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Tag: Collaborations & Partnerships

Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column: The history of UH Hilo is one of progress

Growth and progress demand persistence—and we are continuing our momentum this year.

By Marcia Sakai

UH Hilo seal, red lettering University of Hawaii and the state motto.Aloha and Happy New Year!

I’m looking forward to the coming year as the momentum of progress and growth continues at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. During our day-to-day life on campus, when progress is often challenging, it’s easy to lose sight of just how far we’ve come over the years in serving the higher education needs of our island.

In 2017, UH Hilo celebrated its 70th year providing access to higher education for the people on Hawai‘i Island. We began our journey in 1947 as the Hilo Program, a UH Extension Division program where courses were taught at the old Hilo Boarding School. In 1951, the University of Hawaiʻi-Hilo Branch was founded with an enrollment of 100 students. After several transformations, the four-year Hilo College began in 1969, and by the following year merged with Hawaiʻi Community College, becoming the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

More recently, in 1991, UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College separated, but continue to share many of the same resources. Over the years since, Hawai‘i CC and UH Hilo have worked together closely on many initiatives, most notably on the seamless transition of students into the university and on developing Native Hawaiian protocols in our teaching, research, and outreach activities.

Over the years, the university established five colleges, most recently the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy with its inaugural class ten years ago in 2007. It is the only accredited pharmacy college in the region, with a presence not only on Hawai‘i Island but also on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Maui and in the South Pacific in Guam, American Sāmoa and Saipan.

In 2018, we will celebrate several more noteworthy milestones.

Mookini Library and Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall opened 35 years ago. The names remind us of people who helped build this university. The library is named after former Chancellor Edwin H. Mookini who served from 1976 to 1979. Edith Kanaka‘ole was a beloved Hawaiian practitioner, kumu hula, composer, and founder of the Hawaiian studies program at UH Hilo.

Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language will be 30 years old. The college is named in honor of Ruth Keʻelikōlani Keanolani Kanāhoahoa, the 19th century high chiefess known for her strong advocacy of Hawaiian language and culture. Internationally recognized for successful cultural and language revitalization curriculum, the college’s staff and students honor the chiefess’s legacy as they do their work and study for the benefit of all Hawaii’s people.

The University Classroom Building is 15 years old—when it was built, it was the first construction of a major building at UH Hilo in over 20 years. It’s now our signature building at the entrance of campus, housing classrooms, offices and gathering places for our university community and the general public.

And five years ago, the Hale ʻAlahonua residence hall opened, the first new student housing project since 1989.

In my 26-plus years at UH Hilo, I have learned that growth and progress demand persistence—and we are continuing our momentum this year. We are building a new home for the pharmacy college, moving forward with forming the new College of Natural and Health Sciences, and we just launched the search for our new chancellor.

I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year.

Aloha,

Marcia Sakai
Interim Chancellor, UH Hilo

Interim Chancellor’s Message: New data science program leading the way to a sustainable future

The program is part of a statewide project funded by the National Science Foundation, which awarded the UH System $20 million last year to do a five-year study of water sustainability issues throughout the state.

By Marcia Sakai.

I am pleased to share an update on the exciting new data science degree program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. The program is multidisciplinary in scope with elements of geophysics, microbiology, cyberinfrastructure, data modeling, indigenous knowledge, and economic forecasting. Students will learn how big data sets, from seemingly unrelated areas, can be used to solve complex problems.

Data science is a field that can have great impact on our local communities and environment. The collection and analysis of big data in areas such as water resources, for example, can reveal patterns and trends that can alert decision makers such as lawmakers and policymakers about the directions needed to ensure future stability for our island and state. This is especially important in relation to human behavior—for example, analyzing statewide water resources can reveal things our communities can do better to use and conserve water more efficiently.

‘Ike Wai

The UH Hilo data science program is part of a statewide project funded by the National Science Foundation, which awarded the UH System $20 million last year to do a five-year study of water sustainability issues throughout the state. The project is called ʻIke Wai (Knowledge, Water) and has the overall goal of gathering new data on groundwater flow, sustainable yield, and economic impact. The data will help communities and state decision makers preserve Hawaiʻi’s water resources for the future.

Travis Mandel

Four tenure-track professors will lead the UH Hilo program. The first two were hired over the summer: Travis Mandel, assistant professor of computer science and Grady Weyenberg (who grew up in Hilo), assistant professor of mathematics and statistician. They will be joined in the near future by the others in the natural and social sciences.

While developing the UH Hilo data science program, our faculty team will work with ‘Ike Wai data scientists and water researchers around the state, collaborating alongside local communities, indigenous peoples, government agencies and businesses to generate the scientific data. Partners also include undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty to address water challenges at the academic and policy level.

‘Ike Wai student scholars

Grady Weyenberg
Grady Weyenberg

As part of our program, a cohort of ‘Ike Wai student scholars will be chosen each year to do research and analyze the data collected (this year’s scholars are currently being chosen). The scholars will work with six faculty across natural science fields on research projects including investigation of local flora and fauna, genetics, and improving educational software. This is an invaluable training ground for our students, and when they graduate, they will have the background and skills needed to start professional careers in related fields. This is of immense benefit to our local communities and state.

Developing curriculum

Since Travis and Grady’s arrival, they have been hard at work on the process of getting approval for a certificate program in data science, which will be followed by a baccalaureate degree.

Meanwhile, proposals have been submitted to launch four new courses: three in computer science and one in math, which will form the core curriculum. Two of these courses will focus on computer programming and language, statistical techniques, and data plotting.

Grady is primarily involved in the development of the math course with focus on computing language and statistics, which will be attractive not only to students who are earning a data science certificate, but also to anyone in a natural science program (or even beyond) who needs an introduction to applied data analysis techniques. Target date to launch the new course is fall of 2018.

Travis is the new data science hire in computer science. He is also working on the design of the certificate and its courses, proposing a new course on cutting-edge machine learning techniques that will take students to the “next level” of data analysis. His research interests lie in the realm of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Specifically, he is interested in how we can use data to automatically improve human-focused systems.

While the university is developing curriculum, we also need to ensure that students are getting a good background in specialized techniques that will be useful for local industries, such as renewable energy and agriculture. It will be this practical application that will make the biggest impact on our local communities and economy.

Outreach

Faculty have recently begun reaching out to local schools and businesses, with the intent to ensure that a smooth transition can be created from secondary education to the university and through the data science program to the workplace. It will be wonderful to see high school students exposed to some of the interesting problems that can be addressed with data science before they get to the college level.

The development of the data science initiative makes us very proud of our campus—we are educating our students to be the problem solvers of our state’s future while helping to protect and conserve the islands’ precious natural resources.

Visit the EPSCoR website to learn more about the data science program and the ‘Ike Wai project.

See also: UH Hilo developing new data science program (UH Hilo Stories, Oct. 31, 2017).

Aloha,

Marcia Sakai

Anthropologist and alumna Charlene Mersai returns to UH Hilo to give talk on her homeland of Palau

Charlene Mersai will give talk on “Adaptation to Change: Cultural, Environmental, and Societal Change in Palau.”

Charlene Mersai
Charlene Mersai

SPEAKER: Charlene Mersai, National Environment Coordinator and Secretariat, National Environmental Protection Council, Ministry of Finance, Republic of Palau.
TOPIC: Adaptation to Change: Cultural, Environmental, and Societal Change in Palau.
DATE: Monday, Oct. 23, 2017.
TIME: 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Sciences and Technology Building, room 108, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo (campus map).

Charlene Mersai received her bachelor degrees in biology and anthropology from UH Hilo, a master in education from San Diego State University, and a post-graduate diploma on ocean resources management from the University of the South Pacific.

Prior to her current position she served as staff anthropologist at the Palau Ministry of Cultural Affairs, researcher for the Palau International Coral Reef Center, ethnobotanist and head of the Natural History Section at Belau National Museum, a Rock Islands coordinator and terrestrial conservation officer for the Palau Conservation Society, and regional coordinator for Micronesia Challenge.

She is Palauan and fluent in the Palauan language.

Sponsors

Funding made possible through the UH Hilo Office of the Interim Chancellor, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Department of the Interior Pacific Islands Climate Science Center at UH Hilo (a consortium of UH Hilo, UH Mānoa, and the University of Guam), UH Hilo Department of Physics and Astronomy, UH Hilo Minority Access and Achievement Program, and UH Hilo’s LSAMP Islands of Opportunity Alliance program. Co-sponsored by community groups the United Nations Association Hawai‘i Chapter, and the Micronesians United-Big Island.

Film and Q&A: Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Poster with information that can be found in this post.
Click to enlarge.

The documentary film An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power will be shown Thursday, Oct. 26, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in room 108 of the Sciences and Technology Building. The showing will be followed by a live 30-minute webcast with former Vice President Al Gore.

The event is made possible through a Title III Native Hawaiian Serving-Institutions Grant under UH Hilo Office of the Interim Chancellor, Hawai‘i Community College Office of the Chancellor, Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center, and the UH Hilo Sustainability Committee.

Summary

A decade after An Inconvenient Truth (2006) raised public awareness about the climate crisis, now comes the powerful follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Former Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight, traveling around the world meeting with climate champions and influencing international climate policy as he pursue the inspirational idea that the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.

Trailer.

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