UH Hilo 2023 Spring Commencement coming up May 13, drama professor and alumna Justina Mattos is keynote speaker

500 students have petitioned for degrees and/or certificates and for various post-graduate credentials, including the university’s first graduates of the aeronautical sciences program.

Large open-air venue with curved rooftop, graduates in red are seated, family and friends in bleachers.
UH Hilo’s 2019 Spring Commencement at Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium. (Raiatea Arcuri/UH Hilo Stories)

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo celebrates 2023 Spring Commencement on Saturday, May 13, beginning 9:00 a.m. at Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium. The ceremony also will be livestreamed.

Approximately 500 students have petitioned for degrees and/or certificates and for various post-graduate credentials, including the university’s first graduates of the aeronautical sciences program.

Students represent the College of Arts and Sciences; Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikolani College of Hawaiian Language; College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management; College of Natural and Health Sciences; College of Business and Economics; and Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy.

The ceremony is by limited invitation and not open to the public. Students are allowed to invite six guests, who must be registered.

Honoring Edith Kanaka‘ole

The university will also posthumously award the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to legendary kumu hula and composer Edith Kekuhikuhipu‘uoneonāali‘iōkohala Kenao Kanaka‘ole (1913-1979) in recognition of her contributions toward the preservation and revitalization of the Hawaiian language and culture.

Kanaka‘ole worked as a teacher at Hawai‘i Community College (1971-74) and at UH Hilo (1974-79) where she developed courses and seminars on Hawaiian language, ethnobotany, Polynesian history, genealogy and Hawaiian chant and mythology.

In March 2023, a commemorative quarter honoring Kanaka‘ole was released into circulation by the United States Mint. She is one of five American women to be minted on new quarters as part of the 2023 honorees for the American Women Quarters™ Program.


Justina Mattos pictured.
Justina Mattos

Justina Taft Mattos, associate professor of drama at UH Hilo, will deliver the keynote address.

Mattos is chair of the Department of Performing Arts and is a proud alumna of UH Hilo, where her studies focused on theatre and Hawaiian culture. While her graduate studies took her to the University of Oregon for a master’s degree and UH Mānoa for her doctorate, it was her life-long dream to return to teach at her alma mater in Hilo.

She teaches courses in acting, directing, playwriting, dramatic literature, theatre history, and drama pedagogy. She also acts and directs in a variety of genres, from musical theatre to Shakespeare. As a playwright, she writes in English, Hawai‘i Creole English, and ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i. Her most recent keiki musical, Mo‘o Huelo: Tale of a Tail, was presented at the Keaka Hawaiian Language Theatre Festival and televised statewide on ‘Oiwi TV.

Mattos is the recipient of the 2021 UH Board of Regents Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Student speaker

Kauā Segundo pictured.
Kauā Segundo

Sean Kauāakeakua “Kauā” Segundo, an undergraduate receiving his second bachelor’s degree, with a double major in Hawaiian language and linguistics, is student speaker. His remarks will be given in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language).

During his time at UH Hilo, he has worked as a student archivist at the Kani‘āina Hawaiian Language repository, served as student representative with the UH Hilo Student Association from spring 2022 to spring 2023, a member of the Hanakahi Council, and a lecturer with the Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language teaching Hawaiian language through Total Physical Response, a language teaching method.

Segundo is also deeply involved in Hawaiian cultural activities, such as hula, Hawaiian oratory, and Hawaiian music. He plans to pursue a master of arts in Indigenous language and culture with a focus on Hawaiian language and Hawaiian linguistics, followed by a doctor of philosophy in Hawaiian and Indigenous language and culture revitalization.

The ceremony will be recorded and available for viewing on the commencement website.

Media release.

Share this story