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Tag: UH Hilo Community

Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Sept. 2019: The magic of higher education

The magic of higher education: When we are successful at it, we open the door to opportunity for individuals, families, and communities.

By Bonnie D. Irwin

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

The opening week of the fall semester is here! It’s second only to commencement week in its level of activity, enthusiasm, and hope for the future. Students are arriving to the campus of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo from across the state, nation, and the world as well as from down the street. UH Hilo rightly prides itself on the wide diversity of ethnic and cultural origins of our students. Indeed, The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked us last year as the most diverse public four-year university in the country.

Yet there is still one over-arching thing all these students have in common: the desire to better themselves and to provide a bright future for themselves and their families. And that is the magic of higher education when we are successful at it; we open the door to opportunity for individuals, families, and communities.

The UH Hilo Student Success Leadership Team has been hard at work both on recruiting students and keeping them here. We have bold goals for student success, and I am pleased to see so many good initiatives underway. We are continuing to work on pathways for students from UH community colleges into UH Hilo baccalaureate programs. We are creating more organized and intentional opportunities for community service and community-based research projects for our students. We are trying to expand employment opportunities for students on campus, so they can hone their job skills and build their resumés while helping their peers succeed.

Our new students were so excited to participate in First-Year Experience activities during Orientation last month. The campus community welcomed our newest Vulcans warmly with four days of activities—workshops, fairs, tours, shuttles, various socials, and a beautiful convocation ceremony—introducing them to our university and our community. The enthusiasm was palpable and I was honored to participate. Students are excited to be in college, excited to be at UH Hilo, and of course, a bit anxious about life at the university and how it might differ from the high school or community college they have come from.

We are also focusing on activities for continuing students: research experiences, internships, community service, study abroad. All of these provide valuable opportunities for students to apply what they are learning in class to real world situations. One of my goals for UH Hilo is to provide more of these opportunities for more students, so that they are competitive for good jobs and good graduate schools. At UH Hilo, they get the one-on-one attention that really enhances their learning, something larger schools cannot compete with.

Woven into all of this activity is a feeling of ‘ohana; our campus is relationship driven. We create lasting bonds and friendships among our students and between our students and members of the entire campus community, including faculty and staff, relationships that take them forward into life with the full support they need to succeed.

Thank you all for your support of our students! I am looking forward to the coming year.


Bonnie Irwin


Photo: New Vulcans on the Campus Center Plaza for the start of UH Hilo Student Orientation activities on Wednesday, Aug. 21. Nyssa Kushi, University Relations.

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Message from the Chancellor: Welcome to the Fall 2019 Semester!

Welina mai UH Hilo ‘ohana,

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

It is my honor to be able to welcome you to the fall 2019 semester as your new chancellor! I have had a busy few weeks meeting staff and community members and learning as much about UH Hilo as quickly as I can, but I am not done yet. I will be conducting a listening tour over the course of the next several months to hear about your hopes and dreams for our campus and students, so that we can chart a course together.

The opening days of the fall term are my second favorite season of the academic year. (Commencement, of course, is my favorite!) Today we welcome new students to campus. The hard work of our admissions staff and others has paid off in that our entering class is larger than last year’s. Now it is up to all of us to engage these students, keep them excited about their courses and degree programs, and help them succeed. I know they are in good hands.

In my previous messages this summer and in the communications you have received from the vice chancellors, you have heard about some of the challenges that the current term may bring to us and our students. Faculty, do not hesitate to reach out to the deans for assistance in supporting our students through the challenges that they may face articulating their complex emotions and thoughts about Maunakea or any other controversial topic that may come their way. We are fortunate indeed to be working in higher education in this moment in the history of our island, our state, and our nation. At times when emotions run high and people become entrenched in positions, as educators we bring skills of listening, learning, and civil discourse to our work and our relationships with one another.

I look forward to meeting more of you in the coming weeks. Thank you for everything you do for our students and for UH Hilo.



Photo of University Classroom Building by Raiatea Arcuri.

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Chancellor prepares to welcome new students: Ti leaf lei making

Ti leaf lei making is a tradition at UH Hilo in preparation for new students arriving.

Chancellor making ti-lef lei, holding braid with her toes and weaving length of ti.
Chancellor Irwin learns to make ti leaf lei for new students arriving next week. At right is Lei Kapono, interim executive assistant to the chancellor.

Chancellor Bonnie Irwin on Instagram:

Great fun learning how to make a ti-leaf lei today. It is a wonderful UH Hilo tradition to welcome our new students, arriving next week!


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Message from the UH System regarding movement of hurricanes Erick and Flossie

  • The state has entered hurricane season, and residents should discuss emergency preparedness actions with friends and family. Officials recommend a 14-day emergency supply.
  • Please stay informed and updated.

Hurricane Erick entered Central Pacific waters yesterday morning. Erick is forecast to continue to gradually weaken through the week as it tracks south of the Hawaiian Islands. Residents should be prepared for high surf and the potential for heavy rains and high humidity beginning Thursday night.

While the track remains south of the islands, tropical cyclones can make unpredictable movements. Remain vigilant and monitor the progress of the storm. There is also another Hurricane behind it. Hurricane Flossie just became a hurricane today, and could potentially affect the state as early  as Monday, August 5.

UH officials will continue to monitor the storms and provide updates on the situations.

The state has entered hurricane season, and residents should discuss emergency preparedness actions with friends and family. Officials recommend a 14-day emergency supply.

All members of the UH community are urged to sign up for UH Alert to receive emergency text alerts. If you have already signed up, log in to ensure that your contact information is up-to-date.

Notifications affecting UH campuses will be posted on the Emergency Information web page, as well as on social media:

Please stay informed and updated:

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Chancellor’s Message regarding Maunakea

Dear UH Hilo ‘Ohana,

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

Since I began at UH Hilo almost three weeks ago, the sense of ‘ohana on our campus has been obvious and one of the reasons I came to UH Hilo is because of this kind, caring atmosphere among ourselves and between faculty/staff and students. Our community has weathered numerous challenges over the years, one of the most recent being last year’s eruption that is still impacting members of our campus ‘ohana, and we continue to pull together and support one another despite our hardships and differences. This is a testament to the care and concern we have for each other.

Today, we face a divisive issue in our community with what is happening on Maunakea. Whether you or members in your families and our community have strong opinions about TMT and Maunakea, and knowing that there is an entire spectrum of ideas, beliefs, and emotions, I encourage us all to promote our campus as a safe space where individuals of our campus ‘ohana are free to learn from one another respectfully and safely, regardless of their views about Maunakea, or any issue, that provides all of us with an opportunity for deeper understanding and respect for difference. I, along with the rest of senior leadership at UH Hilo, believe this is the value of our university and we will continue to support free expression and ask that we all commit to maintaining an environment of respect on our campus. I also ask that each of us remember our role as educators and our shared mission to support our students and their educational journeys while at UH Hilo with the University of Hawai‘i Policy of Free Expression in mind:

The University of Hawai‘i is committed to the free and open exchange of ideas and affirms the rights of members of the university community to engage in speech and other expressive activity guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and by Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution of the State of Hawai‘i. These activities may be conducted at such times and places and in such a manner to assure the orderly conduct and least interference with the University responsibilities as a public institution for higher education and scholarly inquiry.

In addition to ensuring people’s right to free expression and assembly, we also have a collective responsibility to our community and constituents to maintain daily operations, even if some of us may be experiencing conflict with decisions surrounding Maunakea. I encourage engaging in a dialogue with your supervisors should you experience difficulties in fulfilling daily responsibilities, in light of this issue. Employees also have access to the University of Hawai‘i Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which offers counseling support for those facing crises and problems that affect work performance. For more information about the EAP, you may go to the WorkLife Hawaii website or call (808) 543 8445 or toll free at (800) 944-3571. I encourage anyone who wishes to do so to reach out to those services.

I have been talking to campus leadership about how we might best prepare to support our students, regardless of what side of the issue they (or we) may be on. Vice Chancellor Farrah-Marie Gomes’s message to the campus last month contained valuable information about support services for students. As a reminder, if you encounter a UH Hilo student in need of support, you may refer them to Counseling Services, to talk with counseling professionals for free. To make a referral, please visit the Counseling Services website, call 932-7465, or email

As challenging as it may be right now, I ask that you remember the good work we do, the students we serve, and the future which we build together. There are many of you whom I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet and I look forward to doing so over the coming weeks and months as we continue to build together a university and community that will serve Hawai‘i well into the future.



Top photo: View of Maunakea from the UH Hilo campus, Feb. 2019. By Raiatea Arcuri.

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