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Message from Chancellor Irwin to Faculty and Staff re online teaching for first two weeks of semester

Please plan for all students in hybrid courses to attend online for the first two weeks of this fall semester.

Aloha Kākou Faculty and Staff,

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

Mahalo everyone for all of your preparations for the start of the fall semester! As you may have read, President Lassner is encouraging maximal reduction of unnecessary presence on UH campuses. The following are necessary adjustments to the start of our UH Hilo fall semester.

Please plan for all students in hybrid courses to attend online for the first two weeks of this fall semester. For all courses that have optional or required face-to-face instruction, please defer that in-person instruction for the first two weeks and prepare alternate activities for your students. An exception to continue face-to-face instruction is granted during this time for the Nursing Program and College of Pharmacy, as needed.

This does not mean a full-scale transition to an online semester.

Hybrid/hyflex classes should plan on some in-person sessions beginning in the third week of the term. It is important that we serve the students who have made an effort to travel to Hilo. These students are here because they need the classes we are planning to offer face-to-face to complete degree requirements, prerequisites, and applied learning experiences. Many have also willingly spent two weeks in quarantine to be able to be here and experience our unique educational and co-curricular programs.

Unlike the campuses on O‘ahu, we are not making this decision based upon a local surge of cases, but rather because of these two factors: reinstatement of the interisland quarantine and ongoing technology upgrades of our classrooms. I am hopeful that the interisland quarantine will be lifted in early September.

Preparation of classrooms will continue during these first two weeks. There was a slight delay in the arrival of some items ordered for the technology upgrades and we will use this time to optimize distance learning capabilities for our students who must attend remotely. We will have the 40-50 most heavily used classrooms ready by August 24. Faculty members who would like to use a classroom to deliver their remote instruction during the first two weeks should contact their deans, and we can make arrangements for you to do so.

Our campus remains open to students, especially for those that need to access computers and Wi-Fi. The library continues to offer a limited number of laptop computers for check out and as we did last spring, we will have computer labs open for use.

All service offices will be open from 7:45 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday (excluding holidays), starting August 17 with sufficient coverage. This includes college offices. Student support services and enrollment services continue to be available for those on campus and are additionally being offered by phone and online. We will have many students physically present on the campus, and even though their classes may be online, they are still in need of the other services we have to offer. Supervisors will work with staff on rotation schedules where possible.

I once again thank you for all you have done and are doing to remain nimble at this time, to support our mission, and to serve our students and your colleagues.

Stay safe and continue to look out for one another.

Me ka mahalo nui,

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo

UH Hilo’s COVID-19 information webpage

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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, August 2020: Ready to launch, a new environment for higher education

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

We are less than month away from the opening of the fall semester at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. The opening of a new semester is a time of great joy and anticipation, as new students begin their academic journeys with us and we welcome back our continuing students. New students often bring with them some fears and anxiety as they enter this new chapter of their lives, but this year, especially, they are not alone. The world has changed utterly in the last six months.

The summer has flown by as working teams on campus have created physical distancing and cleaning protocols. The UH systemwide health check-in app will be released this month, and we have made arrangements for periodic testing to be available for our campus community. Faculty are retooling courses to make sure that both students on campus in person and those attending online will have high quality learning experiences, and we will get as close as we can to a technology-mediated sense of community and aloha for those students who will not be able to join us physically.

Despite all the preparations, however, many are anxious, as has been obvious by the myriad questions coming from faculty and staff, parents and students, and the local community. Parents want to know that their students will be academically and personally supported once they leave their family with whom they have been hunkering down. The local community wants to know that the incoming students will act responsibly, obey the rules of quarantine, and wear their masks when out in public. Campus employees want to know that we are aware of the challenges they may face with their own children learning from home certain days every week, and hope that we will be able to accommodate the complex combinations of schedules. In our various Zoom convenings, people are asking for reassurance that we have taken all the “ifs” under consideration. I am been comforted by the fact that rarely does a question come up that we have not considered.

Most years the new students come to campus with anxiety and we rally around them with aloha and a high standard of care. We challenge their assumptions about the world and challenge them academically, but we also provide a helping hand to pick them up when they stumble. This year, however, we must also look to one another because we all are entering this new academic year with a bit of apprehension. I worry because so many people have been working so hard that the usual summer respite has not really come. I encourage those who can to take a day or two off in the coming weeks to refresh, regroup, and re-energize. Many of us tend to forget our own needs while caring for everyone else. This month, self-care is just as important. Take a walk, read a book, paint, dance, pick up an instrument or a recipe, and just take a bit of time to be.

I was privileged to attend the second session of the Uluākea Virtual Symposium last weekend and learn more about the Ka‘ao Transformation Framework, developed by University of Hawai‘i Maui College and shared with UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College. A way of helping all students, but particularly Native Hawaiian students, transition into college life, the framework has four elements: Hua—purpose, Ha‘alele—preparation, Huaka‘i—cycle of overcoming barriers, and Ho‘i—giving back. As I contemplate what we will face this upcoming year, I find this framework helpful. Our hua of educating students is still our north star. Our Ha‘alele has been ongoing not just over the summer, but for some of us our entire careers as we have learned from past challenges and acquired many tools along the way. The Huaka‘i is ongoing.

We have many more barriers to overcome as we navigate this new environment for higher education in the era of COVID-19. This is the moment, however, where we all must step forward with Ho‘i, not only to support our students, but also to help one another. I have faith in both our will and our ability to do so.

Aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

Top photo: Office worker at UH Hilo wears mask, and shows mask made during the university’s mask-making project in April. Universal wearing of masks will be expected of everyone on campus in the fall. Courtesy photo from the Division of Student Affairs.

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Message from the Chancellor on ICE directive regarding international students

At UH Hilo, we stand with our international students.

Aloha,

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

Today I signed a letter on behalf of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo asking Congress to encourage that the Department of Homeland Security withdraw the July 6 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) directive regarding international students and further asking Congress to “swiftly pass legislation that grants needed flexibility for our international students and institutions during the global pandemic.” The letter, issued by the American Council on Education and supported by all the other major higher education associations, will be delivered to Congress next week.

As UH President David Lassner wrote in his July 9 message, we view the ICE declaration as unfair and harmful during the current pandemic crisis, and we want our international students to have all the opportunities to further their education that our domestic students enjoy. The guidelines only add to the fear and anxiety of an already stressful situation that we are doing our best to address.

At UH Hilo, we stand with our international students. We have designed our fall offerings in a way that many of our courses are hybrid, which would allow international students to attend some of the classes face-to-face, thereby meeting the current requirement that they not take all their classes online. Our international programs staff is researching the current situation and we will keep our international students and our campus community informed as circumstances change.

In the meantime, know that we will do whatever we can to continue to support all our students in their education and to provide the best UH Hilo experience possible within the limitations we are given.

Sincerely,

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor

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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, June 2020: Goals in the age of COVID and beyond

Goals in the age of COVID and beyond: Student-centeredness, stewardship, resiliency, resourcefulness.

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

Way back in March, I had planned a “State of the University” address to the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus. COVID came roaring in, plans were changed, but as I reflect on what I was going to say, I had four main goals to share with our campus and broader community:

  1. Becoming a truly student-centered campus
  2. Becoming better stewards of our region and our island
  3. Building a resilient campus community
  4. Becoming more creative and resourceful in addressing the first three things.

The COVID crisis has only heightened the need for all of these goals and has made the fourth one—creativity and resourcefulness—more urgent than ever. The state and thus the university have some serious budget issues to address, and none of us really know yet what the “new normal” will look like for our society. We have learned that we can be flexible, that we can make dramatic changes in the course of a week, and that we can support our students through it all.

As a state institution, we will always find ourselves stretched thin. Grant funding rises and falls. Determining the difference between what we need and what we want and making sure we always support what is essential will be a permanent part of our operation. But UH Hilo has proven time and time again that it can do more with less. We can be resilient when we need to be, but if we are resourceful, we can ease up from time to time. With whom can we partner in Hilo, across the island and state, and in the Pacific region? What are we doing that will attract more students, donors and partners?

Collaboration across the boundaries of divisions (academic, student affairs, administration) is key here. We have so many pockets of success, but if we are to truly succeed as an institution, we need to be intentional about how we partner, with whom we partner. And sometimes that even means saying “no” to a great opportunity because it may distract us from our core mission. Sometimes resourcefulness includes deciding what we are going to stop doing to make space for something more important. Being thoughtful about our choices and enthusiastic about our potential will help us navigate the future with confidence. Searches for permanent leadership in some of the units are underway and many are reaching completion; candidates remain excited to join our community and engage with us in the challenges ahead.

I look forward to working with these new members of our team as well as our veteran employees to make UH Hilo a stronger university. Our “strategic doing” committees are about to launch, and I am excited to see what ideas they develop for our future. While the formal teams are small, they will be reaching out to engage colleagues across campus and in the community. They will help us become not only an institution of learning, but also a learning institution; we need to assess our systems, our processes, and our decision making often to ensure we are on the right track and doing our best to succeed.

While the present has so many unknowns, I take comfort in the fact that the core mission of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo—to challenge students to reach their highest level of academic achievement by inspiring learning, discovery and creativity inside and outside the classroom—remains strong and relevant, as does our kuleana to improve the quality of life of the people of Hawai‘i, the Pacific region, and the world.

Aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

Photo at top: A close-up of the wall wrap in Mookini Library’s lobby. The design, created by UH Hilo graphic designer Tanya Ibarra, shows UH Hilo’s Mission Statement overlaid on print of ‘ōhi‘a blossoms. Photo by Raiatea Arcuri.

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