UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin’s 2024 State of the University Address

Read full transcript of Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin’s 2024 State of the University Address delivered March 27.

Title slide with UH Hilo logo and: 2024 State of the University, Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin, March 27, 2024.
Throughout this transcript, click on images to enlarge.

Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin delivered the 2024 State of the University Address on March 27. Video recording of this presentation can be found on YouTube and at the end of this post.

Image of aerial view of campus with Hilo Bay in background. Hōʻoia ʻĀina …Kū nō ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi ma Hilo i ka hoʻohiki a Ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi e hoʻoulu i ke ola o ke kaiāulu ʻōiwi ma o ka hana kālaʻike ma nā kahua kula he ʻumi o ka ʻōnaehana papahana hoʻōiwi kulanui i kapa ʻia ʻo Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao… Land Acknowledgement Statement …UH Hilo aligns with the UH System’s commitment to fostering the wellbeing of Indigenous communities through academic processes put into effect with the ten-campus, system-wide transformation called Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao... He honua ʻōiwi ʻo Hawaiʻi nona ka poʻe ʻōiwi o ka ʻāina, ʻo ia nā kānaka Hawaiʻi. Aia kēia kulanui ma kēia ahupuaʻa ʻo Waiākea, ma ka moku ʻo Hilo. Kū nō ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi ma Hilo i ka hoʻohiki a Ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi e hoʻoulu i ke ola o ke kaiāulu ʻōiwi ma o ka hana kālai ʻike ma nā kahua kula he ʻumi o ka ʻōnaehana papahana hoʻōiwi kulanui i kapa ʻia ʻo Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao. He leo aloha kēia i ka poʻe a pau ʻākoakoa ana i ʻaneʻi.

Aloha mai kākou.

Bonnie Irwin pictured.
Bonnie D. Irwin

For me, the land acknowledgement is more than a formality. It is a statement of our role as a Hawaiian-serving and Indigenous-serving institution; it is an expression of gratitude for the privilege we all have of working in this place and for the people of our community.

With that in mind, I welcome you to the 2024 State of the University presentation. Much has changed since the one I delivered in 2021. We have emerged from the pandemic having learned many lessons on how to keep our community safe and how to come together, adapt, and carry on despite challenges.

While it is easy to focus on the losses of that time, of life, of degrees of freedom, of budget, and especially of human fellowship and connection, let us focus now on the strength and resilience that so many in our campus community showed, the ways in which we supported one another and our students, and the creativity and adaptability we showed in the crisis, and let us reflect on the ways in which we carry those values forward with us.

The president of Palau stopped by our campus last week. He came to visit the students from Palau whom we serve. I was grateful to be able to tell him how we stayed open for essential services during the pandemic, in part because of his constituents, the students from Palau who could not return home. If they were here on campus, many of us were going to be here in campus. Our commitment runs deep.

The other thing that runs deep is the dedication of our local community to our existence. We have with us here today UH Regent Wayne Higaki; Mayor Mitch Roth; Council Member Sue Lee Loy; Hawaiʻi County Director of Communications/Public Information Officer Cyrus Johnasen; and UH Hilo Community Advisory Board member Kealiʻi Beck.


Two images: one of old campus, one of current campus. HISTORY 1941: Hawaiʻi Vocational School is founded, and after several transformations, becomes Hawaiʻi Community College in 1969. 1947: The Hilo Program begins, then becomes the University of Hawaiʻi Hilo Branch, and after several major spurts of growth, becomes the four-year Hilo College in 1969. 1969: Hilo College is merged with Hawaiʻi Community College, becoming the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. 1991: UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College are separated. 2000s-present: UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College collaborate on serving the entire island.We have been graduating students with bachelorʻs degrees for over 50 years now and with graduate degrees for 20 years. We’ve been merged with the community college, we’ve been divorced from the community college, and now we are entering into a renewed sense of collaboration and partnership for the good of our island and our state.

Indeed, interim Chancellor Kazama and I were asked to present together at the February Regents meeting. Through the very process of jointly preparing for the meeting, we were able to uncover additional ways to partner, opening the door for a more robust relationship moving forward that extends beyond sharing space and a few articulation agreements and really focuses in how the two institution jointly serve our county.

County and State Data

County and State Data. Chart with numbers and percentages of population demographics.And here is a bit of information about that community we serve. The County of Hawaiʻi represents just under 14% of the total state population, but our county has a greater percentage of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander citizens than the state as a whole.

Traditional college age students are a smaller percentage here on Hawaiʻi Island, but those under 18 is a slightly higher percentage of our total population, presenting an opportunity for us.

Many of our residents face economic challenges, and the university has partnered with Vibrant Hawaiʻi and many others on initiatives to address the economic and social issues in our county, but there is room to do more.

Finally, I want to draw your attention to the nearly 32,000 people in our county with some college yet no degree. More on them a little later.

2023 Fall Enrollment

Image of student Lillian Lewis, from First Year Experience, who received the 2023 Student of the Year Award. 2023 Fall Enrollment: 2,781 Undergraduate: 2,424 Graduate: 357 Women: 62.9% Men: 35.5% Hawaiʻi State Resident: 68.7% Hawaiʻi Island Resident: 48.8% International Students: 8.31% Western Undergrad Exchange: 11.3% First Time Students: 18.7% Transfer Students: 11.1% Returning: 2.6% Continuing: 63.7% Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 37.6% Hawaiian Ancestry: 32.6% Asian: 18.9% Caucasian: 23.4% Mixed: 14.2% Hispanic: 1.6% African American or Black: 1.7% American Indian or Alaska Native: 1.3% So who are we today? Our students are still predominantly female, not unusual for a campus with thriving health care programs and no engineering school. And, as I am sure you all know, we have been in an era over the last few decades in which women are attending college in greater proportions than men. This slide features one of those women, Lillian Lewis, a student member of our first-year experience team, who won the 2023 student employee of the year award in recognition of the work she does to support her peers.

Our primary mission is to serve the island of Hawaiʻi, and our student enrollment also reflects that. The regents will be taking up a policy revision next week that may remove the cap on out-of-state enrollment. Our admissions folks have not let that cap deter them from recruiting students from out of state, so I do not anticipate a major change in our percentages, though our out-of-state enrollment may grow somewhat.

It is important to note, however, that we will never displace a Hawaiʻi student with one from elsewhere. We are among the most diverse campuses in the country, having held that distinction for several years. The diversity of our campus reflects the diversity of our community and is one of our great strengths as a university. Creating a stronger culture of equity will make that diversity even more of an asset.

2023 Fall Faculty

2023 Fall Faculty Image of Lissa Tsutsumi, assistant professor of applied agricultural sciences, who received the 2023 Outstanding Advisor/Mentor Award. She is standing for photo next to a horse. Total: 281 Women: 52.6% Men: 47.3% Caucasian: 48.4% Asian: 28.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 14.9% Mixed Race: 2.8% Hispanic: 2.1% American Indian or Alaska Native: 2.1% African American or Black: 1.4% Our faculty demographics, while not as varied as that of our students, also reflect the diversity of our community.

We have worked hard to keep our faculty numbers steady, even as our student enrollment has declined, allowing us to continue to provide robust academic programs and to prepare for that turnaround in enrollment that will come if we continue to work on student and employee retention.

Featured here is Lissa Tsutsumi, assistant professor of applied agricultural sciences, who earned the 2023 outstanding mentor award.

I am grateful to all the faculty for their intellect, their creativity, and their dedication to our students.

2023 Fall Staff

2023 Fall Faculty. Image of Christina Method, clinical education support specialist of pharmacy practice, who received the 2023 Professional Staff Award. Total: 257 Women: 56.4% Men: 47.4% Asian: 41.2% Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 33.4% Caucasian: 18.6% Hispanic: 2.7% Mixed: 2.7% African American or Black: 1.1% American Indian or Alaska Native: 0 Our staff, of course, reflects our community in that most of them are of our local community, one of the many things that anchors us to this place.

Here we have Christina Method, clinical education support specialist in the Daniel K Inouye College of Pharmacy, who earned the 2023 professional staff award.

We remain one of the largest employers in the County of Hawaiʻi. The last time I checked, over 100 of our staff and a number of our faculty are also UH Hilo alumni. These are former students who want to pay forward the education that they received and help us to continue to improve.

I am grateful for their service and the support they provide day in and day out to us all.

Trends: Fall Enrollment, First-Time Freshman, and Transfers

Fall Enrollment graph showing a trend of decline in enrollment 2016-2023.Unless you have been hiding away from the world completely, you know that our enrollment has been decreasing over the last decade.

We had a bit of a reprieve in the 2020-2021 academic year, as more local families kept their students close to home.

We also saw a number of those students leave us when it became safe to do so, but we also had some stay, a testament to their experience here.

Two graphs, one shows decline in first-time freshman over the course of 2019-2023. The other shows trend of decline in transfer students for the same period.We brought in record setting freshman classes in 2020 and 2021, which unfortunately were counterbalanced by precipitous drops in transfer students.

This is due to many factors: declining enrollments in community colleges nationally and here in Hawaiʻi, students taking more time at community colleges during the pandemic, and more students deciding on careers for which a CTE degree can send them straight to the workforce.

College-Going Rate

A graphic image in green of Hawaiʻi Island showing the percentages of college-go rate for the different regions of the island.A significant data point for us is also the immediate college-going rate in Hawaiʻi. This number represents the percentage of high school graduates who enter college within nine months of graduating.

The US average is 62%; Hawaiʻi 51%, Hawaiʻi County 43%.

Notably, for those students in Hawaiʻi who are economically disadvantaged while in high school, the college-going rate is 40%.

It may seem easy to suggest that we recruit more students from out of state if all we want to do is increase our enrollment, but that 62% is actually the lowest national rate in over 20 years, so our competitors on the mainland are facing some of the same challenges that we are.

Trends: Pell and Ancestry

Two charts showing downward trends for PELL grant recipients and in students with Hawaiian ancestry. All of these enrollment trends seem to have hit our neediest students and our Native Hawaiian students the hardest.

As our out-of-state enrollment becomes a larger percentage, our percentage of Pell students will decline, as those students with high need typically attend a college close to home.

You’ve heard me say before that I believe in using data as a flashlight to guide us to where we may want to focus our efforts. These two graphs point to one of those areas, and I will be asking the appropriate offices and teams to look into what we might do to more strongly support these students so that we see more of them enroll and cross the finish line.

Trends: 1-Year Retention

Slide has image of two students walking on campus. Chart shows fairly steady rate of 1-year retention.Another area where we see a pandemic effect is in retention and graduation rates.

The rate of students returning after their first year took a dip in 2021, but as you can see, we are turning that around a bit, and I am hopeful that that trend will continue.

This spring we are bringing back a survey, asking students whether they have registered or plan to register for summer and/or fall, and if not, why not. This survey will be the first step in a leaver/stayer study, a project emerging from the work of the faculty/staff cohorts who have completed the CalState Student Success Data Analytics Certificate Program.

Our goal here should be a retention rate of at least 75%, preferably 80%, and I believe those goals are within our reach.

Trends: Time To Degree and Graduation Rates

Two charts covering 2016-2023. One shows time to degree in years, and the other showing graduation rates. Grad rate shows a recent dip.Most of those students who graduate do so in four to five years. This first graph can be a little misleading because we measure it by the entering class.

We can expect the 2017 number to rise in the next couple of years, as more students graduate who are taking six or more years to do so.

We know that many of our students encounter personal or academic challenges that slow their journey toward their degrees, but we also know from years of national research that the longer it takes a student, the less likely they are to finish.

Thus, looking at how to support them while they are here and reach out to those who have left is a consistent part of our campus-wide retention strategy. Departments, now armed with the student success dashboards, can also be investigating any academic obstacles their students might be encountering, and I congratulate departments in the College of Natural and Health Sciences who have developed departmental retention plans.

The graduation rate graph shows our four-year and six-year rates, the national standards by which we are evaluated. We know that historically our out-of-state students graduate from UH Hilo at a rate approximately 10% less than our in-state students.

Our study of who leaves and who stays, in conjunction with help from a strategic enrollment management firm, will help us track these trends and develop strategies for both recruitment and retention to gradually increase our enrollment.

College enrollment is a highly complex, including many variables, and we want to make sure we are working on the ones that will truly make a difference.

Okay, enough of the ʻikepili. Let’s move away from the numbers for a bit. I know that for many of you, the stories behind the data are what really counts. And we never forget that each point on a graph represents a living, breathing person.

UH Strategic Imperatives

UH Strategic Imperatives. Fulfill kuleana to Native Hawaiians and Hawaiʻi. Develop successful students for a better future. Meet Hawaiʻi’s workforce needs of today and tomorrow. Diversify Hawaiʻi’s economy through UH innovation and research. On our journey to become a better institution, we are guided not only by campus plans but also by those of the UH System. The UH System strategic plan has four imperatives, on each of which we are making significant progress.

Imperative 1: Fulfill kuleana to Native Hawaiians and Hawaiʻi.

Long before this imperative was put into writing, UH Hilo understood this responsibility. In addition to the decades of work that Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani has done in language revitalization and the decades of support for Hawaiian students that has been provided by Kīpuka, and the stellar Hawaiian Collection curated by our library, we have launched a number of focused initiatives in the last few years.

How We Serve: Kuleana

How We Serve: Kuleana. Image of two student walking in the mala while holding ti leaves they have just harvested. Kaʻao framework. Kuleana & Community. Lā Honua Earth Day. Hoʻokamaʻāina tours. Language revitalization. Uluākea classes. We have applied for and received Title 3 funding which has enabled us to incorporate the kaʻao framework into much of what we do. We orient new faculty and staff through our Hoʻokamaʻāina program.

Our Kīpuka staff and students provide cultural and language training through our Uluākea program. Look for the emails from Malu Dudoit for notices of available sessions, which are open to all faculty and staff. Indeed, I believe there is one tonight on mele.

For some of our programs, we share kuleana with Hawaiʻi Community College. Our Native Hawaiian advisory committees partner on kipaepae and protocol for special events and welcoming guests to our campus. Coming up next month, we will co-host Earth Day activities on both our campuses, providing ample opportunity for keiki and adults alike to engage with the ʻāina. This event has been around for decades, and I am excited to see it back with more in-person events.

New this year, is expanded Merrie Monarch engagement. Please see the list of events on the Chancellor’s website for more information. Easily the largest annual event in Hilo, Merrie Monarch allows us to share with one another and our external community the many ways in which we honor and celebrate Hawaiian culture.

How We Serve: Kuleana

How We Serves: Kuleana. Image of students on a field trip down to the ocean. At left is a quotation from one of the students about how enriching the program is. Kuleana and Community.For new students, we also now offer the Kuleana and Community course (IS 150). The course encourages students and instructors alike to develop and strengthen their connections to UH Hilo, our community of East Hawaiʻi and Hawaiʻi Island as a whole. Through the learning of place names, their stories and significance, along with mālama ʻāina, or service-learning activities, this course engages both students and faculty with our island environment.

The importance of connecting students in meaningful ways to this place is an important factor in the Kuleana imperative, and I am so proud of the faculty and staff who created this experience, the many who have been trained to teach it, and the way in which it pulls students together in a common relationship with our island.

How We Serve: Student Success

How We Serve: Student Success. Image of two students celebrating commencement. Data Dashboards. Kaʻi i ka wēkiu. Strategic Enrollment Planning. Basic needs: Hale Lako. Imperative 2: Develop successful students for a better future.

Here we continue to make good progress in fulfilling our commitment to our students. Hale Paʻi ʻAi, the food pantry launched by administrative affairs before the pandemic (mahalo to Brenda Hamane for her good work on that project), has evolved into Hale Lako.

Hale Lako functions as a hub for addressing food insecurity, hygiene insecurity, and also offers gently used clothing and other supplies for students in need. Donate or help if you can.

We should also congratulate UHHSA and former Student Body President Blue for the fact that UH Hilo was the first UH campus to provide free menstrual products, far ahead of the proposed legislative mandates. Another way in which UH Hilo leads the UH system!

Kaʻi i Ka Wēkiu

Kaʻi i Ka Wēkiu . Image of two students manning a table at a fair, front banner reads: Student Health and Wellness Programs. Elevating Student Success Enrollment. Student engagement. Student wellbeing. Workplace culture. Inspired by all of the strategic planning documents and student success discussion in the last few years, our three vice chancellors took it upon themselves to totally revamp the student success leadership team to create a working body that includes nearly 60 staff and faculty.

Kaʻi i ka Wēkiu (Elevating Student Success) comprises four teams or kime, each of which addresses one of the areas noted on the slide: enrollment, student engagement, student wellbeing, and workplace culture. These kime have been hard at work this semester, really concentrating on operationalizing our student-facing message that “Your Journey is Our Focus.”

Our campus will soon see more information about this work on a dedicated website. We all recognize that we have an enrollment challenge, and the enrollment kime will concentrate on that issue.

Student persistence to degree, is enhanced by academic, professional, and personal engagement in meaningful activities, both in and out of class and the engagement kime addresses these activities.

For long time, it was assumed that because college-aged students were adults, they did not need any extra support, but we all now know otherwise, and the wellbeing kime is addressing the challenges our students face.

Finally, we cannot fulfill any of these kuleana we hold without being healthy ourselves, and our workplace culture kime focuses on faculty and staff and what we might do to make our workplaces healthier and more productive.

We know that healthy relationships drive success, for both students and employees, and the vice chancellors of academic and student affairs are discussing how best to organize our academic and support services on campus to make the most of those relationships.

How We Serve: Workforce

How We Serve: Workforce Image of student in the cockpit of an airplane simulator. Across the photo are the words: Commercial Professional Pilot Training. Aeronautical Sciences. Counseling Psychology. Data Science. Education. Pre-Engineering. Imperative 3: Meet Hawaiʻi’s workforce needs of today and tomorrow.

Building on our academic portfolio, we have developed three new degree programs: aeronautical sciences, data science, and a BA in educational studies, the last of which is going through the accreditation process now.

I am excited about our data science students also helping with our campus and county data needs, our aeronautical sciences students using drone technology to address the island’s many natural resource needs, and our expanded education offerings training the teachers our island needs.

In addition, we have revised degree programs and are seeking to expand capacity in others to meet island needs.

I would like to congratulate our Master’s in Counseling Psychology faculty for their advocacy. They have worked with the Hawaiʻi Island Fentanyl Task Force, and have support from the county portion of the Opioid Settlement to enhance their program in the area of substance abuse. And they have called upon their partners to support our legislative ask for more positions so that we can enroll more students and do more to address the crucial mental health needs in our state.

In addition, we are partnering with UH Mānoa to create a strong pathway for Hawaiʻi Island students who wish to study engineering. They will still need to complete their degrees on Oʻahu, but they will get a solid start here in our physics/astronomy program.

An enrollment and workforce discussion still in its infancy but moving along at a brisk pace regards microcredentials. Microcredentials are expanding the post-secondary education market. They are certifications that verify an individual’s competence in a specific skill or set of skills. They allow students to attain proficiencies that can enhance a degree, be a step along the path to a degree or, in some cases, be a substitute for a degree.

The Faculty Congress will soon be sending out a survey to faculty to assess what we might provide. We will then work with our Hawaiʻi County employers to see what they need. Remember those 32,000 residents with some college and no degree? Perhaps some of these credential programs will fill their needs.

Research and Community Engagement

Research Community Engagement Hawaiʻi Island (selected projects) Image is a map of Hawaii Island with colored dots where research (blue dots) and community engagement (orange dots) are taking place. Shows dots all over the island.Imperative 4: Diversify Hawaiʻi’s economy through UH innovation and research

During our recent presentation to the Board of Regents, this was one of the most striking slides, and I doubt that it is complete because not everyone saw my email call for examples.

UH Hilo faculty, staff, and students are all over this island. Every college and many other units on campus have research and community engagement activities underway.

These work to support and enhance our commitment to ʻāina and ʻohana. We know that first generation students especially value research and educational activities that help them give back to their families and communities. In this work, students often bring assets that they do not realize they have, from indigenous knowledge, to curiosity, to a strong service ethic.

This is doubly true for our local students, as these are their home environments and communities we seek to serve. Our work in environment and community also provides students from other places with island values they can take back home with them.

There are too many examples here to share, but just take this in for a moment. From mauka to makai, from windward to leeward, from Puna to Kohala, we serve this island and its people. And this is just the beginning.

Extramural Contracts and Grant Awards

This graph show steady increases over the years in extramural contract and grant awards. So far this year, through February, 2024 ($18.2M) has already exceeded all of 2023 ($17.7M).We support this work in part by grants, and I am happy to report that with three months left to go in the fiscal year, we are already ahead of where we have been for the last several years, and this is despite staff turnover in the Office of Research Services.

Congratulations to the faculty and staff, both UH and RCUH, who have made the effort to bring these funds into our campus and community.

We have even more opportunity here to collaborate with groups off campus to fund some of our joint activities, and the ability to create more sustainable partnerships.

Vice Chancellor Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa and acting Vice Chancellor for Research Bruce Mathews have been developing a sustainability plan for the grants office.

As a campus we have received grants from national and state agencies, private foundations and individual donors. Some of these funded projects have national or international impact, such as the grant from the U.S. Department of Education which will fund our faculty working with Indigenous communities across the U.S. on language revitalization.

Still others have significant local impact or campus impact.

My office will work with Academic Affairs to once again have a website where we can show all of our vibrant research activity. These grants all help support our bottom line, of course, but more important are the opportunities they provide to our students for hands-on, place-based research and the services they provide for our ʻāina and community.

State and Tuition Reserve

Slide showing chart with General, Special, and Revolving budget numbers from 2016-2024.Speaking of the bottom line, here is a snapshot of our state and tuition revenue for the last several years.

Despite our challenges with some legislators, UH is still fortunate to enjoy the level of state fiscal support that it does.

At UH Hilo we have been conservative with spending over the last several years, but last fall, as part of planned investments in our future, we pulled some money out of our reserves to fund several one-time purchases as well as to bridge funding for some crucial staff positions.

We also used a modest amount of reserve funding to make up for a tuition shortfall. Reserve spending for regular operations is not sustainable long-term, however, so progress on student recruitment and retention remains the most important factor in our future financial health.

Vice Chancellor Rapoza has opened up the budget process, sharing the timeline with campus and asking for budget requests from all units. This has resulted in 108 budget proposals, all of which will be reviewed in the coming weeks. Thank you to all who have participated.

Using the creativity of our entire ʻohana will lead to a stronger budget and a stronger campus.

UH Foundation Gifts

Graph shows UH Foundation Gifts from 2016 to present. It's an up and down graph, no steady trend.Private philanthropy has also been thriving. Private gifts help to fund scholarships, special projects and some of our signature events.

For the current year, we are almost caught up to our total for all of last year, and we have coming up the UH Day of Giving, April 10.

On that day, we will be featuring our student crisis fund in our social media and communications. Life happens, and students often come to us during the year with emergency needs, and having the crisis fund helps us help them overcome these unexpected obstacles.

You can participate in Giving Day by giving a donation yourself to this fund or any other fund you find worthy, or simply by helping us spread the word through your networks.

Giving is infectious. As part of the UH comprehensive campaign that launched on November 1, I decided to walk my talk, and so my husband and I have started a modest endowment to support undergraduate research. An anonymous donor is also helping out, meaning that we will hit the minimum threshold that much faster and be able to spend out of the account sooner.

Inspired by my gift, another donor stepped forward to start an endowment which will support UH Hilo undergraduate and graduate students in any major with research related to conservation and sustainability.

I am grateful to all our donors for the trust they have put in UH Hilo to make good use of these funds to create a vibrant campus and provide rich educational opportunities for our students.

I’ve said many times that one way in which we all contribute to the success of our university is through recruitment and fund raising. Even if we are not front line staff, the pride we show in our university, the dedication we have to our students, and the work we do in our community all have a positive, tangible impact on our campus.

WASC Senior College and University Commission Visit (re accreditation)

WSCUC Visit. Image of two graduates in lei. Strategic Plan Reconciliation. Program Assessment. IR Capacity. That positive attitude — looking at the assets each of us brings to our campus and the relationships we nurture with our students so that they, too, may recognize and utilize their many assets — is what I hope our WSCUC visiting team sees when they arrive in two weeks.

It is too easy to focus on what we have not yet achieved or to sometimes lose hope when the challenges are many, but the talents and dedication across our campus can overcome any obstacle in our path.

The WSCUC team will be coming specifically to see our progress in these areas.

Mahalo to the many people who have worked to get us caught up on program assessment and review, who have made efforts to incorporate data into their work, and to those who have contributed to the many conversations at all levels about our vision and future, which form the basis for strategic plan harmonization.

Mahalo nui loa especially to Seri Luangphinith, for her tireless efforts as our accreditation liaison to keep us on track.

Open Minds and Open Hearts

Slide is one large image of three graduates in cap and gown.Of course, far beyond what WSCUC expects of us, we do what we do for one another, our students, and our island home.

Our small yet diverse campus community contains riches of intellect, skill, training, and dedication. New advances in our fields and in how we communicate, operate, and learn come to us every year.

What is special about so much of the teaching, research and service that UH Hilo does across the state, across the world, but especially here at home, however, is that it is done not only with rigor, but also with open minds and open hearts, combining the new ideas with the abundance of knowledge, experience and aloha of our island and those we serve.

We know that centuries of Indigenous lived experience is important to what we understand about this place.

We know the strength that comes from working across diverse populations because no one source has all the answers.

We know that ʻAʻohe pau ka ʻike i ka hālau hoʻokahi (One learns from many sources).

As a campus, we understand and value kaiāulu, and the reciprocity between ourselves and our broader community of Hawaiʻi Island.

I approach my work here with humility, for there is always more to learn (and I hope all of you will continue learning with me), but I also approach our work with pride, pride in the labors of all of you and in the impact that UH Hilo has had in our many decades here in this special place.

Connecting Learning, Life and Aloha

A colorful graphic design of the university's slogan: Connecting Learning, Life and Aloha.Connecting Learning, Life, and Aloha is not just a slogan, it is our core activity. It is our promise to our students. It is our gratitude to our community.

As challenging as this era is in higher education, we are fortunate to be able to be a part of shaping the future, especially the future of this place that we are privileged to call our home.

Our campus sits on ceded lands, and as we reflect back on the land acknowledgement, we need to remember the debt we have to those who came before us, on this land, and on this campus, and we to look ahead to the responsibility we have to the generations that will come after us.

We are not just the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, but the university of Hilo and for Hilo and Hawaiʻi Island.

We can and will continue to make our institution the university that our state needs and our island deserves.

I mua!

Final slide of the presentation: UH Hilo logo and the words: Mahalo and I mua!

Video of presentation

Share this story