UH Hilo to launch new College of Natural and Health Sciences; interim dean says reorganization will strengthen representation of needs

The existing academic units—natural sciences, nursing, kinesiology and exercise science, to be moved into the new college July 1—will have better representation of student, faculty, and budget issues.

By Mikayla Toninato.

Graduates of Nursing Program in cap and gown at graduation.
On July 1, 2018, the UH Hilo The School of Nursing will be part of the new College of Natural and Health Sciences. File photo.

On July 1, 2018 the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo will officially have a new college—the College of Natural and Health Sciences. The new college will consist of the current Division of Natural Sciences, School of Nursing, and Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences.

Jim Beets, professor of marine science and current chair of the Division of Natural Sciences, will serve as interim dean while the new college finds a permanent candidate.

Beets describes how the need for a new college came from two primary reasons.

The first of these is “being able to better serve students and faculty in the natural and health sciences by taking the issues and needs directly to upper administration.” Beets explains how multiple levels of administration made the process for addressing students’ and faculty needs long and complicated. Because of the reorganization, the departments and programs within the College of Natural and Health Sciences will be able to receive better direct representation of student and faculty issues.

The second primary reason comes from a need for better representation of budget needs and improved accountability of the budget. Beets explains, “Understanding what the budget constraints are is important because when there are multiple levels of administration it’s difficult for department chairs to understand how the budgeting process works and how our allocations are developed.”

Students in this college will see the biggest change through strategic planning for items and issues. Beets explains, “There have been requests for new classroom resources and we are now able to better understand the issues and better allocate the funds that are given to those direct student and faculty needs.” Direct communication makes it easier to face issues head-on that students have addressed.

Initial focus

The focus of the new College of Natural and Health Sciences during its first year will be on the integration and operations as well as collaboration of all involved departments. “It’s collaboration amongst the departments that we want to strengthen,” shares Beets.

The creation of the new college will bring about new opportunities that are exciting to UH Hilo.

“I’m really excited about having a natural and health sciences integration that is better serving the faculty and students,” says Beets, “Every unit operates differently than others. In natural and health sciences we have many laboratory and recitation classes, so it’s really important to recognize that those courses have different needs than many of the units on campus.”

With a stronger focus placed on natural and health sciences, it allows the university greater opportunity to stay up to date with the latest technology to provide state of the art training for each of its students.

“There’s new technology coming out every year and if we’re going to be training students in natural and health sciences we really need to be able to train in these new technologies to make students competitive,” Beets says.

The additional help to each department will only raise the educational quality. Each department will have greater access to new instruments in technology. Beets continues, “So, we’re really excited going into this new college having new instruments and new items and a bit better conditions in their experience.”

The future

When looking to the future of the College of Natural and Health Sciences, Beets hopes to focus on the quality of education and opening up more research opportunities for students.

“In the field of sciences, just being able to take students out in the field is remarkable. We want to make sure that students in the sciences are getting the excitement of the natural world and how humans interface that.”

With this newfound support in the College of Natural and Health Sciences the departments can develop new research opportunities both in the lab and field.

In addition to new research opportunities there will also be opportunities for interdisciplinary programs between departments.

“There’s potential for new programs in the future with external funding,” says Beets. “So there will be a large focus on the external funding support, new program development and existing program development.”

The College of Natural and Health Sciences will be able to give its students greater support towards pursuing careers that they’re after. Beets describes the main focus in this area as, “supporting those new and exciting career fields and providing those pathways for the students that are working into the future.”

“The status quo is stepping backwards,” Beets continues, “If you’re trying to maintain the status quo it’s not innovative, but science is innovative. It’s pursuing these innovations, wanting the students to continue that kid-like joy of exploring the world. If we can provide and foster that then we are succeeding.”

Fall 2018 will be the first semester of classes through the College of Natural and Health Sciences. With these new resources available to students, the educational quality and opportunities for UH Hilo students will only continue to grow as the college develops.


Mikayla Toninato, a junior completing a semester at UH Hilo through the National Student Exchange program, is a writer for UH Hilo Stories. She is majoring in journalism with minors in graphic design and digital media studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

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