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Category: Remarks, Messages, & Writings

Chancellor’s Column, May 2024: In community outreach project, UH Hilo marketing students survey local businesses about current outlooks

Bonnie Irwin pictured
Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin

Students in a marketing class at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo completed a survey over spring semester with 105 local restaurant and accommodation businesses to learn more about current outlooks and the challenges facing our island’s entrepreneurs.

The project was a collaboration between UH Hilo’s College of Business and Economics and the Hawaiʻi Small Business Development Center. HISBDC is a state-federal partnership found in every state and hosted by a local university. UH Hilo is our state’s host university and the Hawaiʻi SBDC statewide network has five offices on four islands.

The survey is the first of many such student projects HISBDC hopes to generate with UH Hilo and other UH campuses throughout the state. It was headed by Joseph Burns, HISBDC’s state director, and UH Hilo marketing lecturer Arliss Dudley-Cash whose spring 2024 class, “Principles of Marketing,” conducted and analyzed the survey.

The project was two-fold: conducting the survey gave our students practical experience, and the survey itself produced some interesting data about local business.

The students gained myriad benefits during the survey process that included not just real-life experience in creating, implementing, and analyzing an informal outlook survey, but also the gaining of valuable insights into entrepreneurial businesses such as practical knowledge about industries, business models, and challenges faced by local entrepreneurs.

There were 41 responses from the 105 businesses surveyed, an excellent response rate of 39 percent. And the results showed some hints of optimism, interesting in light of the negative impacts most everyone experienced during the pandemic.

Supply chain constraints, which were a serious problem during the pandemic, have abated, although are still a concern. Some two-thirds of the respondents see inflation as a challenge. With interest rates still high, none of the respondents indicated they foresee taking out a business loan at present.

However, 37.5 percent of the respondents said they plan to hire employees this year, which indicates that more than one-third of responding small business owners expect there will be sufficient demand to warrant new hiring. HISBDC State Director Burns says that since the state unemployment rate is low, business owners may have to renew their strategies for attracting and retaining the best employees.

Despite these challenges, the survey revealed local entrepreneurs feel optimistic about the future and that businesses are on the road to recovery after the huge challenges everyone endured during the pandemic.

I believe these types of community outreach projects, such as the student-conducted survey, are a win-win for everyone involved.

As the students’ mentor Arliss Dudley-Cash notes about the project, our students gain real-life experience in communicating with professionals, honing their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Their academic work is enriched, and the skills gained become part of the foundation of future careers.

Our local business community benefits from the survey results, understanding better what their peers are experiencing, what challenges they face, and that the undercurrent is one of optimism for the future. We have survived the pandemic and are moving into the future with confidence.

State Director Burns says the results of the UH Hilo marketing class’s survey allow the business center’s advisors to learn more about client needs to be sure they are prepared to address them. He says the survey has been very helpful to the center and that HISBDC intends to continue this type of collaboration with future UH Hilo classes.

I’m proud that UH Hilo is the host university for our state’s Small Business Development Center, and I look forward to our students — and students at other UH campuses — becoming more and more involved in this type of community outreach.

I mua!

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

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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’s Monthly Column, April 2024: UH Hilo’s new and expanded degree programs answer workforce needs, improve life for all

Bonnie Irwin pictured
Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin

Our mission at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is to challenge our students to reach their highest academic potential, and as an extension of that, to improve the quality of life of the people of our island, state, Pacific region, and the world. Of paramount importance to achieve this mission is to offer programs that answer Hawaiʻi’s workforce needs of today and tomorrow.

Building on our academic portfolio, we have developed three new baccalaureate degree programs: aeronautical sciences, data science, and educational studies, the last of which is going through the accreditation process now. In addition, we are working to expand an existing master degree program in counseling psychology to meet specific island and state needs that arguably impact the quality of life for everyone.

There are two pathways in our new aeronautical sciences program: the pilot pathway to a career as an airline pilot, and the aerial information technology pathway to professional certification as a commercial drone operator. Undergraduates on the drone pilot track are already out in the field using the technology to help address the island’s many natural resource needs such as understanding the impacts of lava flows and invasive species. Professional drone pilots are in demand on the island, in our state, and beyond, and our aeronautical sciences graduates will be well prepared to answer this workforce need.

In our new data science program — the first data science major in the UH System — undergraduate students learn how to study and analyze enormous sets of data, called big data, through statistical measures. Because of its broad application, the field is interdisciplinary, and students choose one of four tracks in which to specialize further: astronomy, business, statistics, or computational. Even before they graduate, students are working closely with research faculty collecting and analyzing data in a wide range of fields, much of it with great local impact such as environmental studies and digital archives of Hawaiian history and language. Our data science students are also helping with campus and county data needs.

Our School of Education currently offers two masters-level degree programs: one to prepare students to become teachers, and one to boost professional growth in practicing educators and licensed teachers. In doing our part to help the UH System expand its teacher education programs across the state, we are currently in the planning stages to expand our program to include a new bachelor of arts in educational studies program, our first teacher licensing pathway for undergraduate students. The UH Board of Regents approved the major in February, and we are moving forward with additional approval and planning stages with the goal to start welcoming students into the program this fall.

Our master’s in counseling psychology program is quickly responding to community and workforce needs both on island and in the state. To help curb Hawaiʻi’s rising demand for mental health services and substance abuse treatment, the program will receive $1.68 million over the next five years to create a new certified substance abuse counselor track and to accommodate more students each year within the master’s program. The funding is from the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division of the Hawai‘i Department of Health and in partnership with the County of Hawai‘i Office of the Mayor. In addition, faculty are doing tremendous advocacy work in our community and are calling on their partners to support our legislative ask for more faculty positions so that we can enroll even more students and do more to address crucial mental health needs in our state.

In a new collaborative program, we are partnering with UH Mānoa to create a strong pathway for Hawaiʻi Island students who wish to study engineering. They will still need to complete their degrees on Oʻahu, but will get a solid start here in our physics and astronomy program.

An enrollment and workforce discussion, still in its infancy but moving along at a brisk pace, is in regard to microcredentials. Microcredentials are certifications that verify an individual’s competence in a specific skill or set of skills. They allow students to attain proficiencies that can enhance a degree, be a step along the path to a degree or, in some cases, be a substitute for a degree. We plan to work with the county to see what type of credentialed workers they need. There are nearly 32,000 people in our county with some college yet no degree, perhaps some of these credential programs will fill their needs.

I’m excited to see each of these programs moving forward, answering workforce needs and contributing greatly to improving the quality of life of people and their communities near and far.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

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Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin’s 2024 State of the University Address

PPT Side 1: UH Hilo logo and title 2024 State of the University, Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin, March 27, 2024.
Throughout this transcript, click images to enlarge.

Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin delivered the 2024 State of the University Address on March 27, 2024. Video recording of this presentation can be found on YouTube and at the end of this post.

Image of aerial view of campus with Hilo Bay in background. Hōʻoia ʻĀina …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…  Land Acknowledgement Statement …UH Hilo aligns with the UH 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...  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 kālai ʻike 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 ʻākoakoa ana i ʻaneʻi.

Aloha mai kākou.

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Chancellor’s Column, March 2024: Re-visioning student success at UH Hilo

Bonnie Irwin pictured
Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin

We have re-visioned and reorganized how we approach student success at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. All three of the major areas on campus—academic affairs, student affairs, and administrative affairs—are engaged in making this re-visioning a tangible, forward looking, and meaningful process.

The Student Affairs Leadership Team is now kaʻi i ka wēkiu, elevating student success, and making sure it is central in everything we do. There are four teams: enrollment, student engagement, student wellbeing, and workplace culture.

The first of these, enrollment, is all about recruiting students and, even more importantly, making sure more of them cross the finish line and obtain their degree. This group will be working closely with our data folks to identify trends and working with an enrollment management firm on increasing our reach.

Student engagement concerns all the ways we interact with students, both in and out of the classroom. What activities are of most interest to students? How can we encourage more students to pursue research or study abroad? How do our students and programs interact with the larger community of Hawaiʻi Island?

The student wellbeing group is working on all the things that make sure student lives are healthy and flourishing so that they can be successful. This ranges from basic needs to fitness to physical and mental health. We need to make sure that all students who need to connect to support services know how to do so and are getting the support they need.

Finally, we all know that staff and faculty wellbeing translates to student wellbeing, so the workplace culture group will focus on various ways of supporting our employees: do they have the training they need to be successful? Are there appropriate opportunities for advancement?

Large two story building with lots of windows. Large shower tree out front, grassy area.
Student Services building, UH Hilo.

Parallel to this work, our Division of Student Affairs has a new strategic plan focusing on supporting students in reaching their full potential in both academic success and their overall wellbeing.

And the new plan does not focus solely on students, it also encompasses the needs of staff, too. We want to create an environment where everyone can thrive.

A key concept we are envisioning is about a deep commitment to nurturing student success and fostering a welcoming, inclusive, and culturally sensitive campus environment. Priorities are not just academic achievement but also holistic wellbeing, equity, and cultural competence, critical aspects of students’ overall growth and development.

The new strategic plan is based on several guiding principles rooted in compassion and inclusiveness: 1) coordinated efforts between units and programs dedicated to student success, 2) inclusivity where students and staff find equity, justice, and a strong sense of belonging to the university community, 3) holistic well-being, where health and wellbeing are actively cultivated in both students and staff, and 4) where collaboration is the driving force behind it all.

Chris Holland pictured.
Chris Holland

Driven by the core value of inclusivity, the plan grew from town hall meetings led by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Chris Holland. Nearly 80 percent of division staff actively participated in the process.

Crucial steps include the formation of teams that can coordinate efforts and ensure accountability; developing tasks and adequate financial resources; ongoing data collection and analysis to identify areas that need improvement; staff training; and consistent reporting on progress with milestones celebrated to boost morale.

Feedback is a crucial component, ensuring the plan remains relevant.

The UH Hilo ʻohana has a strong commitment to empowering students in all areas of their university experience. With careful planning, collaboration between divisions and units, and dedication to continuous improvement, we are well on our way to creating a nurturing and thriving campus community where every student can reach their full potential.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin
UH Hilo

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