I look forward to the follow up conversations and actions we will share.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
As I finish my first week as chancellor here at UH Hilo, I have been energized by the warm welcome I have received, and the dedication of our staff and faculty to the success of our students and our institution. I am grateful that so many of you were able to attend the kīpaepae for Marcia and me. It certainly was an experience I will never forget. My mother watched it on live stream, too!
I have been spending my first few days in meetings, as this is what chancellors seem to do more than anything else, but I have also been doing a lot of reading—budgets, reports, evaluations, policies, etc. Perhaps the most important document I have been reading is the Pre-planning Evidence Report for a Future UH Hilo Strategic Plan. Mahalo to everyone who participated in the monthly questions, focus groups and other communications with Kathleen over the last few months. The document is a great portrait of our values, our concerns, and our collective hopes and dreams for the future. I encourage you to read all or part of it as you have time in the coming weeks. I look forward to the follow up conversations and actions we will share.
In fall, we will continue building the future of this great university together.
It is the university’s responsibility to take the lead in stewardship of regional economics, education, and improving the quality of life for all our island citizens and their communities.
By Bonnie D. Irwin
As I begin my tenure as chancellor at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, I find a campus community hard at work preparing to develop a new strategic plan. Through a series of over 40 discussions that began last fall with faculty, staff, students and the local community, information is being gleaned and groundwork laid to produce a collaborative plan to achieve the highest of aspirations.
My favorite definition of leadership is that it is a process of moving an organization from its current reality to its aspirations. My first task at UH Hilo is to listen and learn what the campus and community aspirations are and then focus our energy toward achieving them, all the while making sure we are ambitious enough in those aspirations to really help the island with its needs—economic, educational, and cultural—while also protecting the ‘āina through sustainable activities.
I take this responsibility to heart. I strongly believe in the concept of regional stewardship for comprehensive universities: i.e., that a primary mission of our campus is to lift up the region, in this case Hawai‘i Island. One of the reasons I wanted to come to UH Hilo is because of our unique cultural emphasis in programs and curriculum, notably the acclaimed work being done to revitalize Native Hawaiian language and culture for the benefit of not only Hawai‘i’s indigenous people but also everyone in the state. The future of our university and our local community are inextricably linked.
Let me share some thoughts about where my attention is already focused.
I envision UH Hilo as a gateway for upward mobility. This means educating and preparing our students for meaningful employment that not only brings them a high quality of life but also lifts up their families and communities. One effective way to prepare students for important regional work is to increase student engagement in applied learning and independent research for benefit of the community and the environment; UH Hilo already excels at this in several fields and I would like to explore ways to open up this opportunity to even more students.
Traditionally we think of higher education as preparing young women and men for their future, but national trends are moving toward developing a new higher education model that also meets the needs of non-traditional students returning to finish a degree. This is a challenge facing universities throughout the country and if we want to stay current, we will need to adapt to this emerging trend not only to properly serve our region but also to thrive as an institution of higher education.
Woven into advancing the university to meet the needs of a modern student population is the challenge to improve retention and graduation rates. I support wholeheartedly the current ongoing efforts at UH Hilo to develop best practices to enable students to pursue their aspirations with purpose and confidence through to graduation and beyond, whether the student wishes to further her or his education or launch a meaningful career. I look forward to working with faculty and student affairs professionals to develop and strengthen innovative and effective ways to meet this challenge.
I am pleased to see UH Hilo placing a high importance on practicing, teaching, and researching sustainability and protecting the ‘āina, both on campus and in our island environment. Every student has a role to play—now and in the future—to help heal the emerging environmental crises facing our island, state, and Pacific region, and the university community and our graduates should be leaders and role models in this field.
We cannot achieve our aspirations alone. Building on partnerships with the local community, government agencies, and non-profit organizations, along with strengthening UH Hilo’s relationship with Hawai‘i Community College and partnering more with the Pālamanui campus, are crucial to all our success.
It is the university’s responsibility to take the lead in stewardship of regional economics, education, and improving the quality of life for all our island citizens and their communities. I start my new position as a chancellor ready to listen, learn, and collaborate as we prepare a new strategic plan for the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.
Photo at top by Raiatea Arcuri: UH Hilo main entrance at West Kāwili Street.
Our successes are largely due to our talented faculty, staff and students who make UH Hilo a remarkable place of knowledge and learning.
Aloha UH Hilo ‘Ohana,
When I began my tenure as the Interim Chancellor for UH Hilo, one of my goals was to create a comprehensive report that highlights the accomplishments of our campus. I am pleased to share with you the UH Hilo 2018-2019 Annual Report.
Our successes are largely due to our talented faculty, staff and students who make UH Hilo a remarkable place of knowledge and learning.
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.
One of the top goals at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is to facilitate organizational excellence through continuous innovation, responsible resource development, and effective communication. We are continuously working to improve our planning, financial and human resource management, and accountability, demonstrating our commitment to the state of Hawaiʻi. An important part of this goal is for our employees to experience a collegial and enjoyable working environment that is exemplified by effective communication, clear processes, and procedures.
One good example of striving to meet this goal is the planning process of our new strategic plan, now underway. Currently, our strategic planning project manager Kathleen Baumgardner is conducting a listening tour across 40 campus units and elsewhere to seek input about historical progress and future needs from faculty, staff, students and the local community.
The sessions are organized around a series of questions rooted in “Appreciative Inquiry,” a model that seeks to engage all stakeholders in self-determined change. When people talk and communicate with one another through this collaborative process, they can co-construct the structures, strategies, and processes needed to move forward. Participants create the future they want by building on the best of the past. Problems are identified and participants consider how weaknesses might be overcome by strengths.
Members of the UH Hilo and local communities are encouraged to participate in this process. In addition to planning sessions, one way to contribute is by answering the “Question of the Month” found on the UH Hilo Strategic Planning website. Everyone is invited to participate.
Among the members of the UH Hilo ‘ohana, listeners of the tour outcomes will include our new UH Hilo chancellor (Bonnie Irwin arrives July 1) and a Strategic Planning Committee that will be formed once the permanent chancellor is in place. The committee will review the notes of all meetings as well as a summary report that will help inform the development of the next UH Hilo Strategic Plan.
Ultimately, the planning process will help create a foundation for an inclusive and living strategic plan for our campus. The new plan will be collaboratively developed and implemented, then monitored and revised on an ongoing basis to be effective and to guide us for years to come.
An example of facilitating organizational excellence through effective communication is found in our constant push to improve internal and external communication.
Internally, a new weekly email communication to the UH Hilo ‘ohana called Haʻilono has replaced the monthly Ka Lono Hanakahi faculty newsletter. In addition to being ADA compliant, this new “e-blast” allows us to share information with the university community in a much timelier manner. Brief information and links to more in-depth coverage are provided on a wide range of topics: academics, administration, awards, campus security, operations and services, faculty accomplishments, research, athletics, and upcoming events.
An overall and large undertaking is underway to bring our entire university website into ADA compliance. As a matter of equity and diversity, we are committed to ensuring that campus computing and information resources are accessible to disabled students, faculty, and staff. This is a longstanding requirement under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Web accessibility standards are newer, but part of our accessibility obligations and commitment. UH Hilo is well on the way to meeting its mandatory compliance.
In local media, this year’s special University Town insert in the March 24 edition of the Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald features our academic programs that were most asked about by Hawai‘i Island students attending college fairs and presentations. Topics covered are the new aeronautical science, computer science, and language revitalization programs. Our living-learning residential communities are also highlighted.
Also being published in the Hawaiʻi Tribune-Herald is Ka Nūpepa, that features UH Hilo six times throughout the course of this year, in full-page, full-color editorial and advertisement combinations. Topics include colleges and programs, all focused on student and faculty excellence.
And, I am enjoying our quarterly “talk story” coffees with the Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce members. I’ve been bringing along a faculty expert to share with our business leaders the latest news from different academic units, i.e., lava flow research, business theory, and community health care.
Before I close, I’d like to add that we are also working to strengthen university leadership, a crucial key to organizational excellence. Progress on this front is indicated by the identification of a permanent chancellor, the beginning of a review committee for the job of vice chancellor for academic affairs, and further plans for filling interim dean positions.
Together, the UH Hilo ‘ohana and our collaborative community partners are continuously working toward organizational excellence and moving our university successfully into the future. Mahalo to all who are engaged in the process.