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Category: Remarks, Messages, & Writings

Chancellor’s Monthly Column, July 2021: A fiscal year to celebrate

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

I am pleased to share with you the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo 2020-2021 Annual Report.

The year was a challenging one as we navigated through the impacts of the pandemic, something none of us has lived through before. But as I said in my welcome address last fall, it gave us an opportunity to concentrate on what is essential, both at home and at work.

Our successes are largely due to our immensely dedicated faculty, staff, and students who make UH Hilo a remarkable place. Focusing on the mission of the university—to challenge students to reach their highest level of academic achievement—the campus implemented pandemic safety protocols, cleaning regimens, online trainings and courses, and a high standard of service. Facilities staff erected plexiglass barriers, signage, and sanitizing stations for those required to be on campus. Custodial staff mobilized to clean and disinfect spaces. Information technology staff put in extra hours to upgrade online delivery of classes. Budget staff labored over the numbers, figuring out how to stay in business.

Education and community outreach moved forward. Students took their classes and presented their research online. Ka Haka ‘Ula o Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language doctoral candidates defended their dissertations. ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center launched a small camp for keiki, complete with all the physical distancing required. Everyone adapted while faculty continued to deliver a quality education, and students continued to learn about and explore the world, gaining knowledge every step of the way.

Through it all, UH Hilo has remained a truly student-centered campus, serving both the students who were here physically and those who were studying from a distance. High standards were maintained while faculty and staff acted with empathy to students and to one another. And because of this, and despite all the unexpected challenges brought by covid, the university had an immensely successful year, filled with accomplishments, accolades, milestones, and celebrations. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read the report for details.

And now we begin to move toward resuming a more familiar normalcy. It has been decided that our campus and the entire UH System will return to pre-pandemic office hours of 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, beginning Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Some units such as the Mookini Library traditionally have different hours of operation from standard office hours. Check unit web pages for updated hours.

ICYMI: The June 27 Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald featured our University Town tabloid. With articles by Kathleen Baumgardner about strategic planning, Jasmine Mahinapolu Koko-Casey about her experiences in our Indigenous Teacher Education program, and Director of Athletics Pat Guillen on our recent Vulcan fundraising campaign, the supplement highlights a number of things going on at UH Hilo. Of particular note is a profile piece on our first baccalaureate graduating class. We celebrate 50 years of providing high quality baccalaureate education here in Hilo! Mahalo to all of you for keeping this grand tradition going.

Congratulations to our School of Education for recently being awarded the full seven years of accreditation along with a commendation by the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation. AAQEP promotes and recognizes quality educator preparation that strengthens the education profession’s ability to serve all students, schools, and communities, and to do so equitably.  AAQEP is nationally recognized  by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Congratulations also to our master’s program in Counseling Psychology (Specialization: Clinical Mental Health Counseling) for receiving full re-accreditation by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC) for the period June 2021 through June 2029. The MPCAC accredits academic programs in psychology and counseling, which promote training in the scientific practice of professional psychology and counseling at the master’s level.

UH President David Lassner visited our island briefly in June to meet with donors and alumni. Both groups recognize that our success is a major factor in the quality of life on Hawai‘i Island and expressed their ongoing support for what we do. I hope to make announcements about a community advisory board and an alumni advisory board for the campus by the end of summer. Please send me any suggestions you might have for membership in either group.


Bonnie D. Irwin


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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, June 2021: Accreditation review will bring fresh perspectives

During the review, our resilience and resourcefulness will be on full display: we know we are not perfect, but we also know that we have overcome challenges and will continue to do so into the future.

Bonnie D. Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

In October, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo will host a team representing the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), the accrediting agency that will assess how well our university is fulfilling its mission in educating students and serving our community.

When they come to visit, they will meet with university students, staff, administrators, campus governing groups, alumni, and community members. They will review reams of data and reports and study how well our students learn, how the university addresses issues of equity, and how we manage our financial and personnel resources.

The Core Commitments of the Organization are the same as our own: Student Learning and Success; Quality and Improvement; and Institutional Integrity, Sustainability, and Accountability. All these commitments reflect the framework in which we operate every day.

In addition to reviewing the institution’s following of the Core Commitments, the team will look to how well our students acquire the Core Competencies: written and oral communication, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, and critical thinking.

Other values, such as an appreciation for diversity and civic engagement are qualities they will look for in our graduates, as well as the so-called soft skills such as working well with others. All the ingredients of a high-quality education will be reviewed and suggestions will be offered.

The process is designed to be collegial and allow our peers (a team of administrators and faculty) to make suggestions so that we can improve. The team understands the challenges we face, particularly as we have had to navigate the pandemic by moving most of the curriculum online and dealing with constrained budgets. It is not a time for trying to cover up our challenges and potential weaknesses, but to demonstrate how we address them and how we plan to improve.

At UH Hilo, our resilience and resourcefulness will be on full display: we know we are not perfect, but we also know that we have overcome challenges and will continue to do so into the future.

The visit will also give us an opportunity to present our plans for the future. The UH System is embarking on a revision of general education, and faculty from across the ten campuses will be engaged in this process, keeping those WSCUC competencies firmly in mind.

UH Hilo will also present its strategic plan to the visiting team. Our goals of strengthening our commitments to students, community and ‘āina, and one another, align quite well with the WSCUC commitments.

Our strategies for addressing these commitments will include such things as increased collaboration across the campus and with our community partners; creating connections across academic fields to prepare students even better for working in a world where many different sources of knowledge need to be applied to the big issues of the day; and creating more opportunities for hands-on learning.

In order to provide our students with the skills they will need into the future, those of us who work on campus need to keep learning and growing and improving how we go about fulfilling our educational mission.

One of those things that WSCUC looks at is how the whole campus engages in these efforts, and the many listening and talk story sessions leading up to the strategic plan will provide ample evidence to our attempts to get everyone involved. From visits to campus units to our “Seeds of Opportunity” strategic planning summit, to our strategic doing projects including our island podcast, Ka Leo o ka Uluau, and our storytelling events, Wailau, we have hopefully given everyone an opportunity both to weigh in on the forthcoming plan and begin to taste its fruits.

I look forward to what we will learn from the team when they come this fall. Our institutional mission—‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi (One learns from many sources)—includes learning from colleagues from outside our university, who will be able to look at us with fresh eyes and fresh perspectives. We can always do better, and our students and community deserve our best.


Bonnie D. Irwin

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Chancellor invites UH Hilo community to comment on draft of Strategic Plan

Papahana UH Hilo Strategic Plan

Aloha UH Hilo ‘Ohana,

We have received valuable suggestions for and insight about our campus Strategic Plan draft. Mahalo! Please continue to send us your comments through June 15.

Sections of this plan were drafted by incorporating contributions received throughout this process including our University forums, many small group discussions, Summit, survey responses, and emails. Pre-planning evidence and analysis is available online in several reports. As suggestions received were incorporated and shared, it was often expressed that contributing to a formatted draft of all of the sections was preferred. Our “behind-the-scenes” team converted those sections practically overnight into the beautiful document shared with campus last week.

An unfortunate consequence has been the perception that the plan is complete. This Strategic Plan draft continues to be a work in progress. The team has made accessing this draft and providing feedback even easier through the Strategic Planning website. Two feedback options are also accessible from this website.

The next piece of the strategic plan, a draft of the initial Action Plan, will be shared for comments soon. A working draft of the initial strategies relative to our goals outlined in the Strategic Plan was shared prior to and discussed during the April University Forums. An updated list of those initial strategies is in the works for additional feedback. Many are anxious to delve down to measurable actions for the strategies. We are almost there!


Bonnie D. Irwin

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Message from the Chancellor: A Time of Celebration

Aloha UH Hilo ‘Ohana

May is a time of great celebration at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Our campus ‘ohana came together honoring our students, faculty and staff in hybrid celebrations.

We honored our retirees, award winners, and those who have contributed 10, 20, 30, or 40 years of service to our wonderful university with a virtual ceremony (above video). Congratulations to all of you! Our 2020 retirees, after an aggregate total of 447 years of service to UH Hilo, are entering the next chapter of their lives. Likewise, our years-of-service honorees, with a sum total of 650 years, and our award winners are working steadily behind the scenes at home or behind a mask on campus to continue to support this university we all cherish.

We congratulated our Spring 2021 graduating class and again, mahalo to the faculty and staff that all worked to help get our students over the finish line in a time of unprecedented challenges. Students who have spent years working toward their degree will have that certification in hand as we emerge from the COVID crisis into a new world with the skills that we have helped those students acquire. Each and every student will have memories of UH Hilo that they will carry with them into their personal and professional lives.

Several programs hosted celebratory events for their graduates prior to commencement hybrid celebrations. This past Saturday, approximately 150 students participated in a virtual commencement kīhei tying ceremony, a prerecorded virtual commencement presentation premiered with 280 participants registered to upload content, and we hosted a successful campus drive-thru event for 161 students with many of you cheering and congratulating them as they drove by. Mahalo nui to everyone that contributed to all of these events for our students!

The post-COVID UH Hilo will be a different place, to be sure, but it will still be guided by the same values of community, student support, diversity, and excellence that characterize our university today. Our Hoku-pa‘a (our North Star, fixed for our navigation) is still the success of each of our students, and as we make sacrifices now to protect our future, it is these students who will remain our focus. How we best support them while keeping ourselves safe and healthy and with a constrained budget is our challenge, and I am confident that working together, we will meet it. We have learned what we are capable of, what really matters, and what we can do when we all put our ideas and efforts together.

I hope everyone can find a bit of respite from this busy year over the summer.

Be well and stay safe.


Bonnie D. Irwin

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