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UH Hilo Chancellor's Blog Posts

Chancellor’s Monthly Column, August 2022: UH Hilo’s new strategic plan is now in the action planning stage

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

This summer we’ve been busy moving forward with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s new Strategic Plan, focusing on the action planning stage. In this month’s column, I would like to share with you the progress on three of the plan’s goals.

Students and the Community

One goal of the plan is to strengthen and support ‘āina- and community-based learning for our students. A foundational component to this goal is our students going out into the community to work directly with local organizations, gaining hands-on skills that are of benefit not only to the student, but also to the organization and the local community or environment at large. This type of service learning teaches our students how to become good citizens and good stewards for the public good, while also preparing them well for employment or advancing their education immediately upon graduation.

Julie Mowrer pictured
Julie Mowrer

This summer, Julie Mowrer, acting director of our Center for Community Engagement, and the committee she heads tasked with finding ways to grow our service learning programs, began their work. They started by conducting a survey among faculty and staff who are experienced in this type of community engagement to better understand what people already do. One question they asked is “What do you believe UH Hilo can do as a campus to demonstrate the importance of our community partnerships?” The Chancellor’s new Community Advisory Board has also been asked for feedback. The information gleaned from this collective mana‘o will help guide our way forward in strengthening community engagement.


Jim Beets pictured.
Jim Beets

Another goal of our new strategic plan is to strengthen and support research. This initiative is led by Jim Beets, professor of marine science and chair of our Research Council. UH Hilo faculty conduct place-based, applied research of benefit to the people of Hawaiʻi Island and the state. It is crucial that in these tough economic times, our researchers remain fully supported in the work they do on important issues from climate change to environmental protection to cultural preservation and more.

The first item of business in strengthening our research capacity is to offer events and workshops that support research development. In addressing this goal, the Research Council conducted a faculty workshop last academic year on research opportunities and university resources for supporting research development, and the council is planning to conduct another workshop this fall. The group is also planning another round of Seed Money Grants this fall, which will be focused toward junior faculty and staff and interdisciplinary research.

The Research Council is also hoping to provide information for the New Faculty Orientation to provide new faculty with additional research support information.


Alyson Kakugawa-Leong pictured
Alyson Kakugawa-Leong

Our new strategic plan also has a goal of nurturing and strengthening campus relationships and campus culture. To address this, a new program for UH Hilo employees, “E Launa Pū: Reconnect, Learn and Enjoy!” launched in June, led by Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, our interim director of University Relations. The goal is to give staff opportunities for self-development while connecting with each other in meaningful ways. Topics for both indoor and outdoor activities are based on results from the recent University Relations Action Plan Employee Survey.

For June and July, an activity was offered every week, including workshops on gardening, food safety, professional development, auto maintenance, interactive abstract drawing, and cooking. There also are monthly professional development workshops scheduled through March 2023 presented by Ku‘ikahi Mediation Center.

I do hope the “E Launa Pū” program grows with more and more people participating, especially those who have been living in virtual isolation since covid restrictions were imposed. Connecting with others, especially in a fun learning environment, is a crucial part of feeling healthy, productive, and valued. I encourage all employees to join in!

I’m excited to see our new strategic plan already affecting change throughout our campus. I plan on updating you on more of our progress throughout coming the academic year.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor, UH Hilo


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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, July 2022: Strengthening study abroad and international collaboration

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

While one of our main strategic goals at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is to strengthen ‘āina- and community-based curriculum and programs that anchor students’ learning experiences here at home, we also are tasked with connecting our haumana to the outside world to prepare them to be active citizens and professionals in increasingly interdependent global communities and economies.

To achieve this goal, we are working on several fronts that include both students and faculty.

Director of Global Exchange Todd Shumway and Director of Global Education Carolina Lam, at UH Hilo’s Center for Global Education and Exchange, are working closely with faculty to develop ways to encourage and increase students’ participation in international study programs. Directors Shumway and Lam are each heading a committee of faculty dedicated to achieving this goal.

One committee is working on creating more opportunities for Global Vulcan Alumni (students who have studied abroad) to share their experiences with current students to inspire and support those students planning to go abroad. This includes former study abroad alumni who are from Hawai‘i Island returning to their high school alma mater to talk about their international journey and encourage more students to attend UH Hilo and take advantage of international study opportunities.

In tandem with this, a multimedia marketing campaign is under development in conjunction with general campus recruitment to seek out potential students who may be inspired to attend the university specifically because of the opportunities we offer for international study and exchange.

The committee is also working with faculty on ways our professors and instructors can make use of university and personal partnerships to globalize their classrooms. Faculty are in the best of positions to create enthusiasm in their students to pursue study abroad and can also then use their expertise to advise those students on course selection and transfer credits.

The second committee is working on online resources.

One website is under development to provide faculty with access to resources about collaborative online international learning, commonly called COIL, in the classroom. COIL is an instructional tool used by many universities in the United States and worldwide to encourage online collaboration between international partners and would bring voices from other countries and cultures into our classrooms.

Another website will assist our faculty in finding international experts who would like to connect with our campus as visiting scholars. This online guide will provide faculty with information on steps to follow and available resources to bring international colleagues to UH Hilo for research or team teaching, as well as provide info about funding for collaborative curriculum and professional development in support of this work.

UH Hilo is uniquely positioned to instill in our students not only the importance of being ‘āina- and community-based in their educational aspirations, but also the importance of knowing how to connect to international resources. I’m excited to see these UH Hilo projects strengthen and support our international and domestic study away programs.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor, UH Hilo

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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, June 2022: UH Hilo is abuzz this summer!

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

Just a couple of weeks ago, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo returned to the Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium for our first in-person spring commencement in three years. Family and friends cheered on the grads and we were all excited by all the potential symbolized in those new teachers, counselors, nurses, pharmacists, and other professionals who leave our university to embark on their careers or graduate school.

The staff who planned and executed commencement took a few days to take a breath and reboot for the summer. Those who work at universities are often asked what they are going to do with their “summer off.” The reality, of course, is that even though there are not as many classes in the summer, the university is abuzz with activity and our faculty, staff, and students are quite busy!

With the easing of the pandemic, faculty are embarking on long-postponed research travel across the globe, which will allow them to share their expertise with others and to bring new ideas back to campus and into the classrooms and labs. Some are traveling to present their research at professional meetings; others are taking students on field experiences, the sort of thing that the flexibility of summer allows.

Students are also fanning out into the community on internship experiences.

For example, the Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science (PIPES), a summer internship program dedicated to growing the next generation of leaders in natural resource management, is running from May 31 through August 5. PIPES connects under-represented undergraduate students, especially Native Hawaiians and kamaʻāina, to internships with agencies and organizations working on environmental issues in Hawaiʻi and throughout the Pacific region. The vision is to help create a diverse and representative workforce that embodies and integrates mālama ʻāina innovations into ways of knowing, relationships, actions, and professions.

Back on campus, we are hosting a number of groups this summer.

Upward Bound programs are helping students with academic instruction and tutoring, financial aid and scholarship applications, college and career exploration, and more.

The Akamai Internship Program gives Hawai‘i students a summer work experience at an observatory, company, scientific, or technical facility in Hawai‘i for eight weeks. We are housing the Hawai‘i Island interns and our faculty are engaged in teaching and mentoring participants.

We also are hosting Hawai‘i high school students from Nalukai Academy, a local leadership program guiding future entrepreneurs in technological, cultural, and social ventures. This is a wonderful way to introduce young people to our campus.

Our College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management is a co-sponsor of the first annual Tropical AgTech Conference, to be held this month at the UH Hilo Performing Arts Center, June 22-23. A student-friendly event, innovators and technologists from our island, state, and around the world are coming here to talk about innovative technology that can be applied in the tropics. Our very own Bruce Mathews, dean of the college, will be speaking on the first day of the conference about Hawai’i Island soils and tropical agricultural and ecosystem sustainability.

In addition, this ag conference dovetails well with our joint application for U.S. Economic Development Administration funding for our ag sector through the Build Back Better program, a COVID-19 relief spending bill that includes a jobs plan related to climate change.

This is just a sample of what is happening at UH Hilo this summer, in addition to our classes.

We also use the summer to plan for the arrival of new and returning students in the fall, prepare to recruit our 2023 students, and work on items in our strategic plan. We are mapping the many ways we engage with our island community so that we can see where the pukas are and where we can do better.

Another strategic planning team is looking for ways to increase our global engagement. Local and global engagement go hand-in-hand as we bring the world to Hilo and also send our students abroad to learn more about the world.

Now that the pandemic has eased somewhat, students who have long-postponed their international study and adventure are being allowed to travel to countries where it is safe. A local parent reports that the delay brought by the pandemic has actually worked in favor for her family in that both her daughters will now be able to study abroad together!

This has been a tough couple of years and I am proud of the way UH Hilo faculty and staff have persevered to deliver the very best education and opportunities to our students every step of the way. I look forward to seeing the many summer activities on our thriving campus.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor, UH Hilo

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Faculty and staff are invited to next University Forum, May 17

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 Tuesday, May 17, 2022, 11:00 a.m., via Zoom.

Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 975 2381 9005
Passcode: 397150

Questions may be submitted in advance to up to 30 minutes prior.

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Faculty and staff are invited to next University Forum, April 26, 2022

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 Tuesday, April 26, noon to 1:00 p.m., via Zoom.

Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 954 8660 5969
Passcode: 145764

Questions may be submitted in advance to Questions received less than 30 minutes prior to the session may not be addressed and will have to be asked during the forum.

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