A graduate of the University of Southern California with a doctor of philosophy in business administration, Dr. de Pillis joined UH Hilo in 1997 and was promoted to the rank of full professor in 2007. She has served as department chair, director of the Office of Applied Learning Experiences (ALEX), chair of the assurance learning committee, and chair of the CoBE faculty senate. She was a member of the University of Hawai‘i System President’s Emerging Leadership Program in 2014.
Dr. de Pillis has developed working relationships with multiple constituencies on campus and in the community and has served on various boards and committees. Her experience working with internal and external stakeholders and with CoBE and campus programs and initiatives will be extremely valuable as she leads the college during this interim period.
Please join me in welcoming Dr. de Pillis into her new role, and thanking Dr. Tam Vu who served as interim dean of CoBE for the past year and congratulating her on her retirement.
Interim Chancellor, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo
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.
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.
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.
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.
Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai hosted a Coffee Hour with the local press today on the campus of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Interim Chancellor Sakai shared the following information in her PowerPoint.
UH Hilo Most Diverse Four-Year University in the Nation
The search is expected to be completed by the end of 2018, with the new chancellor in place in spring 2019.
A professional search firm has been selected to assist in the search for the next University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo chancellor as originally intended when the search was announced. Witt/Kieffer is a national executive search firm with nearly 50 years of experience. The search is expected to be completed by the end of 2018, with the new chancellor in place in spring 2019.
Applications continue to be accepted through the summer with the finalists conducting campus visits in fall 2018. This will allow full participation by all stakeholders before a selection is made.
UH President David Lassner will receive input from the committee and stakeholders and present a recommendation to the UH Board of Regents. More information and a complete position description can be found on the UH Hilo Chancellor search website.
Marcia Sakai will continue to serve as interim chancellor until the new chancellor begins.
The 16-member search committee is comprised of faculty, staff, students and community members and is co-chaired by Farrah-Marie Gomes, UH Hilo vice chancellor for student affairs, and Vassilis Syrmos, UH System vice president for research and innovation.
“The next chancellor will be critical in strengthening UH Hilo’s unique position in the state and beyond,” said Lassner when the search was announced in December 2017. “The next chancellor must lead the campus vigorously forward with a spirit of innovation and collaboration in order to adapt to the changing environment for higher education in Hawaiʻi and across the nation.”
I am pleased to announce that Jim Beets, professor of marine science and chair of the Division of Natural Sciences, has agreed to serve as the interim dean of the new College of Natural and Health Sciences (CNHS). His first day will be July 1, 2018, the date that CNHS is formally established. A national search for a permanent dean of CNHS will soon be launched.
Dr. Beets has served as a faculty member in the marine science department since 2004 and been in leadership positions on several collaborative research grants totaling more than $4.4 million and spanning multiple agencies including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Park Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. His intellectual contributions include 13 peer reviewed journal publications and peer reviewed technical reports over the past seven years.
Dr. Beets has demonstrated his strong commitment to student mentorship, serving as senior thesis/Marine Options Program project advisor for seven master of science in tropical conservation biology and environmental science students and advising over 20 student projects. He has also demonstrated strong commitment to faculty engagement and faculty governance through his service on numerous campus committees, ranging from personnel review to research and enrollment management. He has served as Faculty Congress representative and chair.
A staunch advocate for the university, he has nurtured positive relationships within the community. Please join me in thanking him for agreeing to serve UH Hilo in this capacity.