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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, June 2021: Accreditation review will bring fresh perspectives

During the review, our resilience and resourcefulness will be on full display: we know we are not perfect, but we also know that we have overcome challenges and will continue to do so into the future.

Bonnie D. Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

In October, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo will host a team representing the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), the accrediting agency that will assess how well our university is fulfilling its mission in educating students and serving our community.

When they come to visit, they will meet with university students, staff, administrators, campus governing groups, alumni, and community members. They will review reams of data and reports and study how well our students learn, how the university addresses issues of equity, and how we manage our financial and personnel resources.

The Core Commitments of the Organization are the same as our own: Student Learning and Success; Quality and Improvement; and Institutional Integrity, Sustainability, and Accountability. All these commitments reflect the framework in which we operate every day.

In addition to reviewing the institution’s following of the Core Commitments, the team will look to how well our students acquire the Core Competencies: written and oral communication, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, and critical thinking.

Other values, such as an appreciation for diversity and civic engagement are qualities they will look for in our graduates, as well as the so-called soft skills such as working well with others. All the ingredients of a high-quality education will be reviewed and suggestions will be offered.

The process is designed to be collegial and allow our peers (a team of administrators and faculty) to make suggestions so that we can improve. The team understands the challenges we face, particularly as we have had to navigate the pandemic by moving most of the curriculum online and dealing with constrained budgets. It is not a time for trying to cover up our challenges and potential weaknesses, but to demonstrate how we address them and how we plan to improve.

At UH Hilo, our resilience and resourcefulness will be on full display: we know we are not perfect, but we also know that we have overcome challenges and will continue to do so into the future.

The visit will also give us an opportunity to present our plans for the future. The UH System is embarking on a revision of general education, and faculty from across the ten campuses will be engaged in this process, keeping those WSCUC competencies firmly in mind.

UH Hilo will also present its strategic plan to the visiting team. Our goals of strengthening our commitments to students, community and ‘āina, and one another, align quite well with the WSCUC commitments.

Our strategies for addressing these commitments will include such things as increased collaboration across the campus and with our community partners; creating connections across academic fields to prepare students even better for working in a world where many different sources of knowledge need to be applied to the big issues of the day; and creating more opportunities for hands-on learning.

In order to provide our students with the skills they will need into the future, those of us who work on campus need to keep learning and growing and improving how we go about fulfilling our educational mission.

One of those things that WSCUC looks at is how the whole campus engages in these efforts, and the many listening and talk story sessions leading up to the strategic plan will provide ample evidence to our attempts to get everyone involved. From visits to campus units to our “Seeds of Opportunity” strategic planning summit, to our strategic doing projects including our island podcast, Ka Leo o ka Uluau, and our storytelling events, Wailau, we have hopefully given everyone an opportunity both to weigh in on the forthcoming plan and begin to taste its fruits.

I look forward to what we will learn from the team when they come this fall. Our institutional mission—‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi (One learns from many sources)—includes learning from colleagues from outside our university, who will be able to look at us with fresh eyes and fresh perspectives. We can always do better, and our students and community deserve our best.

Aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

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Faculty and staff are invited to virtual university forum, Jan. 27

Faculty and staff at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo are invited to a University Forum on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, from noon to 1:00 p.m. via Zoom. The topic of discussion will be the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) Accreditation.

Zoom link: http://go.hawaii.edu/NjJ
Meeting ID: 954 4572 6595
Passcode: 539432

Questions may be submitted in advance to urevents@hawaii.edu.

Event information is available in an alternate format upon request. Contact (808) 932-7339 (V), (808) 932-7002 (TTY), or email Deneen Louie for assistance or for any other questions related to this forum.

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UH Hilo leadership visits Hale Pōhaku and Maunakea facilities

Chancellor Irwin, Vice Chancellor Roney, and Dean Mike were invited up the mountain to brainstorm about how UH Hilo might engage more university departments in learning experiences involving the mauna.

Group stands on lanai. All wear masks.
From left, Ned Huston, Bonnie Irwin, Kris Roney, Rhonda Mike, Jim Mike, Gordon Roney, Larry Kimura, Stewart Hunter (back), and Kekoa Harman. Courtesy photo, click to enlarge.

Leadership at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo on Saturday visited Hale Pōhaku, the mid-level facility on Maunakea also known as the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy, to learn more about the operation. The facility has living capacity for up to 72 people working at the summit, as well as a visitor center and other support buildings.

Group stands for photo, each socially distanced from each other.
From left, Robin Hayes, Jim Mike (back), Rhonda Mike (front), Kekoa Harman, Larry Kimura, Stewart Hunter (back), Ned Huston, Bonnie Irwin, Kris Roney and Gordon Roney. Courtesy photo, click to enlarge.

Chancellor Bonnie Irwin, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Kris Roney, Dean of the College of Natural and Health Sciences Jim Mike, and were invited up the mountain to brainstorm about how UH Hilo might engage more university departments in learning experiences involving the mauna. Their spouses, Ned Huston, Gordon Roney, and Rhonda Mike, respectively, were invited to join them.

The day was hosted by Ka‘iu Kimura, director of UH Hilo ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, and Larry Kimura and Kekoa Harman, both associate professors of Hawaiian studies and Hawaiian language at the university, who talked to the group about the cultural significance of the mauna.

The tour started with the Visitor Information Center and surrounding facilities led by Stewart Hunter, general manager of Mauna Kea Support Services. Robin Hayes, food and lodging manager at MKSS also joined the group. The tour then proceeded up to Hale Pōhaku and the potential future site of the UH Hilo teaching telescope.

Group listens to Larry Kimura and Steve Hunter.
Group listens to Larry Kimura and Steve Hunter during tour of the facilities up Maunakea. Courtesy photo, click to enlarge.

Discussions continued after lunch where “we also discussed the work that ‘Imiloa is doing on new information displays for the Visitor Information Center and the work on new orientation programs for employees and visitors,” says Chancellor Irwin.

 

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