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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Jan. 2020: New Year brings renewed energy

The next year promises to be a busy and exciting one, a time for collaborating more with one another and with the local community to move our university into the future.

Aloha and Happy New Year!

The spring semester will be a busy one at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo: we will be working on searches to stabilize our administrative staff and we will be moving into the planning stages of our new strategic plan.

Administration

Four major searches will be underway soon: a permanent vice chancellor for academic affairs, deans for the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Natural and Health Sciences, and also a dean of students. All of these positions will bring us increased stability and help us to improve our support for students.

This month we welcome on board a new director of institutional research, thereby doubling our staff in this area! I am pleased to announce the appointment of Bradley Thiessen, Ph.D., as our new director of institutional research effective Jan. 2. Dr. Thiessen has over fifteen years’ experience in higher education. He has established offices of institutional research twice in his career and has led institutional assessment efforts at three different institutions. He also has served as a faculty member in statistics, earning tenure at two institutions and advancing to the rank of professor in 2014.

Brad’s extensive background and experience will be extremely valuable to our university as we move UH Hilo into the future. This is especially important this year, as we move from the pre-planning stage to the planning stage of our new strategic plan. We’re going to move forward driven by our values—notably diversity and collaboration—but also informed by data. And Brad will be instrumental in analyzing the data to identify emerging trends and prioritizing goals and tactics.

Strategic plan

Too often strategic plans remain merely plans, sitting on a shelf or posted on a website and soon forgotten. For that reason, in addition to building on our foundation blocks of values and data, the new UH Hilo plan will be organized around “strategic doing,” the process of collaborative, action-oriented planning that moves us toward measurable outcomes, all the while making necessary adjustments along the way.

Further, and perhaps most importantly, the main areas of focus will be on people, namely our students, and in our sense of place, meaning that strong identity we share with our local community and our island home. In other words, our students and the incredible place in which we live will be at the center of everything we do in the strategic planning process.

The plan will also be informed by the many conversations that have taken place over the last year or so—the listening tour headed by our strategic planning project manager Kathleen Baumgardner. The listening tour was a series of meetings with various stakeholder groups from across and beyond campus, with sessions that engaged people with diverse perspectives, and encouraged robust conversations that sparked fresh ideas.

In addition, the plan will be informed by what I have learned on my own listening tour, which I began as soon as I arrived in July and will continue through at least February. What I have learned so far:

  • Almost every promising practice regarding student success exists somewhere on our campus, but few of them are institutionalized.
  • Everyone at UH Hilo genuinely cares about students, even if we practice that care in different ways.
  • There are many good ideas on how we might improve what we do.
  • There is a craving among people to find ways to work together, across the boundaries of academic disciplines and across the divisions of the campus.
  • Our common ground is larger than our differences.
  • The biggest challenge may not be what we do next, but what we stop doing in order to free up some time and energy for the initiatives we want to undertake.

The next year promises to be a busy and exciting one, a time for us to take stock, gather and analyze the data, connect with one another in meaningful dialogue, and to think of innovative ways to collaborate more with one another and with the local community to move our university into the future.

I wish you all a Happy New Year. Be well, stay safe, and do good work in the world.

Bonnie D. Irwin

 

Header photo: Flowering tree on the UH Hilo campus. Photo credit: Raiatea Arcuri.

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Fall 2019 End-of-Year Message to UH Hilo ‘Ohana from Chancellor Irwin

We have a wonderful ‘ohana here who cares deeply about students and about bettering the community in which we live. Thanks to each of you for your many contributions to our mission over the last several months.

Aloha UH Hilo ‘Ohana,

Bonnie D. Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

When I first arrived at UH Hilo this summer, I came full of hope for the future of our campus, our students, and our community, and I am happy to say that my many meetings with people both on and off campus have only strengthened that hope and made me even more optimistic. We have a wonderful ‘ohana here who cares deeply about students and about bettering the community in which we live. Thanks to each of you for your many contributions to our mission over the last several months.

As we near the end of the year, and our attention begins to turn to commencement and the holidays, I’d like to share with you just a few of my favorite highpoints of this semester.

Academics

A group of people standing in front of the new red pharmacy building.
Attendees of the Grand Opening for the new UH Hilo College of Pharmacy building gather for blessing and then tours of the facilities, Dec. 4, 2019. Photo by Raiatea Arcuri.

Construction is finished on the new building for the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy! It took many people working together for many years to bring this beautiful building to fruition. The modern facilities beckon students to come here to study in a unique rural environment with an incredibly supportive community. Seeing the pride in the faces of our pharmacy students at the grand opening was such a joy. I have all confidence they will be top performers in their field, helping make the world a better place.

Nursing cohort in white coats pose for photo.
Members of the first cohort of doctor of nursing students at their commencement. Courtesy photo.

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education reaccredited our Doctor of Nursing Practice program through 2029, the maximum 10-year term. The program currently has 28 students, and has graduated 39 students since 2015. The DNP is a terminal degree in nursing and provides training to become a family nurse practitioner. There also is a leadership track. The doctoral level education focuses on primary care, cultural diversity, health disparities, health promotion, and disease prevention in rural communities to raise the quality of health for the people of our island and state.

A group of women soccer players posing for a picture
The Vulcan 2018-2019 women’s soccer team had seven Division II Athletics Directors Association Academic Achievement Award recipients. Courtesy photo from Athletics Dept.

Thirty-one UH Hilo student-athletes received Division II Academic Achievement Awards. The honorees for 2018-2019 are three more than the previous year. The program recognizes the academic accomplishments of Division II student-athletes; our student-athletes’ grade point averages are higher than they have ever been. This is quite an accomplishment! Awardees have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher, attended school a minimum of four semesters, and been an active team member during this past academic year. Congratulations to all!

Campus Life

Overhead view of a large group of people posing for the camera.
UH Hilo’s fall 2018 freshman class. Courtesy photo from University Relations.

We started the fall semester with U.S. News and World Report ranking UH Hilo as most ethnically diverse campus among national universities. In the 2020 report of college rankings, UH Hilo received a diversity index of 77 percent. We are proud to serve such a diverse group of students—the assets they bring to UH Hilo enrich our community and help us provide an inclusive, high-quality education for all our students.

A person sitting at a table in front of a window
Two students at the new Library Lounge in the lobby of Mookini Library enjoy a new seating area with furniture made from local woods. Photo by Raiatea Arcuri.

Our university ‘ohana returned from summer break to find a newly furnished lanai and lobby at Mookini Library. With an innovative design connected to nature, the library entranceway now immerses patrons in natural elements with comfortable seating made with local woods, tables shaped like rivers, images of ‘ōhi‘a blooms, and the aroma of fresh brewed local coffee. It’s a comfortable and welcoming place to study, meet up, or sit quietly to collect one’s thoughts. I have seen students gathered there from dawn to well into the evening hours.

A group of people in the food pantry, canned food stocked on shelf
Last semester at the “soft opening” of the food pantry, staff stocked the shelves. From left, Fred Dela Cruz, Building and Maintenance Worker; Eric Rodrigues, Plumber; Shay Hara, Auxiliary and Facilities Services Officer; Kapena Desa, Building and Maintenance Worker. In back is Calvin Fukuhara, Building and Maintenance Supervisor. Courtesy photo.

Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai food pantry is now officially opened and has food available to any UH Hilo student in need of food assistance. Following guidance from the UH System Food Insecurity Committee, our pantry helps those in need, relieving some of the stress of tight budgets and limited resources. We want all our students to be fueled up and ready to learn, not distracted by trying times and nagging hunger. All UH Hilo students in need of food assistance are encouraged to stop by the food pantry during hours of operation!

Administration

Two women, one holding microphone, smiling for the camera
Hosting the first wala‘au.

I teamed up with Hawai‘i Community College Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas to host the first wala‘au, a public conversation, about a collective vision of the future. Dialogue and listening were the main goals at the lunch session; Chancellor Solemsaas and I share a passion for community engagement and shared kuleana between the two institutions. Faculty, staff, and administrators from both campuses shared their insights, concerns, and vision of the future for Hawai‘i Island’s students, particularly transfer students, and about how we can work together to build strong pathways between our campuses for student success. College and university leadership is now working to build on the ideas shared at that session.

Logo with seed sprouting with words: Seeds of Opportunity Strategic Planning Summit.UH Hilo also hosted a strategic planning summit. The Seeds of Opportunity Summit gave the campus community and general public a chance to share their mana‘o about the future of the university. The summit capped our strategic pre-planning stage of collecting information for the strategic planning process. Every participant at the summit had a voice, and the conversations, along with those from the recent listening tour with faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, and business partners, will help move the university forward into the important strategic planning stage.

Mahalo

Mahalo to the university ‘ohana for your hard work in making these and many other accomplishments possible. I wish you all a productive end of the semester and wonderful holiday season. I’ll see you at 2019 Fall Commencement on Saturday, Dec. 21, 9:00 a.m. at the UH Hilo Vulcan Gym.

Aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

 

Header photo: New building for the UH Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy. Photo credit: Raiatea Arcuri.

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Announcement: Bradley Thiessen named as Director of Institutional Research

Dr. Thiessen is excited to join us as we engage in the planning stages for our new strategic plan; he’s eager to analyze data to identify emerging trends and prioritize goals and tactics.

Aloha University of Hawai‘i at Hilo ‘Ohana,

Bradley Thiessen wearing a blue shirt and smiling at the camera.
Bradley Thiessen

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Bradley Thiessen, Ph.D., as our new director of institutional research effective Jan. 2, 2020.

Dr. Thiessen has over fifteen years’ experience in higher education. He has established offices of institutional research twice in his career and has led institutional assessment efforts at three different institutions. He also has served as a faculty member in statistics, earning tenure at two institutions and advancing to the rank of professor in 2014.

He is coming to UH Hilo from New College of Florida, a small, top-ranked, public liberal arts honors college in Sarasota, where he has served since 2016 as the president’s chief of staff, the director of institutional performance assessment, the accreditation liaison, and a professor of statistics.

Dr. Thiessen earned both his master of arts and doctor of philosophy in educational measurement and statistics from the University of Iowa. He also has accreditation as a professional statistician from the American Statistical Association.

Dr. Thiessen is excited to join us as we engage in the planning stages for our new strategic plan; he’s eager to analyze data to identify emerging trends and prioritize goals and tactics. His extensive background and experience will be extremely valuable to our university as we move UH Hilo into the future. Please join me in welcoming Brad to our university ‘ohana.

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor

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Chancellor’s Message regarding Maunakea

Dear UH Hilo ‘Ohana,

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

Since I began at UH Hilo almost three weeks ago, the sense of ‘ohana on our campus has been obvious and one of the reasons I came to UH Hilo is because of this kind, caring atmosphere among ourselves and between faculty/staff and students. Our community has weathered numerous challenges over the years, one of the most recent being last year’s eruption that is still impacting members of our campus ‘ohana, and we continue to pull together and support one another despite our hardships and differences. This is a testament to the care and concern we have for each other.

Today, we face a divisive issue in our community with what is happening on Maunakea. Whether you or members in your families and our community have strong opinions about TMT and Maunakea, and knowing that there is an entire spectrum of ideas, beliefs, and emotions, I encourage us all to promote our campus as a safe space where individuals of our campus ‘ohana are free to learn from one another respectfully and safely, regardless of their views about Maunakea, or any issue, that provides all of us with an opportunity for deeper understanding and respect for difference. I, along with the rest of senior leadership at UH Hilo, believe this is the value of our university and we will continue to support free expression and ask that we all commit to maintaining an environment of respect on our campus. I also ask that each of us remember our role as educators and our shared mission to support our students and their educational journeys while at UH Hilo with the University of Hawai‘i Policy of Free Expression in mind:

The University of Hawai‘i is committed to the free and open exchange of ideas and affirms the rights of members of the university community to engage in speech and other expressive activity guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and by Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution of the State of Hawai‘i. These activities may be conducted at such times and places and in such a manner to assure the orderly conduct and least interference with the University responsibilities as a public institution for higher education and scholarly inquiry.

In addition to ensuring people’s right to free expression and assembly, we also have a collective responsibility to our community and constituents to maintain daily operations, even if some of us may be experiencing conflict with decisions surrounding Maunakea. I encourage engaging in a dialogue with your supervisors should you experience difficulties in fulfilling daily responsibilities, in light of this issue. Employees also have access to the University of Hawai‘i Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which offers counseling support for those facing crises and problems that affect work performance. For more information about the EAP, you may go to the WorkLife Hawaii website or call (808) 543 8445 or toll free at (800) 944-3571. I encourage anyone who wishes to do so to reach out to those services.

I have been talking to campus leadership about how we might best prepare to support our students, regardless of what side of the issue they (or we) may be on. Vice Chancellor Farrah-Marie Gomes’s message to the campus last month contained valuable information about support services for students. As a reminder, if you encounter a UH Hilo student in need of support, you may refer them to Counseling Services, to talk with counseling professionals for free. To make a referral, please visit the Counseling Services website, call 932-7465, or email uhhcouns@hawaii.edu.

As challenging as it may be right now, I ask that you remember the good work we do, the students we serve, and the future which we build together. There are many of you whom I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet and I look forward to doing so over the coming weeks and months as we continue to build together a university and community that will serve Hawai‘i well into the future.

Mahalo,

Bonnie

 

Top photo: View of Maunakea from the UH Hilo campus, Feb. 2019. By Raiatea Arcuri.

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Announcement: Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Search Committee named

Aloha UH Hilo ‘Ohana,

UH Hilo seal, red lettering University of Hawaii and the state motto.I am pleased to announce the appointment of the search committee for the next University of Hawai‘i at Hilo vice chancellor for academic affairs. The committee is expected to begin its work in August.

It is important that we recruit and hire an experienced leader with the vision and energy to develop and advance our campus strategic academic priorities.

The committee is charged with the responsibility of screening applicants, interviewing qualified applicants online and then the finalists in person.

The 13-member committee represents the diverse perspective of the campus including faculty from each of the colleges, the Faculty Congress, and direct reports to the vice chancellor:

Co-Chairs

  • Bruce Matthews, Dean, College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management
  • Jené Michaud, Chair and Professor, Department of Geology

Committee members

  • Lois Fujiyoshi, Executive Director, Budget and Business Management
  • Lara Gomez, Director of Clinical Education, Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy
  • Charmaine Higa-McMillan, Professor, Department of Psychology
  • Rodney Jubilado, Chair, Division of Humanities; Associate Professor, Filipino Studies, Department of Languages
  • Jim Mellon, Executive Director, Global and Intercultural Education Programs;
    Director, International Student Services and Intercultural Education, Division of Student Affairs
  • Hiapo Perreira, Associate Professor, Academic Division Chair, Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language
  • Jan Ray, Chair, Faculty Congress; Professor, School of Education
  • Joseph Sanchez, Director, Mookini Library
  • Sijie Sun, Assistant Professor, Marketing, College of Business and Economics
  • Michael Taylor, President, UH Hilo Student Association
  • Shelby Wong, Curriculum, Catalog, Graduate Division Specialist

Mahalo,

Marcia Sakai
Interim Chancellor

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