UH Hilo Vice Chancellor Farrah-Marie Gomes honored by Pacific Business News; named to “Women to Watch”

In propelling herself forward to make a positive impact on UH Hilo, Hawai‘i Island, and the overall state of Hawai‘i, Vice Chancellor Gomes finds motivation through her community.

By Anne Rivera.

Farrah-Marie Gomes
Farrah-Marie Gomes

A University of Hawai‘i at Hilo administrator has once again caught the attention of Pacific Business News. Farrah-Marie Gomes, UH Hilo’s new vice chancellor for student affairs, has been named to PBN’s 2017 “Women to Watch” list.

She will be honored at the PBN 19th Annual Women Who Mean Business Gala on March 9 in Honolulu.

According to editor in chief of PBN, A. Kam Napier, “Our Women to Watch honorees are women who, while still early in their careers, are making a mark on their industries and going above and beyond in their community engagement.”

Gomes is not new to prestigious recognition by PBN. In 2016 she was named to PBN’s annual “Top 40 Under 40” list.

Gomes says the recognition is “pretty exciting as well as unexpected,” and that she is still partially in denial. But she says it’s also a nice reminder that she has been able to do some wonderful things, and that it’s “really just the starting point.”

Roots and character

Gomes grew up on the island of Hawai’i in a plantation village just south of Honoka‘a called Pa‘auilo. She is the eldest of five and comes from a long history of plantation workers. Hawai‘i Island is not just her culture and home but is her roots and character.

She attended Kamehameha Schools on O‘ahu for her high school years, which she says was “the start of what has helped me develop my leadership skills to get me where I am today.”

After attending Kamehameha Schools, she returned to Hawai‘i Island and attended UH Hilo as an undergraduate.

“Coming back wasn’t a major decision,” she says. “It was more of a returning home.”

Gomes majored in psychology and minored in sociology at UH Hilo. Reflecting back on her childhood, she says she initially wanted to be a teacher but later discovered the purpose and joy of counseling, hence her declaration of psychology as her major.

She went on to receive her master of science in counseling psychology from Chaminade University in Honolulu, and her doctor of philosophy in educational studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Before becoming vice chancellor of student affairs at UH Hilo, Gomes was the UH System interim associate vice president for student affairs. Before that she served as interim dean of the UH Hilo College of Continuing Education and Community Service and director of the UH Hilo North Hawai‘i Education and Research Center.

Vice Chancellor Gomes

Now at UH Hilo Student Affairs, Vice Chancellor Gomes is providing vision, leadership, and direction for student success. Her primary role is to focus on enhancing the student experience at UH Hilo.

She has many goals to improve Student Affairs as well as enhance the lives of both the faculty and the student body. Gomes wants to ensure that students have a positive experience at UH Hilo while also supporting the growth of students by helping them build an outlook for his/her future: “It’s not just UH Hilo here, it’s UH Hilo here and beyond.”

Large group assembled to welcome new vice chancellor. At front is a group sitting near to pahu. The vice chancellor is standing at center of group, with lei and head lei.
UH Hilo’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Farrah-Marie Gomes (center front row standing with head lei) is welcomed to her new position during a Kīpaepae Welina ceremony, Dec. 2016. Click photo to enlarge.

Gomes says she wants to invest in not just the students but the staff as well. Her goals function on both micro and macro levels.

On a micro-level, she feels building relationships between students and faculty members “adds an overall value to the experience here,” meaning the best staff will result in what is best for the students.

On a macro-level, her goal is to embrace the opportunity to see UH Hilo reach its full potential. She wants Hilo to be identified as “one-of-a-kind” and offer things that can only be found here.

Gomes wants the students and staff to not just be successful here at UH Hilo but to be successful in life as well.

“True transference is in relation to the employer,” she explains. “We always keep an eye on the workforce because that really is the recipient of the fruits of our labor.”

It takes a community

Gomes understands first hand all the cultural components, familial obligations, and self-doubt that is involved in life. In order to propel herself forward to make a positive impact on UH Hilo, Hawai‘i Island, and the overall state of Hawai‘i, she finds motivation through her community.

“I’m the result of many others investment in me,” she says. “Not just my parents but teachers and counselors who have said ‘we know you can do this.’”

Giving back is a priority for Gomes; she holds seats on various boards and actively participates in community events and initiatives. She feels some people need more than they have and she often feels at times that she has more than she needs.

Giving back is not only hugely rewarding for her but she feels a sense of loyalty and responsibility to her community because she knows that success is a group effort.


Anne Rivera (majoring in communication) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

-UH Hilo Stories