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Tag: UH Hilo Community

Chancellor’s Monthly Column, April 2020: The meaning of essential

In Governor Ige’s stay-at-home order, he exempted a number of “essential” services: health care, first responders, gas stations and grocery stores, mail and shipping, transportation, and, indeed, education. Being on that list gives us in higher education a special responsibility.

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

How do we define “essential”? It’s been used in many ways in recent weeks, and how we understand it differs with the context and the speaker.

When helping my mother in California stock up for stay-at-home living, essential meant coffee, butter, and, yes, toilet paper. Upon returning, when my husband went to the store so I could stay in self quarantine, it meant chicken soup and chocolate cake. My mother’s list demonstrates her simpler needs, learned from growing up in the depression. Mine are built around that which brings me comfort. In both cases, however, “essential” also was limited to what we need for the next two weeks, immediate needs. I am confident that the supply chains are intact.

When we think of what essential means at the university we also distinguish between immediate needs and long-term success. If we had a hurricane bearing down on us, our sense of immediacy would be quite different than what we need now for the long haul of the rest of the semester and perhaps beyond.

In Governor Ige’s stay-at-home order, he exempted a number of “essential” services: health care, first responders, gas stations and grocery stores, mail and shipping, transportation, and, indeed, education. Being on that list gives us in higher education a special responsibility, both to our students, some of whom are still living in our residence halls, and our community, which depends upon us to continue building toward the future. Our students and their families have made an investment in us; we are essential to their success.

On campus we need security, maintenance and custodial staff, housing staff, library staff, mail room staff, and many others who cannot do their work from home. We also need all those people who are working at home on our behalf because each of us has an important role to play in keeping our university functioning and keeping our students on track.

We have folks working on campus who would rather be home; we have folks at home who would rather be at the office. Our specific roles largely determine how and where we work, but all of us need to cooperate in order to see our students through to the finish line.

Sometimes those of us who do not have direct contact with students very often can feel that our efforts are not actually critical for student success, but each one of us plays a role in keeping our institution healthy and available to our students and community.

All of the above are “essentials” in one way or another, but each of us has other things in our lives that we consider essential. A walk in nature to appreciate the ‘āina, a piece of art or music that moves us, a book that lets us escape to another world, even for a short while.

In the end, however, the thing that might be most essential is human connection. As I see examples from across the island and the world of people stepping up to help others—whether it is reserving special shopping hours for kupuna, providing meals for those keiki who depend on school lunches, sewing face masks for medical professionals, or sharing helpful resources to cheer up someone—I know we will come out on the other side of this crisis stronger.

We all need one another, and in that regard, each of us is essential.

Aloha to you and yours. Stay safe.

Bonnie D. Irwin

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UH Hilo community is invited to “Brown Bag with Bonnie,” March 11. UPDATE: This event is canceled

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

UPDATE: This event is canceled.

The campus community is invited to an informal gathering with University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin.

The next “Brown Bag with Bonnie” will be held on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, noon to 1:00 p.m. at Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy (above), lecture hall A.

Bring a brown bag lunch for this informal talk-story gathering.

Chancellor Irwin holds Brown Bag events every month or so. For more information, contact University Relations.

 

Photo of Pharmacy Building by Raiatea Arcuri.

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Recruitment launched for vice chancellor for academic affairs

Aloha UH Hilo ‘ohana,

The recruitment for the vice chancellor for academic affairs position is now launched by the national executive search firm WittKieffer.

Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Mahalo to all of you who participated in the leadership profile forums held on January 27. WittKieffer and the search committee have been moving the process along to complete the search by the end of this spring, with the new vice chancellor in place in the fall.

Bonnie D. Irwin

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UH Hilo community is invited to “Brown Bag with Bonnie,” an informal gathering, Feb. 12

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

The campus community is invited to an informal gathering with University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Chancellor Bonnie. D. Irwin.

This month’s “Brown Bag with Bonnie” will be held on Wednesday, Feb.12, 2020, noon to 1:00 p.m. at the Student Services Center (above), room W201.

Bring a brown bag lunch for this informal talk-story gathering.

Chancellor Irwin holds Brown Bag events every month or so. For more information, contact University Relations.

 

Photo of Student Services Center by Raiatea Arcuri.

 

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Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Feb. 2020: Walking the equity walk

If we hold as a basic tenet that our foremost kuleana is to support all students, then we need to discover the areas where we can improve equity on campus.

Last fall, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo was ranked by US News & World Report as the most ethnically diverse campus in the country. This rating followed another in the Chronicle of Higher Education 2018 Almanac that named UH Hilo the most ethnically diverse four-year public university in the nation. This comes as no surprise to those of us who live in this diverse state where many of our communities and universities rank highly in this category, but lately we have been talking about what this ranking means, and, more importantly, what it could mean.

Across the country, universities talk about the need to support all students regardless of their race or ethnicity, and across the board, we all can do better. A new book, From Equity Talk to Equity Walk: Expanding Practitioner Knowledge for Racial Justice in Higher Education, teaches us to expand our knowledge and tools to better support all our students. Drawing from campus-based research projects sponsored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California, the authors challenge educators to specifically focus on racial equity as a critical lens for institutional and systemic change.

In our case, we are rightly proud of our diversity ranking, but this does not mean we can rest on our laurels. The very structures and systems of universities privilege certain students over others, and make it difficult for students who are first generation to attend college to thrive and succeed at the rate of their more privileged peers. If we hold as a basic tenet that our foremost kuleana is to support all students, then we need to discover the areas where we can improve equity on campus. We absolutely, positively do a lot of diversity and gender equity initiatives well, but how do we accidentally discourage students along the way?

I strongly believe all students can thrive when each has full access to all the support, encouragement, and resources needed to succeed. I believe a love of learning and a growth mindset is contagious given the chance, and that it is our job to create an academic environment where all can succeed. Right now I am looking at our curriculum, our processes, and our support programs to discover who shows up and who succeeds, and how do we expand that success to more of our students?

For examples, let me share with you two initiatives—one an academic program that has just received a prestigious national award for its stellar success at inclusive excellence and diversity, and one still in the visionary stage that seeks to establish a hub on campus to coordinate all existing diversity and equity programs.

The Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences has been awarded the 2019-2020 Inclusive Excellence Award from the American Kinesiology Association. The national award honors the department’s commitment to inclusiveness in its recruitment, retention, hiring, curriculum development, and administrative structure, specifically noting the diverse student make-up of the KES program: 84 percent come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, of which 35 percent are Native Hawaiian.

Of great interest is that enrollment in the KES program has increased over the last 15 years by over 500 percent. Today, it is the largest undergraduate academic program at UH Hilo with six faculty advising and teaching over 200 students. Of note is that the nominator of the award, Jennifer Stotter, director of our Office of Equal Employment and Affirmative Action, believes the success of KES is largely due to the faculty’s commitment to Uluākea, a program that trains faculty to develop curricula that includes Hawaiian cultural and linguistic applications in support of all-inclusive and place-based education. She also notes that KES faculty have been active supporters of Hawai‘i Papa O Ke Ao, a UH systemwide initiative supporting an indigenous and Hawaiian approach in teaching, research, and service.

Meanwhile, a group of diversity and equity experts at UH Hilo—Director Stotter, Director of Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center Gail Makuakāne-Lundin, and Chair of the UH Hilo Diversity Committee Dana-Lynn Ko‘omoa-Lange—have drawn up a proposal for a Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion that would coordinate existing DEI programs for students and employees (support services, resources, training, professional development, curriculum, research and scholarly activities, community partnerships). Although the plan did not receive the originally sought funding, I think this is an idea we should keep alive and continue to explore implementing.

Thank you all for your hard work, dedication, and support in making UH Hilo not only the most diverse campus in the country, but also in our striving to lift up all students to their greatest potential.

Aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin

 

Photo at top of post: Standing with students from the incoming class of Fall 2019, Aug. 22, Campus Center Plaza.

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