UH Hilo’s new vice chancellor for administrative affairs starts to craft holistic vision

One of Vice Chancellor Carla Ho‘ā’s goals is to help increase university connections within the local community.

Carla Ho‘ā pictured.
Carla Ho‘ā (Cooper Lund/UH Hilo Stories)

By Evangeline Lemieux.

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo has a new vice chancellor for administrative affairs. Carla Ho‘ā, who comes to UH Hilo from the University of Colorado Boulder, started her new position in January, taking on a vast scope of responsibilities.

The vice chancellor for administrative affairs oversees the budget office, the business office, the environmental health and safety office, the university’s bookstore, human resources, security services, auxiliary services, dining facilities, graphics services, the performing arts center, and information technology services.

With such a far-reaching scope of responsibilities, Ho‘ā is working to craft a holistic vision for the future of all these diverse yet connected areas.

Human resources

One of VC Ho‘ā’s priorities is to invest in human resources.

“We want to think of our employees as our biggest investment,” she says. “It’s not just a financial investment. It’s about how all the work that we do comes down to human beings. How do we ensure that we’re getting the right people into jobs doing the rights kinds of work, making sure as they enter the university that they have all the tools they need to be successful?”

She adds that giving employees the opportunity for career growth is also important. This means not only for their time at UH Hilo, but also to give them skills to take with them if they move on to other opportunities.

For Ho‘ā, the opportunity for her own career growth into this new position was long-awaited. She began seeking positions of this kind at UH Hilo over a decade ago, hoping to relocate her family back to Hawai‘i.

“I was really interested in this position when it came up for a couple of reasons,” she says. “I have family here, my dad is from here, so I have a sense of roots here. Also, I have a 12-year-old son that I wanted to have the opportunity to grow up here.”


Once she started as vice chancellor, Ho‘ā quickly began connecting with people on campus, networking, and developing working relationships. She prioritized listening to people to find out what they need and what their priorities are. She says her calendar immediately filled up with 45 to 50 different meetings.

Ho‘ā emphasizes the importance of communication between her office and other units and people on campus, knowing that coming into the job she wouldn’t be able to pose a big vision on day one. Instead, her plan is to take the information she’s gathering and construct a holistic strategic plan that incorporates the needs of all departments.

Sense of place

The new vice chancellor says another of her priorities is to emphasize the sense of place at UH Hilo, both in a visual and cultural sense. This means focusing on how it feels for students, faculty, and staff to be at UH Hilo and also focusing on cultural relevance and positioning within the landscape of culture.

“We think about the experience of students, visitors, and employees on campus, what is that impression that they’re getting? How do we really get that sense of place? We’re here in Hawai‘i, how are we representing that as well?”

Since many students live on the UH Hilo campus, one of Ho‘ā’s place-based goals is to create a safe, welcoming environment that feels like home. She is also committed to incorporating Hawaiian culture and ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i into the physical campus using landscaping and signage.

Community outreach

Another of Ho‘ā’s priorities is to help strengthen UH Hilo’s position within the island community. “We don’t exist just for ourselves, we’re here for a larger community as well. Just given the nature of Hilo, the island of Hawai‘i, what can we offer?”

With this in mind, one of Ho‘ā’s goals is to help increase university connections within the local community to further grow UH Hilo as a responsive economic engine that creates opportunities needed to drive progress. “I think about my own father, how maybe he wouldn’t have left the island if there were more opportunities here.”

Strategic plan

Vice Chancellor Ho‘ā is now working to develop the strategic plan to realize her goals.

“Trying to do everything right away is a recipe for failure,” she says. “So we need to think about how to stage these different activities, think things through, see what’s working, what are the obstacles, what needs to shift.”

The author of this story, Evangeline Lemieux, is double majoring in English and medical anthropology at UH Hilo.