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UH Hilo Chancellor's Blog Posts

Chancellor’s remarks at “Healing Through Culture and Arts” symposium

A collage of photos from the symposium of people doing lei making and other cultural art. At the center is banner: Healing Through Culture and Arts.
Photos from the “Healing Through Culture and Arts” symposium, Oct. 6.. (Alana Ortiz/Waiolama)

Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin delivered these remarks at a campus symposium titled “Healing Through Culture and Arts” held on Oct. 6. The event was presented by the UH Hilo Office of Equal Opportunity; the Committee for Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and the Waiolama Center, which is UH Hilo’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center. The event celebrated UH Hilo’s diversity with workshops and discussions.

Aloha mai kākou,

Hōʻoia ʻĀina (Land Acknowledgement Statement)

He kalahea kēia a ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi ma Hilo, mai ke Keʻena o ke Poʻo Kulanui:
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 kālaʻike 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 e ʻākoakoa ana i ʻaneʻi.

Aloha mai kākou.


On behalf of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, the Office of the Chancellor acknowledges the following:
Hawaiʻi is an indigenous space whose original people are today identified as Native Hawaiians. The university is in the land division called Waiākea, in the district of Hilo. The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo aligns with the University of Hawaiʻi 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. This land acknowledgement welcomes everyone who gathers here.

Greetings to all.

I am honored to welcome you to the Fall Symposium on Healing through Culture & Arts, hosted by the Waiolama Center here at UH Hilo.

It is important, especially on a day when we contemplate racial healing through arts and culture, that we take a moment to honor those who originally settled here. As a relative newcomer to this place, I am grateful to be allowed to share this space in which to live and work.

Two years ago, UH Hilo applied successfully to be a center for Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT). This program, sponsored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), allows us to build on our already robust programming on diversity, equity, and inclusion here on campus as part of a network of nearly 50 universities, including our sister campus at Mānoa. Waiolama, aims to provide a safe space for the campus community to engage in critical conversations around racial disparities and systemic injustices, both past and present, and promote healing and understanding of shared humanity.

Today, Waiolama brings us together through arts and culture, both of which form the basis for identity, communication, and healing.

My mother, who is an artist, ran into an old friend at church last week. They had not seen each other for a few years, so my mother got her friend up to speed on her recent health challenges, and the first question her friend, also an artist, asked her was, “Have you gotten back to your art yet?” Mom’s friend Pat knows not only that art is important to my mother, but also the role in can play in our physical and mental health. As I participate today, I reflect on those same things.

Through the practice of traditional arts we can also build connection to our native Hawaiian host culture, nurture our connection to ʻāina, and come together as a campus ʻohana.

We are rightly proud of our status as one of the most diverse universities in the country, but without doing the hard and important work on equity and inclusion, that diversity statistic is just a number. Through the efforts of Waiolama and other programs on campus, we hope to be able to truly be a model of equity and justice for others, to be a center for healing and unity in our community, and to be a place where every student and employee feels welcomed and valued.

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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Oct. 2023: UH Hilo’s colleges of business and pharmacy are focused on strengthening ties with the community

Bonnie Irwin pictured
Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin

In my ongoing series of columns on the six colleges at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and their impact on the community, this month I’d like to focus on the College of Business and Economics and the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy.

College of Business and Economics

Our College of Business and Economics is one of only two business schools in the state accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. This is a distinction shared by fewer than 10 percent of business schools world-wide. Attending an AACSB-accredited institution ensures our students are receiving their education and degree from one of the best business schools in the world.

As of last year, the college is under new leadership with Todd Inouye, an associate professor of management who started teaching at the college in 2019. Within two years, he was promoted from assistant professor to associate professor, and last year received tenure, something he feels is a great honor and validation of his hard work, offering him a sense of belonging.

Todd Inouye pictured.
Todd Inouye

He is now focused on expanding community-engaged opportunities at the college for both students and faculty, and on how the college can contribute to cross-disciplinary collaboration both within and outside of UH Hilo. A great example of this is Delta Sigma Pi, the college’s co-ed business fraternity, that holds events to introduce students to local business owners to jumpstart internships and practical experience opportunities of benefit to both.

The college is also engaged with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Hawai‘i and the Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce, and hosted a “fireside chat” with HICC members and the college’s leadership and faculty last spring.

Plans are underway to update the college’s advisory board membership for a more community-oriented approach. This development is in conjunction with meetings with stakeholders such as the UH System’s Office of Innovation and Commercialization, Hilo Fish Company, Waiakea High School, and Honoka‘a High and Intermediate School, to explore options to grow and enhance student learning. The college is well-positioned for success in these initiatives.

Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

At the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy we are currently searching for a permanent dean. For the past year-and-a-half, the college has been under the leadership of interim dean Miriam Mobley Smith, who came to us with experience in this kind of role. She immediately focused on the college’s transition between deans and in stewarding the college in its vision of the future.

Miriam Mobley Smith pictured.
Miriam Mobley Smith

Finding faculty at the college most concerned about enrollment, curriculum, revenue, research, and the college community’s environment and atmosphere, the interim dean set her priorities to strengthen and enhance those areas, including the expansion of research, community collaborations, and clinical services. Notably, she has created pathways for students from the other nine UH campuses into our pharmacy program. Placing emphasis on making a difference in the local community is the driving force behind it all.

As the interim dean says, the bottom line is that good medicine can help communities, and it is our responsibility to make positive differences in our community. The action plan to achieve this is in strengthening connections between students and the resources offered through both the college and local community. A crucial connecting point for this is through faculty who can serve as mentors, assist with community networking, arrange volunteer experiences, and be aware of local health care niches in which students can intern and then later develop their careers.

I’m excited about the future for both these colleges as their ties become stronger with the communities we serve and our students are trained and educated in a way that makes them productive and responsible global citizens even before they graduate.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Sept. 2023: Updates on College of Arts and Sciences, and College of Ag

Bonnie Irwin pictured
Bonnie Irwin

Although I usually focus on University of Hawai‘i at Hilo as a whole, there is a lot going on in our six colleges that shows where we are going and the impact our university has on our community, and I’d like to focus on them for the coming months’ columns. The College of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management, for example, both provide excellent opportunities for students to learn and grow.

College of Arts and Sciences

The College of Arts and Sciences offers a wide range of undergraduate programs in social and earth sciences, political science, sociology, the arts, language, history, and more. It also houses the School of Education that offers two master degree programs that directly impact our local communities—one prepares students to become teachers, the other fosters professional growth of current teachers. Other graduate programs are in counseling psychology and heritage management, also of great benefit to our local communities. Several certificate programs help students round out their skillset.

Michael Bitter pictured
Michael Bitter

Leading the college is Michael Bitter, a professor of history who taught at UH Hilo for 17 years before becoming interim dean of the college several years ago; he is now the permanent dean. He’s been working on a variety of initiatives designed to improve student support as well as faculty and staff success. He’s also actively engaged in promoting the expansion of academic programs and collaborating with the Center for Global Education and Exchange to increase exchange opportunities for UH Hilo students to study at partner universities, both nationally and internationally.

The research and internships happening at the college are often inter-related; it’s not unusual for students to work alongside researchers, gathering and analyzing data, with their names included on published studies in leading journals, reflecting their contributions to this important work. Much of this research directly affects our island communities and environment, for example, students are working closely with faculty on investigating mental and physical health issues of combat veterans and firefighters, timely work given the recent wildfire tragedies on Maui.

The College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management

Norman Arancon pictured
Norman Arancon

The College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management is now under new leadership. Norman Arancon, who started his work as director of the college over the summer, is a horticulturalist who joined UH Hilo in 2008. He specializes in sustainable agriculture, horticulture, crop sciences, agroecology, and organic agriculture. His research on vermiculture and vermicomposting is recognized and valued internationally, and the totality of his expertise is of great benefit to the Hawai‘i agricultural community.

He’s also been very involved in college affairs and the UH Hilo community, with student success a high priority. I know he will make an excellent leader for the college.

The college offers baccalaureate degrees in three areas: animal health and management, including a pre-veterinary option; aquaculture; and tropical agroecology. The college also offers certificates in beekeeping and equine science. Overall curriculum includes classroom work plus hands-on, practical, technology-based education at the university’s agricultural farm laboratory in Pana‘ewa.

In this college, too, faculty and students are conducting research of great importance to our island and state agricultural communities as well as the public at large. For example, students are working closely with researchers investigating the feasibility of growing substantial amounts of “energycane,” sugar cane used for its biomass as a source for jet fuel—groundbreaking research happening at the farm lab that has the potential to impact local farmers, the state’s sustainability goals, and the local economy.

This college also provides a home for our new aeronautical science program. We celebrated the first two graduates last spring, and the program is being offered provisionally beginning this fall. There are two pathways: the pilot pathway is the first step in a lucrative career as an airline pilot; the aerial information technology pathway leads to professional certification as a commercial drone operator. Professional pilots and drone operators are much needed locally, nationally, and internationally, and this program will produce skilled graduates ready for the workforce or advanced training.

I’m excited about the changes and growth happening at these two colleges, and I look forward to updating you about our other colleges in future columns.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

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Faculty and staff are invited to next University Forum, Aug. 23

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, Aug. 23, 2023, Noon to 1:00 p.m., via Zoom.

Join Zoom Meeting:

Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 960 4702 8431
Passcode: 538021

Questions may be submitted in advance to Alyson Kakugawa-Leong.

Call the Office of University Relations for additional information.

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