Chancellor’s weekly update on countdown to open for fall semester: New Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, testing & tracing, physical distancing, hybrid classes

July 6, 2020 Update. Countdown to Fall 2020: 50 days remaining until fall semester begins.

Aerial of UH Hilo Campus with Hilo Bay in distance.

Aloha Kākou,

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

On August 17, 2020, please join me in welcoming Dr. Kris Roney, who has been recommended for approval by President David Lassner as the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs here at UH Hilo following public posting on the July 16 UH Board of Regents meeting agenda.

Dr. Roney is Associate Vice President for Academic Programs and the Founding Dean of the University College & Graduate Studies at California State University, Monterey Bay. She previously served as Associate Vice President and the Founding Dean of the University College at University of North Georgia (formerly Gainesville State College) where she also held various other administrative positions. She has a wealth of experience in student success, both in increasing graduation and retention rates and in supporting high impact practices that help students thrive on campus. She has worked at highly diverse institutions, and has worked to create and support policies and programs in equity and inclusion.

Kris Roney
Kris Roney

I want to thank the search committee who spent many hours reading files and interviewing candidates, as well as all of the campus constituents that participated in the process for both this position and the others for which we are searching. The investment of your time and attention speaks well of your care for UH Hilo and our future.

Our various working groups continue to meet often. Here are the following updates.

Testing and Tracing (Dean Carolyn Ma, convener). The Testing and Tracing Working Group has formed with the following members:

  • Sherri Akau (UH Hilo Housing)
  • Laura Hill (Hawai‘i Community College Nursing)
  • Heather Hirata (UH Hilo Student Health Center)
  • Kenneth Kaleiwahea (Hawai‘i CC)
  • Joan Pagan (UH Hilo Nursing)
  • Cara Ikeda (UH Hilo College of Pharmacy)
  • Misty Pacheco (UH Hilo College of Natural and Health Sciences)
  • Joyce Norris Taylor (UH Hilo Nursing)
  • Kei-Lin K.H. Cerf (Palamanui)
  • Sheri Tokumaru (UH Hilo College of Pharmacy)
  • Ken Ikeda (UH Hilo Office of Environmental Health and Safety)

The committee met for the first time on Thursday, July 2, and will meet weekly to prepare process, policies and procedures that will adapt the UH COVID-19 Guidelines (Interim) specifically to UH Hilo, Hawai‘i Community College and Palamanui.

Academic and Student Support (Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Farrah-Marie Gomes, convener)

The Academic and Student Support Working Group continues to meet weekly. Writing tablets have been received and are being distributed so faculty and staff can begin testing the effectiveness of this tool. Short videos are currently in production to help address training topics identified by this working group. Student success videos are being shared with select staff this week so that a comprehensive rollout plan can be shared with the entire campus by the end of the month. We are awaiting the arrival of webcams to begin the conversion of spaces to serve as virtual access hubs across the campus. This working group is meeting this week with the Physical Distancing group to discuss details about items and areas where both groups overlap.

Physical Distancing (Interim Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs Kalei Rapoza, convener)

The Physical Distancing Working Group will be publishing campus guidelines this week, which will add more Hilo-specific information to the UH Systemwide interim guidelines issued on July 1.

Fall Course Schedule

Interim Vice Chancellor Ken Hon’s memo to faculty outlined UH Hiloʻs plans for offering courses only in hybrid or pure online formats that give flexibility to both faculty and students and avoid some of the concerns expressed in the higher educational media. These course type choices were made to give faculty control of the amount of in-person contact (within physical distancing limitations) and the amount of online contact within each hybrid course. Faculty have the flexibility to choose the arrangement that they feel most comfortable teaching within and, likewise, students have the freedom to choose whether to participate in face-to-face sessions or attend most classes all online. It is important to remember that the students who are coming back to campus will expect some in-person class sessions.

Allowing faculty and students to choose the mode of teaching/learning they are most comfortable with was the guiding factor in the modality choices. We will have more detailed descriptions of the course types available to students within the next day or two. We are just beginning the transition between the previously scheduled courses that were originally to be held all in-person to either hybrid or all online courses. The key to success will be having faculty reach out to students to let them know how their course will be taught. You can follow these changes at Fall 2020 Conversion to Hybrid Courses) and on the table in the middle of this web page.


The legislature plans to end its session on Friday, at which time we will have more information on our state-funded budget proportion. Bills passed this session will still require the Governor’s signature to become Acts.

Moving Forward

We were all awaiting the UH Systemwide guidance that was issued last week. As you can see from its depth and breadth, numerous people have been working on it over the last few weeks. Our plans will look very similar, but will include some things that are specific to our campus. In addition, Vice Chancellor Gomes and Vice Chancellor Rapoza joined me for a meeting with Mayor Harry Kim last Friday morning, where we discussed the importance of coordinating efforts with the city and county. We all wish to keep our community, both on and off campus, as safe as we can, and we continue to work toward that end as we welcome students back in the fall.

Take care, and I look forward to seeing many of you on Wednesday at our next Brown Bag July 8!

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

UH Hilo’s COVID-19 information webpage