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UH Hilo Chancellor's Blog Posts

Presentation: University Update to the UH Board of Regents, Nov. 17, 2022

For their monthly meeting, the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents met at UH Hilo on Nov. 17, 2022 (see full agenda and materials). The meeting was held at the UH Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy and was the first BOR meeting held on a neighbor island campus since November 2019 due to the pandemic.

On the agenda was a presentation by Chancellor Bonnie Irwin who gave the regents an update on UH Hilo. Also presenting for UH Hilo: Karen Pellegrin of the Faculty Congress, Lei Kapono on behalf of the Hanakahi Council, Blaine Bautista and Matthew Kalahiki of the Staff Council, and student Blue of the UH Hilo Student Association.

Here is the PowerPoint of the presentation. Click images to enlarge.

Title slide: University Update to the UH Board of Regents

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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, November 2022: Who are our students?

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

As we watch the university enrollment trends across the country, the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is not too different from our peers. Nationwide, there are fewer college-aged students to go around, and colleges and universities compete for enrollment and try to distinguish themselves as best we can. Almost every university touts individual attention, expert faculty and meaningful student experiences. We can argue that UH Hilo does these things better, but when everyone else is making the same claim, it becomes hard to distinguish our excellence. Why do certain students choose UH Hilo and how do we know who will thrive here? These are the questions that our recent data efforts seek to answer.

We start with data.

Who comes to UH Hilo? Like many other places, we see more women coming through our doors than men—64% vs. 35% (1% did not report). We know we serve an ethnically diverse population. Indeed US News & World Report has named us the most diverse National University for the last few years. Within that diversity, about a third of our students identify as Native Hawaiian, 19% as Asian, and 24% Caucasian. Most notably, and a reflection of our island, some 14% identify themselves as mixed race. As I have noted before, this diversity is one of the great strengths of our campus and our community.

We serve mostly Hawaiʻi residents: 71% of our students are considered residents for admissions purposes. Of those students, the majority come from Hawaiʻi county. We are the local campus, the most affordable university option. Still, many families choose to send students to the countinent for their education. That is certainly understandable, given the desire that young people (and their parents) have for a broader experience, but how many of our local families know that UH Hilo is a member of the National Student Exchange, which allows our students to attend another university on the continent while paying their in-state UH tuition? The same applies to our numerous international exchange partners.

Once we know who comes, the harder question to answer is, “Who stays?” For example, we find that the graduation rate for Native Hawaiian students is roughly the same as that for the student body as a whole. Our Native Hawaiian support programs, such as peer mentoring, certainly help with this. We will learn from these programs to see how we can best support other students. We also know that we retain and graduate our resident students at a higher rate than our out-of-state students.

The companion question, of course, is, “Who leaves?” A group of faculty and staff participated in the Student Success Data Analytics program last year, and the issue that they have chosen to tackle is how the leaving and staying play out among our transfer students. Once we learn who leaves and who stays (by major, by race, by residence), we will follow up with focus groups and interviews. Why do people leave? We know that sometimes there are personal issues that come up that cannot be avoided. If a non-resident student leaves, we also consider the impact of homesickness. Other times, a student decides on an academic path that is not available here. In some cases, a student may never have planned to stay, but opted to start at Hilo because it was convenient.

Finding answers to these questions will allow us to better serve our students, grow our enrollment, and ensure that UH Hilo remains the vibrant and successful university that that Hawai‘i needs and Hawai‘i Island deserves.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor, UH Hilo

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Faculty and staff are invited to next University Forum, Oct. 26

Poster: University Forum, with flags

Faculty and staff at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo are invited to the next University Forum scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, noon to 1:00 p.m., via Zoom.

Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 955 0854 5862
Passcode: 710671

Beginning this month, University Forums via Zoom will no longer be recorded.

Questions may be submitted in advance to

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Nominations underway for new UH Hilo Staff Council

(This post is adapted from an email announcement from Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin to the UH Hilo community, Oct. 12, 2022.)

UH Hilo seal, red lettering University of Hawaii and the state motto.

A University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Staff Council is being developed with the nomination and election process of members to institutionalize the council now underway. The UH Hilo Office of the Chancellor is providing initial support for this nomination and subsequent election process. This process is timely because it precedes the development of the UH System Staff Council. All campuses will be represented on the UH System Staff Council via their respective campus Staff Council.

The UH Hilo Staff Council will function in an advisory capacity to the UH Hilo chancellor and administration with the express goal of promoting the general welfare of the university through advocacy, the inclusion of staff perspectives, and providing opportunities to enhance the personal and professional knowledge, skills, and abilities of civil service and administrative, professional and technical (APT) employees.

Representation on the council will be balanced along functional and organizational lines with voting members. Each division should have at least one civil service employee and one APT employee on the council and no more than one casual hire. Here are the numbers:

      • Academic Affairs: four members.
      • Student Affairs: four members.
      • Administrative Affairs: four members.
      • Chancellor’s Unit: two members.
      • Staff-At-Large: up to three members (based upon interest to serve and election results).

Nominations are currently being accepted through Oct. 26. Link to the online nomination form was sent out to the UH Hilo community via email today. Elections will be held in November via google form. Members will be announced by the end of the fall 2022 semester. Members will begin meeting in the spring 2023 semester.

Helpful FAQs

      • What is a university staff council? A group of selected representatives from major divisions of the university. The role of this council is to serve as a body representing the views and needs of all staff throughout campus.
      • Why a formal staff council? Direct communication with the chancellor; advisory voice at the UH System level via representatives on UH System Staff Council.
      • Why does membership include temporary hires, emergency hires, casual hires, and part-time staff in addition to regular civil service and APT staff? There are many dedicated non-regular staff that have insight on campus operations and also a wealth of knowledge and talent to contribute to a high functioning council.
      • Why is it a balanced representation of staff? Data was analyzed to determine membership across the four large units. The chancellor’s unit is the smallest of the four large units and membership reflects that.
      • What are the initial actions? Finalize charter; develop bylaws (including terms of elected members); determine frequency of meetings as a council; determine frequency of meetings with the chancellor; host an “assembly” for all UH Hilo staff in later 2023.
      • If elected, how long does a member serve in a role? The term will be determined by those elected in finalizing the charter and bylaws.

Further questions?

Additional questions about the establishment of a staff council or anyone who would like to speak to colleagues serving on the working group may contact the following members that have attended at least two of the monthly discussion meetings: Ashley Magallanes, Blaine Bautista, Catherina Amantiad, Christine Iha, Christopher Wung, Davelyn Cruz, Jacqueline Sales-Iyo, Lai Sha Bugado, Madeline Sehna, Matthew Kalahiki, Raquel Zane, Shelby Iwamoto, Timothy Moore, Veronica Tarleton, and Summer Tawney.

For help with technical problems with the nomination form, contact Lei Kapono via email at

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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Oct. 2022: Preparing students for local and Pacific Island jobs

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

In the interest of continuous improvement and providing rich experiences for students, this last summer, teams of faculty and staff from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo visited with the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) in Kona and the ʻIole Stewardship Center in Kohala. Both visits were part of our island-wide strategy of making sure students are ready for their chosen careers and using our people power to help our ʻāina and our communities.

Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority

At NELHA, faculty learned how they might better prepare our students for the work of work in the various industries represented. As we look to the ocean environment more and more for food and environmental health, numerous skills are needed. If one wants to work in aquaculture, for example, having strong background in fish physiology is essential.

For other areas, some background in marine technology and engineering would be useful, even for those students who do not intend to become engineers. There will be consistent need for trained professionals and NELHA, and having faculty learn more about those needs helps UH Hilo design our curriculum accordingly.

Across the country, colleges and universities are hearing from employers that improved communications skills are needed. Many students hate public speaking, but they realize that they will need to deliver reports and make presentations in almost any job they pursue. Connecting the university with employers helps communicate this message even more clearly.

For many of the small start-ups at NELHA, some business acumen is also essential. Thus our College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management is looking to infuse their curriculum with courses in business and the bioeconomy.

ʻIole Stewardship Center

At the ʻIole Stewardship Center, UH Hilo faculty learned of the vision of ʻIole to create a 21st-century ahupuaʻa, a place where an indigenous worldview meets conservation and resource management. If our natural science, geography, Hawaiian studies and anthropology students can become practitioners of aloha and ʻāina, we can prepare them for local and Pacific Island jobs as well as have them give back to the community.

Projects that faculty and students undertake at ʻIole will range from mapping the site to understanding the distribution of native and invasive species to understanding the historical ecology of ʻIole. This work, done in partnership with ʻIole, colleagues from UH and Arizona State University, and the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, has the potential to demonstrate how we will live and work on islands far into the future and begin to slow the damage wrought by ignoring our environment.

UH Hilo is a campus anchored in this place which thrives on relationships. The connections forged by our faculty and staff this summer are great examples of how building relationships will help us all thrive: richer educational experiences for students and contributions to our island ʻāina and ʻohana.

With aloha,
Bonnie D. Irwin

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