UH Hilo receives nearly $9 million in federal funds for Native Hawaiian student success programs

The funding will support staff at UH Hilo in their work with colleagues on campus and across other UH campuses to create new pathways for Native Hawaiian students to achieve success from freshman year to graduation.

A student holds up a ti lei.
At a recent event, sponsored by Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center called Kuʻu Lei Hilo, students learned how to make lei lāʻī (ti-leaf leis), kupeʻe or adornments for their wrist and ankles also made of lāʻī, and a hula. The event was held last week for visiting international, domestic, and UH Hilo students aspiring to study abroad. Photo credit: Dom Walczuk.

By Susan Enright.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center has received three five-year grants totaling nearly $9 million to improve student success among Native Hawaiian students. The federal funds are through the Title III, Part F Alaska Native Native Hawaiian (ANNH) Serving Institutions program.

Gail Makuakāne-Lundin pictured
Gail Makuakāne-Lundin

“All of our project goals include increasing Native Hawaiian student enrollment through retention efforts, increasing Native Hawaiian student graduation rates, and increasing Native Hawaiian student engagement in Hawaiian language and culture learning pathways,” says Gail Makuakāne-Lundin, director of the Kīpuka student center.

Makuakane-Lundin says she is especially grateful to Associate Director Hualani Loo and Student Development Coordinator Hoʻoleina Ioane who co-authored two of the grant proposals.

“The grants provide us the opportunity to work with our colleagues on campus and across other UH campuses to create new pathways for Native Hawaiian students to achieve success,” says Makuakāne-Lundin.

The projects

A cooperative grant between UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College will focus on indigenizing the two campuses. A main objective of the almost $3 million project, titled Pāʻieʻie, is to increase Native Hawaiian student enrollment and retention through Hawaiʻi Island place-based service-learning pathways. The project also will work on increasing Native Hawaiian students, faculty, and staff engagement through the creation of Indigenous resources and spaces on both campuses plus the Kō Education Center in Honokaʻa. Focus also will go toward increasing Native Hawaiian student graduation and transfer through faculty professional development activities.

A UH Hilo project, titled E Hakakau ai nā manu and supported with just over $2.7 million, will aim to increase Native Hawaiian student persistence and retention in their first and second year at the university. The three main areas of activity will be to increase student engagement, to renovating the Kīpuka buildings to provide better support, and to strengthen leadership development opportunities.

Pictured is red-painted buildings surrounded by ferns and ti.
One of the goals of recently-awarded federal funds is to renovate buildings at the Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center to provide better support services. Courtesy photo from Kīpuka/UH Hilo.

The third project, funded with $2.6 million and called Hoʻolana, will focus on improving access, enrollment, retention, and graduation rates for Native Hawaiian students from freshmen through senior years. Planned activities are summer bridge programs, a first-year course based on place-based service learning, sophomore programs that engage the campus and local communities; and strengthening leadership development in seniors to get them through to graduation.

Kīpuka also received a one-year supplemental ANNH grant of $551,298 to expand and enhance the Kūkulu: Strengthening Native Hawaiian Leadership by Building Retention and Graduate Efforts. The goals are to increase Native Hawaiian student enrollment through retention efforts, increase Native Hawaiian student graduation rates, and increasing Native Hawaiian student engagement in Hawaiian language and culture learning pathways.


Susan Enright is 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.