At UH Hilo, we will continue to live up to our responsibility as one of the most diverse universities in the nation by making that designation mean something, as we continue to spread aloha into our community and beyond. We will continue to combat systemic racism.
Dear UH Hilo ‘Ohana,
I have been struggling to find the right words to say that might bring solace to our campus in the wake of the murder of George Floyd last week at the hands of police officers who are trained to serve and protect. This event is both angering and heart-wrenching, and the fact that this is not an isolated incident, but one in a series of attacks on black and brown bodies, makes it all the more maddening. Since the very earliest days of the United States, race and racism have often overpowered justice. Ninety-nine years ago today, the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, burned in one of the deadliest racial incidents in American history. And still, in the twenty-first century, racial justice still eludes us.
To the African American members of our ‘ohana, we see you. We can only imagine your grief and anger, but we hear you. On our campus, you are loved and valued. At the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, we will continue to live up to our responsibility as one of the most diverse universities in the nation by making that designation mean something, as we continue to spread aloha into our community and beyond. We will continue to combat systemic racism.
Our students, faculty, and staff will value one another and the contributions made by each member of our university community. We will respect the right of each member of our community to live and work in an environment free from violence and hatred. We will honor the dignity of every member of our campus family. And we will continue to instill these values in our students and community. Discrimination has no place on our campus, and we will be guided by aloha and a commitment to equity in all we do.
(This editorial by University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin was published by the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today newspapers on May 20, 2020.)
Stewardship and telescope operations resumed on University of Hawai‘i managed lands on Maunakea after suspension of all activities for nearly two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The university is pleased that Gov. David Ige identified Maunakea as part of the state’s list of low-risk organizations that are safe to reopen. This allows the university to ramp up its stewardship initiatives and for UH observatories, along with the rest of the Maunakea Observatories, to gradually restart astronomical observations.
UH and the Maunakea Observatories will continue to follow all health guidelines from state and local officials, as the safety of all employees remains a top priority. The resumption of operations is being done in phases and, for now, includes minimizing activity and restricting summit work to limited observing and essential telescope operations including critical maintenance of instrumentation and observatory facilities.
Though operations on Maunakea had effectively ceased because of the health crisis, UH’s work to improve its stewardship of the mauna continued. In April, UH Executive Director of Maunakea Stewardship Greg Chun presented the UH Board of Regents a plan for a new internal management structure that provides greater accountability and transparency. The regents are expected to vote on the new internal management structure during their May 21 meeting.
In addition to calling for the internal management restructuring plan, a Board of Regents resolution adopted in November 2019 also called upon UH administration to consider and analyze overarching governance models for Maunakea that the state might choose to advance in the future. In April, Chun presented for discussion four alternative models: (1) creation of a new stewardship authority attached to a state agency; (2) Board of Land and Natural Resources and Department of Land and Natural Resources resuming management and stewardship of Maunakea; (3) issuance of the master lease to an entirely new third party, directly responsible for all aspects of managing and stewarding the mountain and astronomy support; and (4) establishing a collaborative stewardship model involving all stakeholders in which UH would hold a master lease only for what is referred to as the astronomy precinct and Hale Pohaku.
Chun highlighted examples on which these models were patterned and shared the considerations that might drive a decision in the future by state policymakers as to a preferred model.
The university also announced in February that the decommissioning of the first two telescopes is tentatively scheduled to be completed by 2023.
UH is also working on the implementation of the administrative rules signed by Gov. Ige in January and approved by the Board of Regents in November 2019. With the rules, the university will be able to address excessive traffic, establish guidelines for commercial tour operations and better protect natural and cultural resources.
Finally, significant progress is being made on utilizing the expertise of the UH Hilo ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center to enhance and improve the educational and cultural programming at the Maunakea Visitor Information Station and Hale Pohaku, the mid-level facility on Maunakea.
These initiatives are just the beginning of the myriad improvements to our stewardship we have in motion. We look forward to building on those efforts in collaboration with the community and our stakeholders to create a sustainable world-class research enterprise and knowledge industry of which the state can be proud.
Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo
The last UH Hilo Strategic Plan guided our efforts in student success, diversity, research, and community collaboration. But the work of bettering ourselves and our campus is not over; hence the strategic doing initiative that we begin now.
Preparation is well underway in developing a new Strategic Plan at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. As we prepare to launch our “Strategic Doing Initiative” that will lay out new long-term goal areas for the campus and identify priorities for action, it pays to reflect on our previous strategic plan and how far we have come over the last decade, despite the many challenges faced as a campus and community.
Too often strategic plans are put on a shelf or posted on a website and forgotten, but just because we may not be able to rattle off all the goals and objectives in the last plan, it does not mean that plan has not guided our efforts in student success, diversity, research, and community collaboration.
Let me share a few examples of our progress.
Place-based learning experiences
One of our main goals is to provide learning experiences and support to prepare students to thrive, compete, innovate, and lead in their professional and personal lives. We are making good progress in this area.
Our students are doing their studies in a culturally, economically, socially, and geographically diverse place, the perfect preparation for being productive citizens in a global community. Anchoring this diversity is the recognition that an important knowledge base resides in the indigenous people of Hawai‘i—a concept now policy for the UH System.
It is from this foundation of diversity and Native Hawaiian ways-of-knowing that UH Hilo now grows, and you can see it in new programs.
For example, the kinesiology and exercise sciences program just won a national award for inclusive excellence and diversity; the nursing program has a strong transcultural component; medical anthropology focuses on effects of globalization on health disparities; and programs in sustainable agriculture and environmental science have strong Native Hawaiian influence. These programs and more are building relevant intellectual capital for our region to address the challenges of a diverse population and fragile environment. Our graduates are prepared to lead the way.
Another goal, aimed to foster a vibrant and sustainable environment in which to study, work and live, has also made great strides.
I’d also like to highlight the good progress we’ve made in the goal that addresses our impact on the community, island, and state through responsive higher education, community partnerships, and knowledge and technology transfer.
We work with and provide technology, expertise, and research data to many government agencies—County of Hawai‘i, National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service, to name a few—in tackling local environmental problems such as lava flows, soil erosion, and Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death.
On campus, the tenants at UH Hilo University Park of Science and Technology help advance our entire community through partnerships between the university and public and private organizations. UH Hilo also now partners extensively with Hawai‘i Community College, sharing resources, facilities, services, pipelines for transfer, Hawaiian protocol development, and expertise.
Of course, the work of bettering ourselves and our campus is not over; hence the strategic doing initiative that we begin now. What we value remains constant: creating environments in which students will thrive and succeed; bettering our local community, island and state through our research and community outreach; and, fostering a respectful and supportive workplace for our staff and faculty.
Bonnie D. Irwin
Feature image at top of post is of painting, “Voyage of the Navigator,” by Clayton Young (11X14, 2013), courtesy of ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.
Above: Interns, mentors, alumni, and staff from the Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science, known as PIPES, celebrate winning the Outstanding Leadership Award at the 26th Annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference held in Honolulu, July 10, 2019. PIPES is a wonderful example of professionals and experts in the local community providing some of the best learning experiences for students. Courtesy photo.
One of the things I love most about the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is the way the community is so intricately woven into the university’s success. This is the beauty of regional universities: the community and university are interconnected, so the people are interconnected, and all are working together to help everyone move successfully into the future.
As we near the end of the year, a time to celebrate the holidays, I’d like to take this opportunity to express gratitude for what the community does for UH Hilo, especially for our students.
For example, a mainstay to the university’s success is the many partnerships we have with businesses, schools, organizations, agencies, and community groups across the island that provide some of the best learning experiences for our students. One area where this is especially effective is in internships.
Internships put students in real-world situations that give them the opportunity to use the skills and knowledge they are developing in their academic work. Many of our students are working with local groups to conduct research and do community outreach that befits everyone and, in many cases, the environment. None if this would be possible without the successful business people, exemplary professionals, and dedicated public servants who mentor and support our students.
For example, a cohort from our tropical conservation biology and environmental science graduate program has recently completed internships on the island at several different organizations: Hawai‘i Island Hawksbill Sea Turtle Recovery Project, the Big Island Invasive Species Committee, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Hui Mālama I ke Ala ‘Ūlili, and Hawai‘i Natural Area Reserve System. In each of these projects, experts in their field mentor our students in research and/or community service projects—on behalf of the university, let me say mahalo to each and every one of you for taking these students under your wings.
About 35 of our business students did or are doing internships in the community in 2019. Some of these are with local businesses such as HPM Building Supply (owned by the Fujimoto family, who also has established an endowment that benefits students in the College of Business and Economics) and Suisan, Hilo’s commercial fishing hub. These internships are established by longtime Hilo families who care about our students and who value our students’ contributions to their companies—our appreciation to the owners and employees of these businesses is immense.
Over the years, marine science students have interned with several local businesses in both professional and research-based positions: Kampachi Farms, Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System, Ke Kai Ola of The Marine Mammal Center. Quite a few of the interns have been hired at the place where they interned such as at the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center, Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm, Kona Diving, and Hawai‘i Wildlife Center. At each of these places our students found dedicated mentors who not only guided them in the task at hand, but also helped them find the path to their future—mahalo to you.
These are just a few examples of members of our community who dedicate their time and expertise to our students and to whom we feel much gratitude—mahalo all.
I would be remiss in writing a column on gratitude to not include two groups of people who are foundational blocks of UH Hilo.
I send a big aloha to our Vulcan Booster Club. The club receives donations from alumni, friends, and family to provide student-athletes with the support they need—through scholarships and other funding—to succeed in sports AND in their academics. And Boosters are the biggest, most enthusiastic fans at the games! A big mahalo to all members of the club.
Before I close, let me send a big aloha and mahalo to the many donors who contributed to UH Hilo this year. Behind every donation is someone who really cares about our students. Some donors see it as an investment in the future. Alumni donors may see it as a way to pay it forward. All see it as a way to expand access to higher education and help students get their degree so they can successfully move into the future to change the world.
From the bottom of my heart, mahalo to all for your support of UH Hilo.
Our island recently lost a true pillar of the community with the passing of Barry Taniguchi. Our island and state mourn with Barry’s ‘ohana as we honor his extraordinary dedication to our island’s communities and to the health and well-being of our island’s people.
Barry’s legacy is an inspiration to us all to persist in our pursuit of building and strengthening our island communities for the benefit of all. After attending his funeral and hearing all the moving eulogies, I came away with a profound sense of responsibility to the community, thinking about how we all must step up to fill the void he’s left behind; I felt inspired to help move the community forward.
So here I would like to communicate some of the ways the UH Hilo ‘ohana is serving our community, driven by the goal of bettering this place in which we are privileged to live. I’ll also share some thoughts about how I envision expanding and strengthening our outreach into the future.
When talking about regional economic development, it’s important to note the important work of our business college alumni. Graduates from the College of Business and Economics are managers, financial advisers, accountants, bankers, entrepreneurs, and business professionals who help our local citizens with their personal and professional business needs.
Looking ahead, programs in the planning stage are baccalaureate degrees in the emerging fields of aeronautical science and data science. In speaking with our nursing and pharmacy faculty, I have learned of our work in integrated health care and rural health, where health professionals working in teams are needed to provide the best level of service. We are also assembling a group on campus to start financial literacy programming in order to help our students and their families not only navigate the costs of college, but also prepare to be fiscally responsible citizens.
I look forward to working with Hawai‘i Community College Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas and other regional leaders to determine how best our institutions can continue to prepare a workforce for the future.
Between our campus composting program, energy reduction efforts, and agriculture and science programs, UH Hilo is modeling sustainable practices and continually looking to improve these practices. We are doing our part in helping our island home become more self-sufficient, utilizing the expertise of our faculty and staff, and inspiring our students to find new ways of stewarding our environment for future generations.
As part of our strategy to implement the UH System Sustainability Policy, we’re looking to increase courses that integrate sustainability through ‘āina- and culture-based curricula and activities such as service-learning and undergraduate research. Our students benefit greatly from a learning environment that speaks to our island culture and is infused with local languages, protocols, values, wisdoms, expertise, and ways of knowing about sustainability.
Education is our core business, of course, and we partner with local schools in numerous ways. ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is inspiring thousands of island keiki to pursue science through the lens of Hawaiian culture. I had the opportunity to visit Pūnana Leo o Hilo and Ke Kula ‘O Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu to see our language revitalization efforts in action in Hawaiian immersion schools. I have learned about the various fitness and athletics activities, from sports clinics staffed by our student athletes to the children’s swim program that our campus recreation department hosts every summer. And, of course, our School of Education continues to provide training and continuing education for local teachers.
I often say that if we cannot have respectful conversations about controversial issues on a university campus, it probably won’t happen anywhere. We not only model how to do this, but teach our students the value of respect and empathy for others. We partner with local professionals in this work, and this is an area upon which we can build, especially at a time when our country and state are dealing with weighty issues about which there are many perspectives. I hope to expand these efforts to encompass community dialogues.
I look forward to learning more about the needs of our communities, island, state and region, and doing all I can to position and adapt UH Hilo to help bring an exciting and bright future to all. Mahalo for all your support.