Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai: A time of change at UH Hilo

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.

Marcia Sakai portrait
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.


Marcia Sakai


Originally published Aug 1, 2017 on the Interim Chancellor’s Blog.

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