Above photo: Happy customers at the sold-out annual poinsettia plant sale, Campus Center Plaza, UH Hilo. The plants are grown by students of the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management. Nov. 28, 2018. Photo by Raiatea Arcuri.
A message from Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai to the UH Hilo community:
As we start the holiday season, I reflect on the amazing and talented people who are part of our university ‘ohana, and I’d like to share with you some of the accomplishments of the past semester.
We started our new academic year with The Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2018 Almanac ranking the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo as the most diverse four-year public university in the United States. The cultural and ethnic diversity found in our university ‘ohana strengthens everything we do in teaching, research, and outreach, and prepares our students to be productive citizens in the real world.
A team of our genetic researchers studying the ‘alalā (Hawaiian crow), led by biologist Jolene Sutton, published their work describing the high-quality reference genome that was generated to assist recovery efforts for the endangered bird. Researchers Martin Helmkampf and Renee Bellinger, along with collaborators from the Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program, San Diego Zoo Global, and Pacific Biosciences, all contributed to the project. This is an extremely important contribution to the world of conservation genetics. The genome assembly is now publicly available.
And our conservation biology students also made headlines. A group of our graduate students in the tropical conservation biology and environmental science program presented their work at the 25th Annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference held in Honolulu. Two of the students came home with honors: Geneviève Blanchet was awarded Outstanding Graduate Student Oral Presentation, and Koa Matsuoka was awarded Runner-Up for Outstanding Graduate Poster Presentation.
The Kahuawaiola Indigenous Teacher Education Program received accreditation. The UH Hilo graduate certificate program is the first teacher education program in the world to receive accreditation from the prestigious international authority, the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium. The consortium also renewed accreditation for the UH Hilo Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language. Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, director of the college, and all faculty and staff of the college are to be congratulated for their hard work in making UH Hilo’s language and culture revitalization program a model for the world to follow.
Students and researchers in the physics and astronomy program celebrated the installation of 12 brand new high-end desktops and monitors, along with a new data processing and storage Linux computer system, thanks to a generous donation by the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory. The TMT gift totaled over $28,000 in equipment, supporting the replacement of 10 aged computers purchased in 2010 that no longer met department needs.
UH Hilo launched its long-planned data science program this fall by offering a certificate in the fast growing field. Program Director Roberto Pelayo says the program is filling a need in the state because almost every branch of science collects massive amounts of data, but there are not a lot of trained people able to analyze that data and make conclusions—for example, here on our island, in conservation efforts, water resource management, and climate change impacts. The data science certificate is open to all students, regardless of major or background. Computer scientist Travis Mandel, mathematician Grady Weyenberg, and colleagues across many branches of science put in untold hours to create this new data science program.
Last month, a new aeronautical sciences degree program was approved by the UH Board of Regents. The provisional bachelor of science program has two concentrations: one in commercial professional pilot training, and another in commercial aerial information technology (which utilizes drones), where there is a high projected workforce need in the state. Ken Hon, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Bruce Mathews, dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management where the program is housed, achieved a major milestone in bringing the program to life.
These are just a few of the exciting accomplishments of the semester that provide positive learning experiences for our students, conduct important research for our environment and communities, and expand outreach to improve the quality of life for everyone. Mahalo to all of you for your contributions.
Members of the UH Hilo ‘ohana has some fun yesterday at the Chancellor’s Holiday Celebration. At the event, Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai hosted a cookie contest and a photo booth to immortalize everyone dressing up in “ugly or festive” Christmas wear. A good time was had by all!
Through applied learning in research, internships, and creative endeavors, students enhance their classroom learning and get a big boost toward advanced degrees, future employment, and leadership roles in their professions and their communities.
Every student at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is offered the opportunity to apply their textbook knowledge to the real world through research, internships, creative endeavors, student employment and more. Through this type of scholarly work, students enhance their classroom learning and get a big boost toward advanced degrees, future employment, and leadership roles in their professions and their communities.
I would like to share with you three of our student research programs and a few extraordinary students doing important research and inquiry of great benefit to the people of our state and the island environment. These accomplished students—and many others in these and other programs, too many to name here in this column—are already contributing in positive ways to the problems facing our island state.
Students of Hawaiʻi Advanced Research Program (SHARP)
SHARP is a relatively new program, largely supporting under-represented students, particularly Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who would like to do research in preparation for doctoral studies. The students are mentored by expert faculty researchers to develop interest and competence in biomedical and behavioral sciences research. The program is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) and is administered through the UH Hilo Department of Anthropology.
Undergraduates Duke Escobar (biology major) and Kieran-Tiaye Long (psychology) are investigating the anti-bacterial efficacy of native Hawaiian plant-based medicines. Dallas Freitas (chemistry) is researching key mechanisms of ion channel signaling in cancer drug resistance and the tumor microenvironment.
Jasmine Hicking (biology) is researching medicinal plants, specifically anti-cancer and anti-bacterial agents from microorganisms and herbal medicine. Skyla Lee (chemistry-bioscience) is doing research on synthesis and evaluation of antibacterial and anti-cancer agents in natural products. Doctoral student Nathan Sunada (pharmaceutical sciences) is investigating neuroblastoma and the mechanisms that promote cancer progression through a native Hawaiian perspective.
Keaholoa STEM Program
The goal of Keaholoa is to increase enrollment, support, and graduation rates of Native Hawaiians and other underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM disciplines. Over the years, Keaholoa has become a program where minority students can engage in scientifically rigorous research that is grounded in indigenous or native cultural practices and knowledge.
For example, anthropology student Rosa Motta has compiled water property data from nearshore marine environments using historical land use patterns and archaeological sites to determine the health of coastlines in terms of the ʻāina-kai (land-ocean) relationship. Physics major Gabriel Gutierrez mapped coral reef health using traditional Hawaiian canoes. Environmental science major Jowell Guerreiro is interested in restoring loko i‘a (fishponds) and collected data on flow rates during specific moon phases.
Marine Option Program (MOP)
MOP is a UH systemwide certificate program, offered on all UH campuses, providing educational opportunities for students from all disciplines who are interested in studying the ocean.
Earlier this year, three students from UH Hilo MOP came home with awards from the statewide MOP Student Symposium held at Windward Community College. The annual event features oral and poster presentations by undergraduate MOP students from UH campuses around the state. Our students were outstanding representatives of UH Hilo, and brought home major awards, including best research presentation, which has been won by UH Hilo MOP students in 24 of the past 29 years.
Julia Stewart won best research presentation for her research project on coral, an ambitious project using bioinformatics. Wheatley Crawley won best poster presentation for her project on conservation at Wai‘opae, one of the last research projects at the teeming tidepools before the recent lava flow tragically covered the area. Michelle Nason won the John P. Craven Child of the Sea award for her work establishing a coral nursery on Hawai‘i Island.
Budding scholars, future leaders
Many UH Hilo graduates have benefited greatly from our various applied learning programs. When they move on to graduate school, doctoral programs, or professional positions, they are already well-skilled in doing sustainability, conservation, health, community-based research projects and more that make an impact.
As we prepare for the close of the semester and Fall Commencement, I’d like to congratulate the graduating class, wish each student great success, and thank everyone for your contributions to UH Hilo, our students, and our community.
Sending aloha to you and your families this holiday season!
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai presented the UH Hilo Enrollment Management Report to the UH Board of Regents on Nov. 1, 2018, at the UH Mānoa campus. Here is the text of her PowerPoint presentation to the BOR.
2018-2019 Action Strategies for Enrollment Growth
Strategic use of financial aid
Digital communication (email, web, texting, social media)
*1 Includes U.S. Military. *2 Increase of #.# percentage points to the retention rate in the second fall semester of enrollment, decaying by 0.1 percentage point through fall 12. *3 Corrected.
Increased applications and acceptances
First-time freshmen enrollment sustains increase in prior year
Fewer transfer students enrolled than targeted
Increased Hawai’i island and resident enrollment; decreased non-resident enrollment
Lower retention rates for first time freshmen and first time transfer students
Improved persistence for continuing students
Continued high FAFSA completions
Financial Aid TV’s Get Answers
Total of 961 videos watched March to September 2018, video viewership highest on Saturday and most videos viewed between 6:00pm to 11:00pm
EAB/Royall Decision IQ campaign
Up to 7 messages delivered to 800+ accepted freshmen on decision to enroll
Geo-fenced mobile advertising
700,000+ impressions, 8 UHCC campuses, nearly 4000 “click-thrus” to university website and ‘apply’ page
Up to 12 messages, thousands of individual messages, delivered to 1200+ accepted freshmen and transfer students
‘Opihi Student Success – Tailored communication for continuing and stopped out students
2529 registered seniors, juniors, and sophomores contacted Spr 2018, average 86.6% across all 4 colleges registered for Fall 2018
421 students stopped out AY 16-17 contacted, 37 (8.8%) registered to re-enroll for Fall 2018;
13 students graduate through petition to modify graduation requirements
Mentor Collective peer mentor program
89.3% of 93 new students matched with mentor, total 427 hours engagement Spr 2018
MySuccess early alert system
6 Math & English courses, 1 Chemistry section, coordinated outreach with 5 student support program; 594 issues identified, 79% resolved timely, 59 flags raised, 86% cleared
Campus Enrollment Targets 2019-20 to 2021-22
Historical Enrollment Count
Targeted Enrollment Count
Percentage Change Total
First-time Freshmen Total (1*)
Percentage Change FTF
Hawai‘i Island Direct Entrants (2*)
O‘ahu Direct Entrants
Maui County and Kaua‘i Direct Entrants
Transfer Total (1*)
Percentage Change Transfer
Hawai‘i Community College
Other UH Community College
Continuing / Returning (3*)
First-time Freshmen Retained (4*)
Retention Rate – First-Time, Full-Time
Transfer Retained (4*)
Retention Rate – Full-Time
*1 Data from UH IRAO Tracking system – numbers will not tie to other sources. *2 Direct entrants are students who enrolled in college directly from high school without delay after high school graduation. *3 Data from IRO Base, Census; includes classified undergraduate students only. *4 First-time freshmen and transfers retained from prior fall semester tracking cohorts.
2019-2020 Action Strategies for Enrollment Growth
EAB/Royall Strategic Search for prospective high school students
Strategic use of financial aid
Digital communication for prospective and continuing students
2+2 pathways for UH community college transfer students
Entry and first year services for transfer students
Completion of English and math in 1st year
Career pathway major choice, career exploration, employment advising