UH Hilo Quintessential University Citizen: Paula Gealon, award administrator and “great navigator”

Paula Gealon is responsible for all extramural awards to UH Hilo, and has been at the task for 20 years this April. She is highly respected among faculty and administrators for her knowledge of grant processes and practices—one researcher calls her “the great navigator and translator of it all.”

By Susan Enright
This post is part of a series on Quintessential University Citizens at UH Hilo. The honorees were chosen by members of the Chancellor’s Executive Council and others during the first months after Chancellor Bonnie Irwin’s arrival at the university in July 2019.

Paula Gealon
Paula Gealon. Photo by Raiatea Arucri/UH Hilo Stories.

Paula Gealon, the fiscal and post award administrator at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, is known as a “great navigator” to those she helps through the sea of paperwork associated with projects funded through grants. She’s been at the task for 20 years this April, and is highly respected among faculty and administrators for her knowledge of grant processes and practices. It’s a job that depends heavily on compliance with legal rules and regulations, and Gealon’s expertise in this area is highly valued.

In honor of her significant contributions to UH Hilo through her excellent work, Gealon was recently recognized by the UH Hilo Chancellor’s Executive Council as a “Quintessential University Citizen.” She was nominated for the recognition by Cheryl Ramos, a professor of psychology.

“It takes a lot of work to get a grant, and once you get the award, you are quickly thrown into a whole new world of forms, procedures, and vocabulary,” says Ramos. “Paula is the great navigator and translator of it all. I have gone to her numerous times with questions and it never fails, Paula has the answer.”

According to the UH Hilo web page on Research Resources, “UH Hilo strongly encourages faculty to apply for extramural funding of scholarly and/or creative activities as well as training grants to enhance instructional capabilities. There are diverse international, federal, state, county and private agencies that provide funds for such activities.” The monies are received only after a rigorous application process, and Gealon is key in carrying out the administration and management of the processes from application to fruition of the project.

Gealon works in the Office of Research Administration/Project Development (RAPD). As the fiscal administrator, she is responsible for all extramural awards to UH Hilo. “We oversee all transactions, procurement and non-procurement, impacting these extramural funds and also ensure compliance with the award terms and conditions governing those awards,” she explains. “We try to offer solutions to procurement challenges but realize we may need to say no on very rare occasions.”

She says in the work she does, the top three skills she values most in herself are integrity, being team player, and taking initiative.

“We strive to support the research community at UH Hilo from award implementation through project fruition and award closeout,” she says. “We may encounter pot holes along the way, but we’ll also look for the alternate routes to aid in reaching your destination.”

She adds, “Basically I enjoy what I do, even though tasks may be repetitive, each [project] is a bit different. And the wonderful UH Hilo community, both faculty and staff, are always a blessing.”

Gealon started in this particular line of work as an employee of the Research Corporation of the University of Hawai‘i (RCUH) with Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center (now ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center) back in March 2000. She later transitioned to the RCUH Hilo office in April 2000. RCUH Hilo then became RAPD in 2012.

Prior to working with RCUH, Gealon was with Halau Kapili Hou (Alu Like), Hana Pu Kahi (Hawai‘i Community College), Hilo Union School, and 12 years with the County of Hawai‘i.

She arrived in Hilo in 1976, relocating from O‘ahu, and says she never looked back. “I visit family on O‘ahu every once in a while, but my children and grandchildren are on the Big Island, as is my heart,” she says.

See more UH Hilo Quintessential University Citizens.


Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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