The event is the official beginning to students’ academic journey.
Fall 2017 Convocation was held last Wednesday at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. As part of New Student Orientation, the convocation event was presided over by new Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai, the vice chancellors and deans of the colleges, all dressed in full regalia. The event is the official beginning to students’ academic journey.
Each student was presented with lei lāʻi made by faculty, staff and students a couple of weeks ago. The leis along with 200 more that were made this summer by students and staff of the Kupa ʻĀina Summer Bridge Program were presented to all new students attending the convocation on Wednesday. Earlier this month, Interim Chancellor Sakai thanked those who participated in the lei making.
“Mahalo to all of you who participated in this lei-making activity—what a wonderful way to connect with our incoming students by giving them something made with our own spirit and hands!” Sakai expressed in an email to the university community.
Kalei Rapoza has been serving as director for the Office of Human Resources since 2016 where he has worked collaboratively with leadership across the UH Hilo campus in a range of human resources matters.
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai announced today the appointment of Kalei Rapoza to serve as acting vice chancellor for administrative affairs starting immediately.
Rapoza has been serving as director for the Office of Human Resources since 2016 where he has worked collaboratively with leadership across the UH Hilo campus in a range of human resources matters. He joined UH Hilo as associate director of HR in 2013, moving from the Department of Education. He has a juris doctor degree from the William S. Richardson School of Law at UH Mānoa and is a graduate of the UH President’s Emerging Leaders Program.
Rapoza will serve in an acting capacity until the appointment of an interim vice chancellor for administrative affairs.
My role at this point in time is to be a steward of the process, and I embrace the responsibility—the kuleana—to create stability for our university community while we move forward together.
By Marcia Sakai.
I’m writing this column as I prepare to become interim chancellor of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo on Aug. 1. For those of you who don’t know me, I joined the UH Hilo faculty in 1991 in the field of economics becoming tenured and promoted to the top professor ranks over the years. I was the founding dean of UH Hilo’s College of Business and Economics in 2005, and have been vice chancellor for administrative affairs since 2011.
I begin my new work as interim chancellor during a time of much change at the university. Not only is there change in the Office of the Chancellor with former Chancellor Don Straney being reassigned to his new UH System leadership role as vice president of academic planning and policy, but there are also changes in other leadership positions at UH Hilo.
Professor of Geology Ken Hon is new interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, and we will soon have an interim vice chancellor for administrative affairs when I take leave from my current position. Professor of History Michael Bitter is now interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Economics Tam Vu is interim dean of the College of Business and Economics.
And there is even more change underway.
The university is developing a new Enrollment Management Plan that takes an integrated, strategic and holistic approach to student success.
We have a goal of returning our enrollment to 2010 levels by the year 2020 and are redeploying resources into a number of initiatives, such as strengthening and developing new student and residence life programming and creating pathways for transfer students from Hawai‘i.
This is part of a UH system-wide initiative to focus on our core education function and grow enrollment, even while the general national trend is for continued higher education enrollment decline. Each of the 10 campuses are developing their own enrollment management plans with specific goals.
And we are reorganizing the College of Arts and Sciences—our largest of five colleges—into two new college units. This will remove an administrative layer between the dean and the faculty to facilitate communication and active faculty engagement in retention activities. This year we will undertake process modifications for the two new colleges to make them fully functional. The overall goal is to foster student success and better use of resources.
This is a lot of change for any university community, but we have good people doing amazing things at UH Hilo (think teaching, research, community outreach). From this strong base, we can regain balance and shift our focus to getting our work done.
My role at this point in time is to be a steward of the process, and I embrace the responsibility—the kuleana—to create stability for our university community while we move forward together. Change creates opportunities and it creates challenges. My goal is to help our students, faculty, staff and other administrators see the opportunities and know they can continue to be productive and successful in their work.
UH Hilo is my home. And what I’ve grown to value most are people—our students, our university ‘ohana, and our greatest supporters, the people of our island. It is an honor and privilege to be entrusted with the responsibility to serve as UH Hilo’s steward and leader. I look forward to working with both the university community and our island community to create a more responsive and more accessible university for the people of our island and state.
Students in the new program train for heritage-related careers in both the public and private sector to interpret, preserve, and perpetuate cultural heritage—something of immense value to our local communities and indigenous culture.
UH Hilo takes seriously its responsibility to our island communities and indigenous culture, and community-based archaeology is a vital aspect of Hawaiian cultural revitalization.
In a paper on the importance of cultural resource management professionals, Peter Mills, professor of anthropology, writes that Hawai‘i struggles with many issues confronting heritage management programs globally. Grass roots efforts to better manage Hawaiian cultural sites are increasing, and state regulations require cultural resource managers to have an advanced degree—yet graduate training in anthropology and related fields in Hawai‘i is limited.
Let me share a story of one of the graduates to show the importance of this degree to our island families and communities.
Lokelani Brandt received her bachelor of arts in anthropology with a minor in Hawaiian studies from UH Hilo in 2012 after receiving her primary education at Ke Kula ‘o Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u Hawaiian immersion school. She and her husband both have careers in Hilo (Lokelani is a lecturer for the Hawai‘i Life Styles Program at Hawai‘i Community College) and they would like to raise their family here.
With her newly received master of arts degree, Lokelani has accepted a full-time position in Hilo with ASM Affiliates, a major archaeological consulting firm. With her advanced degree in hand, she will be qualified to serve as a principal investigator on ASM’s field projects.
This type of career option will be very meaningful to many of our undergraduate students of Native Hawaiian ancestry—there is now an option to pursue professional leadership positions in archaeology and related fields rather than only volunteering for grass-roots organizations.
As Peter writes: “A shift in perspective is required, for example instead of viewing and interpreting ‘archaeological sites’ as significant only for their data, these cultural sites should be viewed as vital parts of a living Hawaiian culture.”
Watching these graduates at Commencement during the traditional “hooding” ceremony was a moving experience, knowing that the cohort will be going out into the world as professionals now credentialed to help preserve “a living Hawaiian culture.”
Along with UH Hilo’s responsibility to protect our islands’ cultural heritage, the university also accepts responsibility—given our location and resources—to learn with and from other island nations in the Pacific region. Our keynote speaker was President Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr, of the Republic of Palau, an internationally recognized leader on environmental issues not the least of which is his leadership in the historic effort to implement the Palau National Marine Sanctuary.
President Remengesau’s remarks focused on the responsibilities we all share in taking care of our island states, communities, and environment. This great man practices what he preachers—his work and visionary leadership is inspirational as we proceed in working together on the challenges of our time: sustainability, environmental protection and cultural preservation.
In addition to these responsibilities, the university also remains committed to safeguarding human rights, notably the rights of our LGBTQ+ community.
Our student speaker at commencement, Karla Kapo‘aiola Ahn, a performing arts major and entertainer who often performs music on campus, spoke about her gender transition and about how UH Hilo—in particular Professor of Drama Jackie Johnson, just retired—provided the unconditional support she needed to realize her full potential in her studies and in her life while at the university.
Karla personifies our pride in being the nation’s most diverse university system. We live the aloha spirit.
It was a beautiful Commencement celebrating cultural heritage, sustainability, and diversity, reaffirming our responsibilities in addressing the challenges of our time.
Tam Vu, professor of economics, will serve as interim dean of the College of Business and Economics at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo beginning June 17, 2017. Matt Platz, vice chancellor for academic affairs, made the announcement today in an email to the UH Hilo community. He says a national search for a permanent dean of the college will soon be launched.
“Prof. Vu has demonstrated herself to be a staunch advocate for students and the university community,” says Platz in the announcement. “She is adept to working with multiple constituencies on campus and has nurtured relationships with the community.”
Prof. Vu received her master of arts in economics and doctor of philosophy in macroeconomics from UH Mānoa. She was appointed as an assistant professor of economics at UH Hilo in 2006. In 2011, she was promoted to associate professor, and in 2015 achieved the rank of professor. She is also a graduate cooperating faculty at UH Mānoa.
At UH Hilo, Vu has served as a department chair, chair of the Program Review Subcommittee for the Graduate Council, chair of the Instructional Technology Subcommittee for the UH Hilo Long Range Budget Committee, chair of the Faculty Congress Budget Committee, interim director of the Master in China-US Relations Program, and numerous other services to the university.
Prof. Vu has also been the recipient of several research travel grants and was nominated for the Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award in 2014. Vu’s scholarly activity includes more than 30 refereed journal publications in the past ten years, multiple books and presentations, both national and international.