Jun 012017
 

It was a beautiful Spring Commencement celebrating cultural heritage, sustainability, and diversity, reaffirming our responsibilities in addressing the challenges of our time.

By Don Straney.

Professor places hood on graduate's shoulders.

Prof. of Anthropology Peter Mills (right) bestows candidate with hood for Master of Arts in Heritage Management. 2017 Spring Commencement celebrated the first cohort to graduate from the new UH Hilo program.

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo celebrated a milestone at Spring Commencement last month: the university graduated its first candidates for a Master of Arts in Heritage Management.

Students in the new program train for heritage-related careers in both the public and private sector to interpret, preserve, and perpetuate cultural heritage—something of immense value to our local communities and indigenous culture.

UH Hilo takes seriously its responsibility to our island communities and indigenous culture, and community-based archaeology is a vital aspect of Hawaiian cultural revitalization.

In a paper on the importance of cultural resource management professionals, Peter Mills, professor of anthropology, writes that Hawai‘i struggles with many issues confronting heritage management programs globally. Grass roots efforts to better manage Hawaiian cultural sites are increasing, and state regulations require cultural resource managers to have an advanced degree—yet graduate training in anthropology and related fields in Hawai‘i is limited.

Let me share a story of one of the graduates to show the importance of this degree to our island families and communities.

Lokelani Brandt with baby

Lokelani Brandt

Lokelani Brandt received her bachelor of arts in anthropology with a minor in Hawaiian studies from UH Hilo in 2012 after receiving her primary education at Ke Kula ‘o Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u Hawaiian immersion school. She and her husband both have careers in Hilo (Lokelani is a lecturer for the Hawai‘i Life Styles Program at Hawai‘i Community College) and they would like to raise their family here.

With her newly received master of arts degree, Lokelani has accepted a full-time position in Hilo with ASM Affiliates, a major archaeological consulting firm. With her advanced degree in hand, she will be qualified to serve as a principal investigator on ASM’s field projects.

This type of career option will be very meaningful to many of our undergraduate students of Native Hawaiian ancestry—there is now an option to pursue professional leadership positions in archaeology and related fields rather than only volunteering for grass-roots organizations.

As Peter writes: “A shift in perspective is required, for example instead of viewing and interpreting ‘archaeological sites’ as significant only for their data, these cultural sites should be viewed as vital parts of a living Hawaiian culture.”

Watching these graduates at Commencement during the traditional “hooding” ceremony was a moving experience, knowing that the cohort will be going out into the world as professionals now credentialed to help preserve “a living Hawaiian culture.”

Speakers

Along with UH Hilo’s responsibility to protect our islands’ cultural heritage, the university also accepts responsibility—given our location and resources—to learn with and from other island nations in the Pacific region. Our keynote speaker was President Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr, of the Republic of Palau, an internationally recognized leader on environmental issues not the least of which is his leadership in the historic effort to implement the Palau National Marine Sanctuary.

President Remengesau’s remarks focused on the responsibilities we all share in taking care of our island states, communities, and environment. This great man practices what he preachers—his work and visionary leadership is inspirational as we proceed in working together on the challenges of our time: sustainability, environmental protection and cultural preservation.

In addition to these responsibilities, the university also remains committed to safeguarding human rights, notably the rights of our LGBTQ+ community.

Our student speaker at commencement, Karla Kapo‘aiola Ahn, a performing arts major and entertainer who often performs music on campus, spoke about her gender transition and about how UH Hilo—in particular Professor of Drama Jackie Johnson, just retired—provided the unconditional support she needed to realize her full potential in her studies and in her life while at the university.

Karla personifies our pride in being the nation’s most diverse university system. We live the aloha spirit.

It was a beautiful Commencement celebrating cultural heritage, sustainability, and diversity, reaffirming our responsibilities in addressing the challenges of our time.

Aloha,

Don Straney

May 012017
 

Thank you again for all you do to prepare our students to become tomorrow’s leaders.

As another academic year comes to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to personally thank all of you, our faculty and staff. These last few weeks are always a period of transition, but what makes UH Hilo so special is the hard work and dedication each of you put in throughout the entire year to help our students succeed.

In just a few days we will mark another successful year as we present our year-end awards, recognize years of service, and pass along our best wishes to our friends and colleagues who are retiring or moving on to other pursuits. Later, we will gather for spring commencement to celebrate the accomplishments of our students, which goes to the very heart of our mission, and recognize three faculty members for teaching excellence. These events are a timely reminder that our accomplishments are the product of an outstanding team effort. Thank you again for all you do to prepare our students to become tomorrow’s leaders.

Have a safe, happy and productive summer.

Don Straney

-via May issue of the Ka Lono Hanakahi, UH Hilo’s faculty/staff newsletter.

Apr 142017
 

From the Chancellor, published in Their Views for April 13, Hawaii Tribune Herald.

I thought it was important to respond to Bart Wright’s column on Monday (Tribune-Herald, B1) about the University of Hawaii at Hilo Athletic Department that focused on recent staff turnover. Whenever there is a time of transition, it can lead to concern about change, and that is understandable.

The column notes that a number of individuals left the department for a variety of reasons. Three left for personal reasons, as happens with other organizations and entities in East Hawaii. Another three left to accept positions at Division I schools. This speaks positively about our athletics program: working here can help advance people’s careers. I am pleased these people succeeded as much as I regret losing them.

It is disappointing that the column speculated that UH-Hilo Athletic Director Pat Guillen’s mainland origin and management style are responsible for the staff changes. Pat has proven to be a tireless worker dedicated to our university, the athletic department and our community. I feel he has truly embraced Hawaii’s culture, values and people. His recent report to the Board of Regents was received very positively, along with the news that UH-Hilo athletics is in the black. He continues to have my full confidence — as do his staff and coaches.

Pat and his staff and coaches are working to improve UH-Hilo athletics. I thank everyone for the amazing support of our athletic department, and hope you can continue to support UH-Hilo athletics so it can be the very best for our student athletes and our community.

Go Vulcans!

Don Straney

Chancellor, UH-Hilo

Apr 042017
 

Creating access and strengthening retention for students from Hawai‘i Island is our top priority.

By Don Straney.

While we continue to develop academic programs that address our island’s needs, we are currently developing new ways to be more effective at recruitment, retention, and graduation rates. We are taking our efforts to a whole new level, focusing our resources on specific students for recruitment and retention. This is part of a University of Hawai‘i systemwide initiative where each of the 10 campuses are developing their own five-year enrollment management plans specifically designed with appropriate goals for the individual campus.

In this column, I’d like to share some of UH Hilo’s plans.

The first step to creating this type of plan is to identify enrollment targets for the next five years, and in conjunction, to identify three to five areas of specific enrollment and retention activity to focus on, with the corresponding goals clearly outlined. This is done through analysis of historic trends and creating a foundation to work into planning and budgeting processes.

The goals are developed based on realistic and measurable outcomes and most likely will include shifts in, say, recruitment communications, marketing and public relations activities, financial aid strategies, academic course scheduling, support services programs and various projects.

An area we are exploring in particular is recruitment and support for freshman students—increasing enrollment by reaching out to particular geographic and ethnic populations (think local), and increasing freshman to sophomore retention by focusing on certain student populations and specific academic programs.

An example of this is in striving to strengthen the sense of community on our campus by grouping freshman students, who are interested in specific academic programs, into cohorts that stays together through graduation.

We’ve been building on this concept over the past few years, creating a Freshman Village, a community at the Hale Kanilehua Living Learning Center, that groups students as cohorts according to academic interest. We started with Native Hawaiian students, from both UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College, interested in Hawaiian studies and science, technology, engineering and math programs, commonly called the STEM programs.

The pilot program was a great success—it measurably expanded students’ competency in technology and retention at UH Hilo—and now the program has expanded to six Living Learning Communities: business, creative arts, environmental sustainability, Hawaiian culture and language, health and wellness, and natural science with a marine focus. This is a concept that we can build on as we develop our new enrollment management plan.

In other areas, we are currently discussing ways to increase distance learning, international students, and veteran enrollment. Also under discussion are scheduling more evening or weekend courses, expanding financial aid resources, and more highly targeted counseling and peer mentor programs.

I want to note that creating access and strengthening retention for students from Hawai‘i Island is our top priority. We have a responsibility to serve the whole island, and we are collaborating closely with Hawai‘i Community College to achieve recruitment-retention-graduation goals by creating pathways from Hawai‘i CC to UH Hilo in programs such as agriculture and Hawaiian studies.

All of these approaches to enrollment management need strong administrative support to be effective and there will undoubtedly be new approaches in admissions, financial aid, communications, and course scheduling. For example, including more scholarships in initial financial aid packages to encourage enrollment, and increasing high school visits by faculty and staff to talk with Hawai‘i Island students, are high on the priority list.

UH Hilo cannot grow on its own. We need to work together—faculty, staff, students—along with our local community to the benefit of all. This, combined with our strong partnership with Hawai‘i CC, will ensure that Hawai‘i Island’s high school students and others will have the options they need to access higher education on our island.

For more information, visit our Enrollment Management website.

Aloha,

Don Straney

Mar 022017
 

This type of cultural exchange strengthens a natural partnership, building on a longstanding relationship between Hawai‘i and Japan.

By Don Straney

Last month, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo hosted a Baseball Cultural Tour with players from Chuo University, Tokyo. Chuo is one of the highest ranked academic schools in Japan—located in Tokyo, it has nearly 25,000 students on four campuses.

Chuo University Baseball Team

The Chuo delegation of 35 players, four coaches and administration officials arrived in Hilo on Feb. 19 for a one week cultural tour on Hawai‘i Island and O‘ahu.

The Chuo delegation lodged in UH Hilo on-campus housing for the duration of their visit on Hawai‘i Island, and during their stay, there were two exhibition games, Chuo vs Hilo, on Feb. 21 and 22. As is fitting for a cultural exchange tour, the two-game series split with Chuo winning the opening game by a score of 7-3 and Hilo winning the second game 2-1. I should note that Chuo won the Japan equivalent of the College Baseball World Series in 2016.

The games were a highlight of the tour, part of a larger context of connecting and sharing aloha. This type of cultural exchange strengthens a natural partnership, building on a longstanding relationship between Hawai‘i and Japan. UH Hilo is also currently working collaboratively on common, modern challenges with several universities in Japan in a wide range of fields: business, pharmacy, traditional medicine, disaster resilience, technology, and sustainability.

So it’s only natural to extend that connection through athletics, and baseball in particular. Chuo University is inspirational in its athletic achievements, producing many champions and Olympians, and it was an honor to have them visit and play here.

UH Hilo Baseball Team

On Feb. 20, the Vulcan Baseball team, in partnership with the Japanese Community Association of Hawai‘i and the Hawai‘i Japanese Center, hosted the Chuo baseball team and their delegation at a welcome reception that included dinner.

I enjoyed giving welcome remarks at the dinner along with Baseball Coach Kallen Miyatake; Director of Athletics Patrick Guillen; Dennis Kauka representing Mayor Harry Kim; Ryan Chong from County Parks and Recreation; Art Taniguchi, Honorary Consul General of Japan; Ivan Nakano, President, Japanese Community Association of Hawai‘i; Russell Arikawa, President, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawai‘i; Reverend Naohiro Hotta of Hilo Daijingu Church; and Koji Ikeda, Head Baseball Coach at Chuo University.

I’d also like to give a shout out to Hawai‘i State Representative Mark Hashem (Kāhala, Hawai‘i Kai), who was instrumental in the initial discussions three years ago to make this trip a reality, along with Terry Yagihara and Nathan Yoshioka from Honolulu who helped bridge the ties to Chuo University and UH Hilo.

This was truly a community event. On behalf of UH Hilo, I would like to extend mahalo to the Chuo University baseball team for coming to Hilo, the Hilo business community and Booster Supporters of the Vulcan baseball team, Arnold and Eloise Hiura (Hawai‘i Japanese Center), Gladys Sonomura and the volunteers at the Hawai‘i Japanese Center, Barry Taniguchi of KTA Superstores for his longtime support of UH Hilo, Derek Kurisu, George Yoshida, George and Shirley Ito for video, John Oshima for photography, and Reiko Hamano for interpretative services.

The future intent is to return the series trip to Tokyo to play Chuo University in 2018, then either host Chuo again in 2019 or another Japanese team in future years.

Aloha,

Don Straney

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