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Tag: Bonnie Irwin

Chancellor and UH Hilo group visit volcanic eruption

The group headed out to see the eruption in the late afternoon on Dec. 23 and watched until sunset so they could see the glow. “It was an amazing experience!” says Chancellor Irwin.

Chancellor Irwin with eruption plume in background.
Chancellor Irwin takes a selfie at eruption site, Dec. 23, 2020.

Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin, Vice Chancellor Kris Roney, Dean Jim Mike (the new dean for the College of Natural and Health Sciences), along with geology faculty from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, yesterday visited the site of the ongoing volcanic eruption at Halema‘uma‘u crater, Hawai‘i Island. The volcanic event began late the night of winter solstice Dec. 20.

Steve Lundblad and Darcy Bevens from the geology department headed the tour at Volcanoes National Park. The group viewed the steam from the eruption from two different angles, and saw samples of Pele’s hair (volcanic glass), ash, and volcanic rock.

Bright green fern surrounded by lava and dead ferns.
Chancellor Irwin, an avid photographer of plants, caught this photo of a fern surviving the eruption. Click to enlarge.

“We learned about how geologists measure the movement of the land as craters collapse, and our island continues to grow,” says Chancellor Irwin. “We saw lava trees, the places where a tree stopped the lava flow but then burned away, leaving a hole where the tree had been.”

The group headed out to see the eruption in the late afternoon and watched until sunset so they could see the glow. “It was an amazing experience!” says the Chancellor.

“It was wonderful to tour the park with knowledgeable geology faculty and staff  and to hear about the work our alumni are doing as part of the USGS HVO (Hawaiian Volcano Observatory),” she says. “It is such a privilege to have such awesome natural wonders practically in our back yard here in Hilo. Each eruption is different than the next and each is fascinating. Makes me want to take a geology class!”

Chancellor Irwin, an avid photographer of flowers and plants, caught a bright green fern surviving the eruption. “I can’t help but take pictures of plants,” says the Chancellor. “Such resilience they have!”

Photos of tour, click to enlarge:

The people standing in front of erupting volcano with plume heading up into sky.
From left, Kris Roney, Jim Mike, and Bonnie Irwin at Halema‘uma‘u crater at the summit of Kīlauea, Hawai‘i Island, Dec. 23, 2020. Photo by Darcy Bevens.
Two people standing at an overlook with volcanic plume in background.
Bonnie Irwin and Steve Lundblad compare Kīlauea Iki 1959 eruption (foreground) with current eruption of Halemaumau (plume in background), Dec. 23, 2020. Photo by Darcy Bevens.
Group of people stand near a lava outcrop.
Geologist Steve Lundblad (center front) explains formation of tree molds, while Dean Jim Mike, his wife, and Nancy Lundblad keep social distance. Photo by Darcy Bevens.
As it gets dark, a group of people view plume from eruption.
As the sun begins to set, Jim Mike (left) and Kris Roney (foreground) carefully maintain social distance from Steve Lundblad (at tripod) while viewing Halema‘uma‘u plume, Dec. 23, 2020. Photo by Darcy Bevens.
Plume is glowing in the dark, silhouettes of group on the side.
After sunset, the administrators enjoy a view of other visitors, silhouetted against the Halaumaumau plume, Dec. 23, 2020. Photo by Darcy Bevens.


Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories.

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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Dec. 2020: A time to celebrate our students

I join all university ‘ohana, friends, mentors, and members of our island community in celebrating our graduates.

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

This semester started off as a roller coaster of changes but I have been greatly impressed with the way the campus community, guided by an unwavering dedication to our mission here at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, deftly pivoted to continue providing our students with a quality education.

And so here we are preparing for 2020 Fall Commencement, which we are putting together virtually with some options for safe interaction with others.

It was not easy for our graduates to reach this milestone. Although some labs, studios and clinical experiences were done in person, most education was conducted online. These online platforms have been highly successful at delivering a quality education, but isolation and quarantine for energetic, curious minds is difficult, loss of social gatherings is difficult, switching to online learning is difficult, coping with a global pandemic is difficult.

However, our campus, in fact all UH campuses, are some of the safest in the country while still fulfilling our mission. Why? Because our stellar students are not inclined to throw away opportunities through irresponsible behavior. Our graduates, and those still working their way toward completing their degrees, know how precious this opportunity for higher education is, and they buckled down to get the job done. I know I share the sentiments of faculty, staff, and our Hawai‘i Island community at large, when I say how proud I feel about our graduates! Well done!

On the other side of the coronavirus, there will be need for even more economic development that is culturally and environmentally sensitive. Our graduates are prepared for these jobs. They came to UH Hilo to work toward a better life for themselves and to contribute to raising the quality of life for their families and their communities. And as we all emerge from the coronavirus crisis into a new world, our communities and ‘ohana will need the skills and knowledge these graduates have acquired.

Traditionally, commencement would be in person for friends and family to share in this joyous occasion. But as we continue to adapt to an online life to help keep us safe and sound, I want to assure you that we still share deep pride in all our students reaching graduation in spite of all the challenges swirling around us. Each student’s accomplishment at reaching graduation is still the most important thing.

I join all university ‘ohana, friends, mentors, and members of our island community in celebrating our graduates. I know each of these amazing scholars will make a big difference in helping our communities move forward in these perilous times, doing their part to help change the world for the better.

I wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday season. I mua!


Bonnie D. Irwin

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Chancellor’s Thanksgiving Message

Aloha Kākou,

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

Best wishes for the Thanksgiving holiday and the upcoming weekend. I hope everyone finds some time for rest and reflection.

It would be easy to think about what we don’t have this holiday, but I find myself turning more and more to gratitude for what we do have; chief among those things is one another. We are a resilient, caring community, dedicated to our mission of educating students and lifting up our community, and everyone continues to play an important role in that mission.

Mahalo to those of you who have reached out with empathy to your students and colleagues, taking on a part of their burden as well as your own. Please take some time this week to care for yourselves and find the joys, both large and small, that come with living in this special place among our family and friends.

In this holiday week, I share with you one of my favorite poems. The species referenced may not be quite relevant to Hawaiʻi, but the sentiment surely is.

Wendell Berry

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

With gratitude for what you do every day for our students and for UH Hilo.

Bonnie D. Irwin


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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Nov. 2020: In appreciation

A message of thanks to everyone for all your hard work in making UH Hilo an excellent university ready to meet our students’ needs in these challenging times.

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

In this month’s column I’d like to express my sincere appreciation to some of the heroes at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and throughout the community who have stepped up during this challenging time.

There are the unsung heroes, the staff of UH Hilo, who are stepping up in countless ways to support our students and institution. From those on the front lines to those adapting to work from home, and everyone in between on hybrid schedules, you are the heart and soul of the university, keeping everything running smoothly and efficiently despite all the challenges at hand. I am especially grateful for the care and attention given to our students, making sure they are on track with their studies and staying safe while being physically and mentally active at their studies, work, and play.

Deep appreciation to our faculty for applying their ingenuity and dedication to students to provide the best experience possible. Everyone has stepped up beautifully to online teaching, and our students are excelling. Many in the faculty had to learn new technology and then figure out logistics to recreate the classroom experience as closely as possible. Through this resourcefulness, many have discovered unexpected benefits to online teaching such as higher attendance and engagement, and more options for one-on-one and group discussions resulting in quicker learning. I applaud you all.

Thank you to our students (and their families), who, despite all the unknowns, continue to trust us with their education and personal/professional development. I am impressed with and grateful for the level of responsibility and sincerity with which our students, new and returning, have risen to the task of covid safety and online learning. I give thanks to the parents who trusted us to support their children academically and personally once they left their family home. Yes, we are all one ‘ohana with a common goal of supporting one another in these tough times.

A big mahalo to our donors, who continue to invest in our success. From local business people to our alumni, donors care deeply about the need to give access to as many students as possible; they know we need to do everything we can to give all qualified students access to the funds they need to attend the university. Behind every scholarship is an individual, foundation, or company with a connection to UH Hilo and a desire to help our students as an investment in the future of our island and state. Thank you all for your generosity.

I want to give additional thanks to our alumni, not just for the donations that help us achieve our goals in education, research, and community service, but for being out there thriving with productive lives and career paths. Our appreciation runs deep for all you give to our island, our state, and region. And to those of you far away, we know you are spreading the aloha spirit, the UH Hilo spirit, everywhere you go. Alumni, from famous to under-the-radar, are inspiring our current students to push through any challenges to complete and receive their degree. I mua!

Before closing, I’d like to add a debt of gratitude to our fellow schools and agencies without which we would not be able to meet our own goals. Hawai‘i Community College continues to partner with us in providing higher education for our island. Our other community college partners and friends throughout the state work with us closely toward the economic health and wellbeing of our island. The Department of Education and Kamehameha Schools both have ongoing partnerships with us, laying the strong educational foundation for the students who enroll in our programs. And I send a special thank you to the people at Vibrant Hawai‘i for pulling together all the threads of our communities into a cohesive vision for the future of Hawai‘i Island.

In closing, let me say that in our placed-based culture of Hawai‘i Island, there can be no more fundamental expression of gratitude than for our surrounding community and the ‘āina itself in which we all thrive. UH Hilo quite literally would not exist without our culturally diverse, strong, resilient, and supportive community that’s nestled into and flourishing in one of the most geographically diverse places on the planet. I feel enormous gratitude for this amazing place, the people and the ‘āina.

Thank you all for your hard work in making UH Hilo an excellent university ready to meet our students’ needs in these challenging times.


Bonnie D. Irwin

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