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2019-2020 Chancellor’s Scholarship recipients named

The competitive award, valued in excess of $29,300, covers four years of tuition for selected students graduating from a Hawai‘i high school.

UH Hilo seal, red lettering University of Hawaii and the state motto.Eleven students from Hawai‘i public and private high schools have been awarded the prestigious 2019-2020 Chancellor’s Scholarship at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.


  • Sabina Boo-Riversa, Kea‘au High School
  • Kawailehua Burnz, Kapa‘a High School
  • Nancy Costales, Christian Liberty Academy
  • Taylor Eleola, Hawai‘i Baptist Academy
  • Bree Foster, Kamehameha – Hawai‘i Campus
  • David Freund, Kea‘au High School
  • Joshua Irwin, Waiakea High School
  • Kit Neikirk, Connections Public Charter School
  • Nicole Otsuka, Maui High School
  • Ashley Rynkewicz, Waiakea High School
  • Jaedyn Pavao, Kamehameha – Kapalama Campus


The award, valued in excess of $29,300, covers four years of tuition for students graduating from a Hawai‘i high school who earned either a grade point average of at least 3.5, a combined 1800 SAT (reading, writing, math), or a composite score of 27 on the ACT while demonstrating leadership and/or community service.

Recipients are are required to enroll as full-time students and earn a minimum of 24 credits each academic year. They must also maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25 and participate in leadership activities and/or community service with other chancellor’s scholars.

Media release

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End-of-Year Message to UH Hilo ‘Ohana from Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai

Aloha UH Hilo ‘Ohana,

Marcia Sakai
Marcia Sakai

As we start finals week and look forward to commencement on Saturday, I’d like to share with you a few highlights of the past semester.


Graduate and undergraduate women students planned and organized the inaugural Women in STEM Conference held in February. The all-day event brought together women leaders, scientists, students, and members of the campus community to discuss the current state of affairs for women in the STEM fields. Topics covered social history of women in STEM, the importance of mentorship, the issues of sexual harassment, mental health, the wage gap, work-family-life balance, retaining women STEM students, and creating a supportive climate for underrepresented minorities in STEM.

The concept of a campus food pantry for students in need was developed by business student Jordan Kamimura. Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai, a one-year pilot project that launched a soft opening in April, is officially opening this fall to provide services to students in need of reliable access to food. The Administrative Affairs project is to help students who may experience limited access to food at different times of the year due to lack of money and other resources. Jordan’s business concept includes pop-up concessions on campus to provide funding support.

Marcia Sakai, Jordan Kamimura, and Kalei Rapoza standing in front of the Teapresso concession.
Left to right, Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai, business student Jordan Kamimura, and Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs Kalei Rapoza at the rollout event of the Teapresso Bar concession March 13, UH Hilo. The concession will support the new food pantry program on campus; Kamimura created the business plan for the pop-up and food pantry. Photo by Raiatea Arcuri, click to enlarge.

Our Marine Option Program students once again made a big splash at the annual statewide MOP Symposium. Bryant Grady’s project on reef ecology won Best Research Presentation, which has been won by UH Hilo Marine Option Program students for 26 of the past 31 years. Alexa Runyan won the Pacon Award for the best use of technology.

Three UH Hilo students presented their research projects at the annual meeting of the worldwide Society for Applied Anthropology held in Oregon where 2,000 academics and consultants attended the event. UH Hilo undergraduate Alexis Cabrera, with the mentorship of anthropology professor Lynn Morrison, won 3rd prize out of 90 student submissions (mostly master’s and doctoral projects) for her poster presentation.

Senior Rebekah Loving, from Hāmākua and double majoring in computer science and mathematics, is researching RNA sequencing and her work has gained the attention of a “who’s who” of top research universities across the country. Rebekah has received acceptance letters with offers of full funding to doctoral programs in biostatistics, computational biology, and computer science from Harvard, Columbia University, University of California Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology.


The extraordinary work of our faculty was noticed throughout the world.

The Jan. 23 airing of PBS’s NOVA, about the 2018 Kīlauea eruption, prominently featured UH Hilo scientists Cheryl Gansecki and Ryan Perroy and their work on chemistry analysis and aerial monitoring of the flow respectively. Cheryl, a geologist, provided real-time chemistry analysis of lava samples that helped determine how the lava would behave and how fast it would move, crucial information for Civil Defense and other responders. A group of undergraduate and graduate students led by Ryan, a geographer, piloted drones day and night capturing thermo and regular imagery of the lava flows, gathering critical information for the government agencies overseeing the eruption response.

UH Hilo biologist Rebecca Ostertag and geologist Jené Michaud were part of a team awarded an international medal for their paper questioning a fundamental assumption in the field of restoration ecology—the researchers suggest that nonnative, noninvasive plant species can be an important part of Hawaiian forest restoration. The Bradshaw Medal is given by the Society for Ecological Restoration in recognition of a scientific paper published in the Society’s major journal, Restoration Ecology.

Making international news was the story about Maunakea astronomers collaborating with our very own Larry Kimura, renowned Hawaiian language professor and cultural practitioner, for the Hawaiian naming of the black hole recently discovered. Pōwehi, meaning embellished dark source of unending creation, is a name sourced from the Kumulipo, the primordial chant describing the creation of the Hawaiian universe. The name awaits official confirmation, but it has already made the world take notice of the deeply meaningful Native Hawaiian connection to the discovery.


Early in the semester, we hosted a two-day Islands of Opportunity Alliance conference. UH Hilo administers the alliance, a collaborative group of 10 partner institutions in American Sāmoa, Guam, Hawai‘i, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The partners all share the common goal of increasing underrepresented professionals in STEM fields and together we are working toward more diversity in the quest for and understanding of scientific knowledge.

Roundtable group seated in discussion.
The Islands of Opportunity conference was attended by approximately 30 participants from across the Pacific region, including campus coordinators and administrators from each of the 11 alliance institutions, as well as the governing board, two external advisory boards, and an external NSF evaluator from Washington D.C. Jan. 11, 2019, UH Hilo campus. Photo by Raiatea Arcuri, click to enlarge.

A 40-session listening tour is underway in preparation for UH Hilo’s new strategic plan. The inclusive planning process is creating a strong foundation for a living strategic plan for our campus. Among the members of the UH Hilo ‘ohana, listeners of the tour outcomes will include our new UH Hilo chancellor and a Strategic Planning Committee that will be formed once the permanent chancellor is in place.

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

This leads me to the long-awaited news we received of the unanimous approval from the UH Board of Regents in naming our new chancellor Bonnie Irwin. Chancellor-Designate Irwin is looking forward to working with students, faculty, staff, alumni, island leaders and community members to build on the decades of great work to move UH Hilo and the community forward. We will be welcoming her to our university ‘ohana on July 1.


Thank you to everyone for all your hard work and dedication toward making UH Hilo a remarkable place of knowledge and learning. May you all have a successful end of the academic year. I send my congratulations to our spring graduates—you do us proud and I look forward to seeing you make a difference in the world. I wish you all a safe and wonderful summer.


Marcia Sakai

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Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column, May 2019: Navigating change and complexity

Above, view of UH Hilo campus looking toward Student Services Building. Photo by Raiatea Arcuri.

Higher education throughout the country faces challenges that are systemic and the need for change is not just over the horizon but already here.

By Marcia Sakai.

Marcia Sakai
Marcia Sakai

The world in which we live is becoming increasingly complex and changing at an increasingly faster pace. This column takes a look at why the world of higher education is no different.

I have been fortunate during my career at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo to witness and participate in UH Hilo’s growth to become a full blown comprehensive university. With the support of the community, we now have an array of undergraduate majors in agriculture, the natural and health sciences, social science, culture and the arts, business, and pharmacy studies, and selected graduate programs in conservation biology and environmental science, nursing, Hawaiian language, teaching, and counseling.

Our campus facilities are well matched to this growth and include well maintained classroom and office buildings, student service and student life buildings, athletic facilities, residence halls, and instructional farm and aquaculture facilities.

But higher education throughout the country faces challenges that are systemic and the need for change is not just over the horizon but already here. Our approach to the changing environment of higher education is being shaped by several highly influential areas, and UH Hilo will need to position itself to meet these challenges.

Changing demographics

There are two clear demographic changes happening in higher education throughout the country that challenge the way higher education is currently modeled.

First, the number of high school graduates has stagnated across the nation, and even though projections currently show a slight growth in Hawai‘i, it’s believed the college-going population in the country will drop by 15 percent between 2025 and 2029. I believe that competition among institutions of higher education for this shrinking pool of traditional age college students will increase, and that we will see increased recruiting from out-of-state institutions for Hawai‘i high school seniors. This situation brings challenges to higher education in recruiting and in funding generated by tuition. But, UH Hilo brings value to the people it serves and will need to refine and better communicate this value.

Another change is that disruptive changes in industry will make career changes more frequent and more and more people will need to periodically update their education and knowledge. These are the non-traditional (25 years or older) students for whom evening classes and online courses are more attractive. UH Hilo’s development of online learning will need to address this group. Our master of arts in teaching currently serves working teachers who want to build stronger curriculum and pedagogy to improve our local schools and positively impact their students. We also are answering this challenge with new degree and certificate programs for future jobs such as in data science and aeronautical science.

The importance of liberal arts

UH Hilo is already helping to answer workforce needs for more scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians—the STEM disciplines. These are the professionals who will see us through the greatest challenges of the times: climate change, environmental conservation, biomedical discovery, health care, sustainability issues, and more.

But equally important in building a modern and resilient workforce is for all students to develop their core liberal arts skills. These are the skills that will support their transition through multiple career changes.

UH Hilo is at its core a liberal arts institution with core liberal arts values and an array of programs across a broad range of career pathways. By the time our students graduate with advanced knowledge in their chosen major, they have also gained foundational skills in written communication, language, reasoning, and an appreciation for multiculturalism, humanities and the arts, and natural and social sciences. Our students complete an education that prepares them well to adapt throughout their careers as industries rapidly change.

The challenge of funding

I would be remiss to leave out funding in a column devoted to challenges. Hawai‘i continues to provide among the largest share of public support for higher education, but annual tuition charges have grown to make up the difference in the cost of providing services. This clearly creates a barrier to access for many students who are our kuleana to educate. While the growing reliance on tuition can be related to the increased earning power of the graduate, which is a private benefit, I believe that we as a society need to reverse the view of education as a pure private good. Education for one benefits our communities and society at large, and investing in higher education is an investment in the future of our island and state.

The great equalizer

Higher education is the great equalizer. It provides social mobility and is the key to a successful democracy. UH Hilo’s challenge is to find the very best ways to continue our mission of providing access to higher education for the people of Hawai‘i island and the state, in order to build resiliency in itself and in our students for us all to move successfully into the future.


Marcia Sakai

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Interim Chancellor’s Column in Hawaii Tribune-Herald Special Section, University Town 2019

Column by Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai
Hawaii Tribune-Herald Special Section: University Town 2019
March 24, 2019

UH Hilo: A comprehensive university serving the community

Marcia Sakai
Marcia Sakai

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo mission is to challenge students to reach their highest level of academic achievement by inspiring learning, discovery, and creativity inside and outside the classroom.

With core liberal arts values and an array of programs across a broad range of career pathways, our students complete an education that prepares them for continuous learning needed in the 21st century. By the time they graduate with advanced knowledge in their chosen major, our students have gained foundational skills in written communication, language, reasoning, and an appreciation for multiculturalism, humanities and the arts, and natural and social sciences.

Our students learn from many sources during their time with us, and I would like to focus this column on three foundational areas that prepare our students to achieve their goals and to be contributing members to the community.


With the deluge of information coming at us every day, good communication skills are crucial for professionals in the 21st century. This means mastery in delivering written and verbal information, and also in receiving information through active listening.

Throughout their years with us, students are required to explore and develop these skills through individual work and also through projects that require teamwork. For example, we have had students out in the community as interns listening to the needs of local businesses and organizations, helping to hone plans for better outcomes.

As we move into a data-filled future, communication also includes skills such as data visualization, a sophisticated form of scientific communication where large data sets are converted into simply designed presentations for other scientists or the general public. With new technology on campus, students are learning hands-on skills for creating effective data visualization products in a broad range of topical issues such as water conservation and natural disaster response.


Building strong communities is extremely important in our local culture, and UH Hilo takes pride in doing outreach that helps raise the quality of life for everyone. Every student at UH Hilo is offered opportunities to apply their classroom learning to the real world through internships, service learning, and community activities.

For example, the Pacific Internship Program for Exploring Science (PIPES) immerses students in internships each summer to help solve problems affecting our communities, such as climate change and invasive species. Our pharmacy college sponsors events that showcase research on prevalent health issues. Student-athletes go into local classrooms to inspire elementary students to read. Our students give back by paying forward.

Further, the North Hawai‘i Education and Research Center in Honoka‘a, while honoring the history and traditional culture, helps local high school students prepare for college, provides adults with lifelong learning activities, and gives the town a meeting place to gather and create new memories.
And our Center for Community Engagement offers non-credit courses open to everyone interested in lifelong learning. The center also supports faculty in community-engaged teaching, a perfect example of UH Hilo’s adage, “One learns from many sources.”


Our eyes are on the future, and it is clear that our island, region, and the world in general need knowledgeable, dedicated leaders to help communities meet unprecedented challenges. This is why a major goal of UH Hilo is to provide support to students to thrive, compete, and innovate to become leaders in their professional and personal lives.

One program to support this goal is the Student Leadership Development Program that instills cultural awareness, experiential learning, and wellness activities. The Ka Lama Ku Student Leadership Development Program is based on Native Hawaiian cultural values. And our UH Hilo Student Association is led by students honing their skills in politics, community organizing, and developing policy that will help solve the problems of tomorrow.

Moving into the future

Armed with an education founded in the liberal arts, the guidance of expert mentors, and a deep desire to make new discoveries that positively impact their communities, our students are learning from many sources and are already contributing to their selected fields, their communities, and the world.

Marcia Sakai

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Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column, March 2019: UH Hilo moving into the future

At UH Hilo we embrace our kuleana to help provide the workforce for new growth sectors in our economy. Our eyes are on the future.

By Marcia Sakai.

Marcia Sakai
Marcia Sakai

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo mission is to challenge students to reach their highest level of academic achievement by inspiring learning, discovery, and creativity inside and outside the classroom. This prepares them for the workforce needs of our island, state, and the global community. In this column, I’d like to share with you a few of our new programs that directly answer these needs.

Our new bachelor of science in aeronautical sciences program, approved earlier this year by the UH Board of Regents, has two tracks: one in commercial professional pilot training and the other in commercial aerial information technology (drones). Both are projected growth areas for the state. The pilot training track is cost effective compared to mainland programs and would support the state’s tourism-related transportation services sector. The drone track trains students for growing career opportunities in agriculture, natural disaster response, natural resource management, search and rescue, security services, and expected air transport services.

UH Hilo drone team took a lead role in collecting data during the recent lava flow in Puna. Read story about new aeronautical sciences degree program. Photo via UH System News.

In the fast-growing field of data science, UH Hilo launched its long-planned data science program this past fall. Technology is enabling the production of data at an ever increasing rate, but there are not a lot of people trained to analyze that data, develop information, and make conclusions. Here on our island, for example, there is great need for data analytics in conservation efforts, water resource management, and climate change research.

At UH Hilo’s Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center located at Hilo Bay, hundreds of students have gained valuable hands-on experience at the nine-acre center, developing aquaponics and raising ornamental and food fish, shellfish, and algae throughout the year. Interns, volunteers, and research students have learned everything about aquaculture production from the hatchery where juvenile fish and juvenile oysters are raised to actual farming of the organisms.

UH Hilo has the only four-year aquaculture program in the state, and the center has the only facility dedicated to aquaculture and coastal management education, research, and outreach to the community and industry. In addition to training the workforce and researchers of tomorrow, our center is helping to develop sustainable seafood production, moving the state closer to self-reliance in food while also promoting ocean conservation.

We are working with Hawai‘i Community College to develop articulated 2+2 transfer pathways to UH Hilo baccalaureate opportunities and targeting completion of   pathways in administration of justice and psychology by the end of this academic year.  We will extend these and look at other pathways across all the UH community colleges, in order to develop a robust transfer population. Looking ahead, we are investigating collaborative work to develop a pathway into the natural sciences and STEM teacher education programs, two fields for which there is already an important workforce need.

To meet future needs for highly educated professionals in health care, we are looking toward preparing students to pursue doctoral studies. The Students of Hawaiʻi Advanced Research Program (SHARP) is a relatively new program, largely supporting under-represented students, particularly Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who would like to do research in preparation for doctoral studies. The students are mentored by expert faculty researchers to develop interest and competence in biomedical and behavioral sciences research. The program is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) and is administered through the UH Hilo Department of Anthropology.

Group viewing poster presentation.
SHARP student Jasmine Hiking (center facing right) with a group viewing the poster presentation on her research. Read story about SHARP symposium.

At UH Hilo we embrace our kuleana to help provide the workforce for new growth sectors in our economy. Our eyes are on the future. We strive to anticipate the needs of our island, state, and global community and to help prepare the professionals needed to navigate the challenges to come. Our students will not only have the chance to compete successfully in the future for well-paying jobs, but will also help raise the quality of life for their families, communities, state, and region for years to come.


Marcia Sakai

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