teaching the skills of data science come from a wide range of programs involved in various research projects, much of it with great local impact.

Core faculty in the program are:

Associate Professor of Computer Science Travis Mandel, who is the data science program coordinator, researches how artificial intelligence systems can best assist human scientists with their work. In research supported by the National Science Foundation, students explore problems in human-in-the-loop artificial intelligence and its connections with natural science.

Associate Professor of Marine Science John Burns, a research scientist studying coral health and coral reef ecosystems, is founder and director of the Multiscale Environmental Graphical Analysis Laboratory or MEGA Lab based at UH Hilo, where students and scientists from UH Hilo and around the world collaboratively collect and transform reef data into 3D images with the newest analytical technologies.

Associate Professor of Mathematics Grady Weyenberg, whose research focuses on statistical techniques to assist researchers and scientists in various fields, ties together natural science, computer science, and mathematics. For example, on the collaborative marine science projects, his students learn how to conduct coral surveys, troubleshoot computer science problems involved in building the 3D models from photographs, and conduct math modeling and computation that goes into more advanced statistical models.

Assistant Professor of Data Science and Business Administration Sukhwa Hong conducts research focused on text mining, natural language processing, and social media analytics. Last summer, his students worked with artificial intelligence and large language models to analyze big data and extract key insights to be communicated to the public.

Professor of Geography and Environmental Science Ryan Perroy, who founded and runs UH Hilo’s Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization laboratory and is a research collaborator with the data science program, trains his students in machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify objects of interest such as invasive species in our native forests. The data that he and his students have collected using innovative drone and mapping technology have greatly advanced knowledge about the spread of Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death, a devastating fungal disease killing off large areas of native forest on Hawai‘i Island.

Graduates from UH Hilo’s new data science baccalaureate degree program will be in high demand. Their work will help build a new data-driven knowledge economy through their computer and data science skills already honed through multiple undergraduate research activities while at UH Hilo.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

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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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