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Category: Announcements

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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UH Hilo campus to close 7/19/23 due to Tropical Storm Calvin

Aerial of campus in 2014 with Hilo Bay in background.
(Photo by Hollyn Johnson)

This message was shared with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo ‘ohana on July 18, 2023.

Aloha UH Hilo Faculty, Staff, and Students:

Due to anticipated severe weather conditions brought on by Tropical Storm Calvin, the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo campus, offices, and off-campus locations will be closed on Wednesday, July 19, 2023, for precautionary measures. All State offices on Hawaiʻi Island will be closed tomorrow.

The UH Hilo campus and off-campus locations will be open for normal operations on Thursday, July 20, 2023.

As conditions warrant, we will send out announcements or alerts via email, and notifications will be posted on the UH Hilo website and social media. All members of the UH community are encouraged to sign up for UH Alert to receive emergency text alerts. If you have already signed up, log in to ensure that your contact information is up to date.

Additional information can be found at the National Hurricane Center.

Additionally, information on hurricane preparedness can be found at

The UH Hilo Emergency Guidebook App may be downloaded.

We continue to monitor Tropical Storm Calvin and are working closely with Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense as well as other County and State agencies to remain prepared and informed.

Mahalo, and stay safe.

Office of the Chancellor

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Chancellor Irwin announces commission of Kekuhikuhi mural honoring Edith Kanaka‘ole

Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall pictured with palms along one side.
Kamea Hadar and Kūhaʻo Zane are collaborating on a mural of the late Hawaiian icon Edith Kanaka‘ole on the building named in her honor, Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall, at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus. (Cooper Lund/UH Hilo Stories)

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin shared this message on May 3 to the university ‘ohana.

At left is Aunty Edith sitting with pahu. At right are her two daughters Pua and Nalani dancing. They are at Halemaumau crater in the background.
Edith Kanakaʻole at left with her daughters Pua and Nalani. (Courtesy photo/UH System News)

In chorus with the celebration of Edith Kanaka‘ole’s United States Mint quarter, Kamea Hadar and Kūhaʻo Zane, with the support of the UH Hilo Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Services, are collaborating on a mural of the late Hawaiian icon on the Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus.

As a faculty member at both the Hawai‘i Community College and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Aunty Edith openly shared her deep ancestral knowledge passed down to her through her familial hula lineage. Her early contributions to the university’s Hawaiian language program and numerous community initiatives have set a foundation that continues to be built on today. It is an immense honor to share her story through this mural and have her portrait serve as a prominent feature on our campus.

Kamea Hadar pictured with scaffolding in the background.
Kamea Hadar (Courtesy photo)

Kamea Hadar is a talented and experienced muralist honored by this opportunity. He has taken art courses at the Honolulu Art Academy and University of Hawai‘i and spent periods living, studying, and creating in Paris, Madrid, and Tel Aviv. Currently residing in Honolulu, he is the Co-Lead Director of POW! WOW! Worldwide and his large-scale murals for businesses, organizations, and schools have been featured on buildings both in Hawai‘i as well as globally. Hadar was commissioned by the University of Hawai‘i to enhance several campus facilities, including the Stan Sheriff Center and the College of Education at UH Mānoa. Most recently, Hadar honored Native Hawaiian Olympic medalists Duke Kahanamoku and Carissa Moore with a large-scale mural in downtown Honolulu and completed another for the Polynesian Voyaging Society as a tribute to master navigator Papa Mau Piailug of Satawal.

Kūha‘o Zane pictured in an art gallery.
Kūha‘o Zane (UH System News)

Kūha‘o Zane, Edith Kanaka‘ole’s grandson, and Creative Director of Sig Zane Designs, will be collaborating with Hadar on the design of this mural. Weaving his father’s hand-cut art as well as the cultural narratives that drive their mission of education through design, this large expression of creativity is a celebration of his Grandmother’s achievements, impact and influence. Through the twenty years that Kūhaʻo has worked at Sig Zane Designs, he established a design studio SZKaiao which has done work for Tiffany’s & Co., Louis Vuitton, Nike and a multitude of local entities. Although each of these projects varied in brand identity and uniform design all, including mural projects like this one, are embedded in the cultural foundation passed to him generationally.

This is the third mural at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo that Kīpuka NHSC has supported. The first two were completed in 2015 on the UH Hilo residence halls and celebrate the physical features of Hilo and the mo‘olelo that accompany them. Murals such as these reflect the values of the community and help UH Hilo students to further develop connections to Hilo. UH Hilo students will continue to be an integral part of the mural process by contributing to a continuation of the mural throughout the summer.

Bonnie D. Irwin

Invitation to E Hō Mai Ka ʻIke

The Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation,
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo,
Hawai‘i Community College,
United States Mint,
the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum,
and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
is hosting

E Hō Mai Ka ʻIke

a public event honoring

Aunty Edith Kekuhikuhipu‘uoneonāali‘iōkohala Kanaka‘ole

Saturday, May 6, 2023

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo

10:30 a.m. (Doors open at 10:00 a.m.)

Performing Arts Center

(This formal program will be live streamed)

11:30 a.m. Celebration and Exhibits of Aunty Edith’s Impact

Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall

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