Bonnie Irwin recommended as next UH Hilo Chancellor

Bonnie Irwin will be recommended to replace Marcia Sakai, who has served as interim chancellor since 2017 when former chancellor Don Straney left the position to become the UH vice president for UH academic planning and policy.

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

Bonnie Irwin will be recommended for approval by the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) Board of Regents as the next chancellor of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo (UH Hilo). Irwin is currently the California State University (CSU) Monterey Bay provost and vice president for academic affairs and has more than 30 years of experience in higher education.

Irwin began her career in higher education in 1984 as a graduate student instructor at her alma mater, University of California at Berkeley. She also served as dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and dean of the Honors College at Eastern Illinois University prior to moving to CSU Monterey Bay in 2014.

“Bonnie brings a wealth of experience and a heart that will serve our Hilo campus and community well,” said UH President David Lassner. ”She has a deep understanding and appreciation of the critical role small comprehensive regional universities can serve in their communities, and the proven track record to deliver on that promise in the changing environment for higher education in Hawaiʻi and across the nation.”

“I am beyond excited to join the UH Hilo ʻohana and am humbled by this opportunity,” said Irwin. “I know how important UH Hilo is to Hawaiʻi Island and I look forward to working with students, faculty, staff, alumni, island leaders and community members to build on decades of great work as we move the university and community forward. My husband and I are also excited to start immersing ourselves in the unique and rich culture of Hilo and Hawaiʻi Island.”

Irwin’s responsibilities as chief academic officer at CSU Monterery Bay included leading six academic colleges, a college of extended education and international programs. Under her leadership the campus expanded strategic academic offerings to serve the community while increasing student retention and improving graduation rates. As a senior executive, she collaborated with the school’s leadership team to improve university-wide effectiveness and accountability while advancing student and faculty success. She also worked on and led initiatives for the CSU system, the largest in the nation, to advance public higher education across California.

After starting her teaching career at UC Berkeley, Irwin worked as an adjunct at Iowa State University before accepting a tenure-track faculty position at Eastern Illinois University. She served there as a professor of English specializing in world literature and folklore before moving into administration, where she facilitated initiatives in integrative learning, undergraduate research, guided pathways, interdisciplinary studies and inclusive excellence. She also has created faculty and administrative mentoring programs.

Irwin will be recommended to replace Marcia Sakai, who has served as interim chancellor since 2017 when former chancellor Don Straney left the position to become the UH vice president for academic planning and policy. Her appointment is expected to be considered for approval by the UH Board of Regents at its January 31, 2019 meeting. Her appointment would be effective July 1, 2019.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is a four-year college on the east coast of Hawaiʻi Island established in 1947. UH Hilo is dedicated to providing quality public education for students from Hawai‘i and around the world. The institution offers certifications, bachelors degrees, masters degrees and doctorates. The campus also has the only pharmacy school in the state. UH Hilo is one of the 10 campuses of the University of Hawaiʻi.