UH Hilo 2020-2021 Annual Report released

In the summer of 2020, faculty and staff at UH Hilo fully mobilized to prepare for the upcoming school year. Focusing on the mission of the university—to challenge students to reach their highest level of academic achievement—the campus implemented pandemic safety protocols, cleaning regimens, online trainings and courses, and a high standard of service. 

Li Tao teaching online.
Associate Professor of Biology Li Tao teaches a lab class remotely in fall of 2020. Courtesy photo.

By Susan Enright

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo released today the campus’s 2020-2021 Annual Report.

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie D. Irwin

In the summer of 2020, faculty and staff at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo fully mobilized to prepare for the upcoming school year. In August, Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin announced that all hybrid/hyflex modality courses that do not require a face-to-face component be conducted entirely online for the fall semester. Those classes that have a face-to-face required component (for example, clinical and lab courses) would be the only classes held physically on campus.

Focusing on the mission of the university—to challenge students to reach their highest level of academic achievement—the campus implemented pandemic safety protocols, cleaning regimens, online trainings and courses, and a high standard of service. Facilities staff erected plexiglass barriers, signage, and sanitizing stations for those required to be on campus. Custodial staff mobilized to clean and disinfect spaces. Information technology staff put in extra hours to upgrade online delivery of classes. Budget staff labored over the numbers, figuring out how to stay in business.

Education and community outreach moved forward. Students attended classes and presented their research online. Ka Haka ‘Ula o Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language doctoral candidates defended their dissertations. ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center launched a small camp for keiki, complete with all the physical distancing required. Everyone adapted while faculty continued to deliver a quality education, and students continued to learn about and explore the world, gaining knowledge every step of the way.

Through it all, UH Hilo remained a truly student-centered campus, serving both the students who were here physically and those who studied from a distance. High standards were maintained while faculty and staff acted with empathy to students and to one another. Because of this, and despite all the unexpected challenges brought by covid, the university had an immensely successful year, filled with accomplishments, accolades, milestones, and celebrations.

A sampling:

  • ACADEMICS: A Certificate in Indigenous Public Health program launches in fall of 2020, offering valuable knowledge for the age of covid. The program provides students with an understanding of the practice of public health, indigenous communities’ practices of health and well-being, and conventional and traditional health perspectives.
  • ADMINISTRATION: Chancellor Irwin delivers 2021 State of the University Address.
  • ALUMNI: Jay Bumanglag (Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, 2013; Master of Arts in Teaching, 2016) teaches his students at Pāhoa High and Intermediate School to do everything with good intentions and spread aloha.
  • CAMPUS LIFE: Campus life shifts dramatically with restrictions due to COVID-19 put in place starting in March of 2020. The campus is closed to the public, and in July 2020, the UH System distributes interim COVID-19 Guidelines for the fall 2020 semester addressing protocols for face coverings, social distancing, communication, classrooms, labs, offices, and cleaning. Here is the UH Hilo Social Distancing Guidelines and Strategies, posted July 7, 2020. See also: the UH Hilo COVID-19 Information web page. Because of the strict guidelines, there are limited people on-campus and in-person events are suspended as campus life remains virtual.
  • COMMENCEMENT: UH Hilo celebrates 2020 Fall Commencement with a pre-recorded virtual celebration on video and a live drive-through ceremony on campus the morning of Dec. 19. In total, approximately 279 students, including summer graduates, receive their degrees and certificates. 2021 Spring Commencement is held virtually with a drive-through celebration for graduates only on Saturday, May 15. Approximately 571 students petitioned for degrees and/or certificates and post-graduate credentials.
  • OUTREACH: ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center adapts its outreach programs to deliver quality activities while practicing covid safety. For example, the center celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2020 with a month-long event for island keiki and ‘ohana with hands-on learning opportunities and virtual engagement for all; diverse activities and events encourage Hawaiʻi Island families (and others) to explore nature and outdoor spaces.
  • ACHIEVEMENTS: Kauanoe Kamanā, advocate for Hawaiian language revitalization, is named on the Hawai‘i Women of the Century list. The director of Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, UH Hilo’s internationally renowned preschool-12 Hawaiian-medium laboratory school, is named one of Hawai‘i’s 10 Women of the Century by USA Today.
  • INFRASTRUCTURE: A groundbreaking ceremony is held for new soccer field, softball field, and multi-purpose athletic facility. The Title IX soccer field and softball field project in general consists of topographic survey and geotechnical investigation of existing site conditions, and meeting to coordinate civil, structural, electrical, mechanical engineering, architectural and landscape architectural services for design of replacement of existing grass softball outfield and soccer field with new synthetic turf.
  • EQUAL OPPORTUNITY: The Office of Equal Opportunity continues efforts to stop, prevent, and remedy discrimination through complaint investigations, education, and outreach in the areas of equal opportunity, affirmative action, the American with Disabilities Act, Title IX, and the Violence Against Woman Act.
  • RESEARCH: Adam Pack, who holds a joint appointment in the departments of psychology and biology and is founder of the UH Hilo Marine Mammal Laboratory, continues his research on humpback whale health with collaborative researchers from Hawai‘i and Alaska.
  • STUDENTS: Kawailehua Paikai pushes through innumerable setbacks, starts a family, and shifts her career choice to earn a UH Hilo doctoral degree in nursing. She plans to focus on health care access for Native Hawaiians.

Click here for more highlights of the 2020-2021 fiscal year.


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.