For UH Hilo’s Todd Inouye, tenured and now director of the College of Business and Economics, it’s all about the students

Over the course of a quick three years, Todd Inouye arrived at UH Hilo, was promoted, received tenure, and became director of the university’s business and economics college. 

Image of the business college with image of Todd Inouye.
UH Hilo’s College of Business and Economics and Todd Inouye, associate professor of management and new director of the college. (Building: Courtesy photo. Todd Inouye: Raiatea Arcuri/UH Hilo Stories)

By Riana Jicha.
This story is part of an ongoing series on faculty who have recently received tenure.

Todd Inouye, associate professor of management at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, has enjoyed a string of impressive accomplishments since arriving at UH Hilo a little over three years ago.

Inouye started at the UH Hilo College of Business and Economics in the fall of 2019. Previously, he was an assistant professor of management at Niagara University, New York. Within two years at UH Hilo, in fall of 2021, he was promoted from assistant professor to associate professor, and in the spring of 2022, he received tenure, something he feels is a great honor and a validation of his hard work, offering him a sense of belonging.

“Tenure signals to most academics a feeling of belonging to a larger purpose to further the mission and vision of the institutions they serve,” he says. “Receiving tenure has felt like a large weight has lifted from my shoulders, and I can now see the world from a very different perspective. ”

That different perspective also reaches into Inouye’s newest position when he was named permanent director of the college in November of last year.

The role of director is newly defined for the college, carrying the responsibilities of a faculty member, department chair, and a dean who works closely with other college leadership. Inouye says support from the university’s administration, along with faculty and staff within the college, has made it possible for him to adjust to the position and begin to move the college forward.

It’s all about the students

For Inouye, the most important part of his roles at UH Hilo—whether teaching, doing research, or providing leadership—is the students.

“Researching the scholarship of teaching and learning helped me to be more impactful in the classroom, and no matter my role now or going forward, I remain committed to the students as I always have been,” he says.

He has always furthered that commitment through centering his teaching and research on experiential learning for his students. For example, his work on a coffee supply chain role-play simulation for students. The study demonstrated how student participants showed significant improvement in ethical awareness and scope of responsibility while also helping them feel more confident in negotiation. This mode of teaching reflects Inouye’s belief that the best teachers possess practical experience that is freely shared with and involves their students.

Inouye’s research interests are two-fold: in teaching methods, and in examining how contextual boundary conditions like diversity, gender, or public policy affect the strategies of small business managers and owners.

His teaching philosophy also prioritizes diverse backgrounds—he believes taking diversity into account increases critical thinking in students and the needed skills to expect the unexpected.

This emphasis on diversity and real-world experience offers students an excellent learning atmosphere, the primary motivation Inouye had in becoming an educator. He frequently tells students, “the decision a person makes now is the culmination of all their experiences leading up to this point,” and he prioritizes broadening his students’ perceptions through activities that encompass real world possibilities.

“I first entered academia in order to teach in higher education, and I had a singular motivation to provide students a better experience than I myself had,” he explains.

New role, same commitment

In Inouye’s new role as director of the college, he says his commitment to students has not waivered. He has discovered his new role in mentoring and supporting faculty is impactful to student outcomes. Following the advice from a UH Hilo mentor and friend, he feels the impact is most felt when he removes obstacles for others to succeed.

“I choose to make [faculty] and our students the face of the college rather than myself because their reach is so much larger than mine,” he says. “I personally feel that I can create the most positive impact by removing barriers or simply getting out of the way of good work.”

He also is implementing an online texting platform called Cadence for current and former students, which went on line in March. The purpose of Cadence is to better connect with students and alumni who are proceeding along their differing academic and career journeys.

“[The college] wants to be sensitive toward how current and former students consume information,” Inouye says, and by decreasing email communication while increasing text messaging, he believes that students will be better supported by the college faculty and staff.

Inouye also continues to promote experiential activities for students. For example, Delta Sigma Pi, the college’s co-ed business fraternity, holds events to introduce students to local business owners and engage them in practical experience. Earlier this spring semester, the organization had a mock interview event featuring representatives from Aloha Pawz, Allstate, and the prominent accounting firm Taketa, Iwata, Hara & Associates. Inouye promises many more experiential events to come.

Priorities

AACSB Accredited seal.The College of Business and Economics recently acquired extended accreditation. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business announced last month that the college successfully extended its global accreditation in business. Inouye says the accreditation process has been, and will continue to be, a priority for the college.

Other priorities are increasing access to facilities for studying and collaboration in the college’s multi-purpose room by issuing key fobs to students.

Plans are also underway to update the college’s advisory board membership for a more “outward facing” approach. That is in conjunction with meetings with stakeholders such as the UH System’s Office of Innovation and Commercialization, Hilo Fish Company, Waiakea High School, and Honoka‘a High and Intermediate School, to explore options to grow and enhance student learning. Inouye says the college is well-positioned for success in all these initiatives.

The director adds that his new role heading the college adds to his immense appreciation for UH Hilo.

“To truly be a part of the UH Hilo faculty ‘ohana is an honor, and with that comes a responsibility, which I take seriously,” he says.


By Riana Jicha, a double major in administration of justice and political science at UH Hilo.