Chancellor’s weekly update on countdown to reopen for fall semester: Strategic planning, student survey, budget, searches

Countdown to Fall 2020: 78 days remaining until fall semester begins. Here’s an update on the planning process for reopening the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo for fall semester.

Aloha Kākou,

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

Thankfully, our community continues to be relatively safe from the COVID virus and calm, despite the upheaval parts of the country are experiencing. While UH Hilo is rightfully proud to be the country’s most diverse campus, we all know that racism still exists, often hidden in things that we don’t even realize. The events of the last few months highlight the need to strive to create the equity and inclusion necessary to allow our diversity to flourish. One of the things I am exploring is how we might address these issues to make sure that every individual on our campus is accorded the respect and opportunities they deserve. Keep connected to hear of more opportunities to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion in the future.

Strategic Doing Committee Updates

The initial meetings of these groups have been scheduled, and membership has been confirmed. Please continue to check the Strategic Doing website for additional information.

Student Spring 2020 Survey of Online Experience

Three hundred and fifty students responded to the survey, and they have given us a wealth of information that will inform our efforts in the online environment generally and for fall 2020 in particular. One of the questions we asked students was to name a faculty member who, from their perspective, handled the transition particularly well this last spring. I was gratified to see that 130 separate faculty members were named, some multiple times! I will be reaching out to these faculty with my congratulations in the coming weeks.

Some students opted out of the question, some responded that they did not have any faculty who did particularly well, but others said that all their faculty did well. My favorite comment might be this one:

All of my professors tried their best to improvise and adapt to the new challenges unexpectedly placed upon them. Surprisingly, I have received the best grades during this semester that I have in all my years at UH Hilo. I commend all of my instructors for their efforts and support.

Thanks again to all faculty and staff who stepped up to keep our students on track and to hold space for those students to express concerns along the way.

Fall 2020 Working Groups

Two of our working groups got started this last week, and the conveners for both say that good ideas have come forward. We have ordered equipment for some of our classrooms to make hybrid classes easier to manage so that students attending online will have an experience of the same quality as those attending in person. An inventory of support programs and platforms is underway with plans to purchase and provide training in the coming months.

Meanwhile, the Seats Committee has continued to meet to match class sizes with the physical distancing capacity of our rooms for fall. The goal remains to keep our community as safe as possible while giving our students the best educational experience that we can muster.

Once we know more from the UH System level and the Hawai‘i State Department of Health, we will convene a testing and tracing working group.

Long Range Budget Committee

We are finalizing the Long Range Budget Committee as well. We expect the legislature to come back into session in the middle of this month and have the state budget finalized by the beginning of the fiscal year. Thus, on campus, we hope to know more about our state appropriation soon.

Administrative Searches

The vice chancellor and academic dean searches are moving along, as is the search for the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs/Dean of Students. The VC search is in the final stages, and there will be finalist interviews for the dean searches this week and later this month. Please check your email to learn of opportunities to participate. While I had hoped to wrap all the searches up during the academic year, COVID delayed these plans. As it is imperative to start the new academic year with a more permanent leadership team in place, I ask for your active participation. Faculty have requested that we postpone the College of Natural and Health Sciences interview scheduled for Wednesday so that the campus can honor the #ShutDownSTEM action. If the candidate agrees to be rescheduled, there will be an update on this schedule today or tomorrow.

I wish everyone a great week, and please continue to keep healthy and well!


Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo


Chancellor Irwin will be posting an update every Monday on the planning process for fall 2020. Read all planning updates on the Chancellor’s Blog.