Aerial of UH Hilo Campus with Hilo Bay in distance.

UH Hilo FY20 Annual Report

Fiscal Year July 1, 2019—June 30, 2020. 

Fiscal year 2019-2020 will forever be remembered as the year the pandemic arrives. In mid-March 2020, faculty at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo move quickly over spring break to switch their classes to online delivery for the remainder of the semester. The campus is soon shut, closed to the public, with only essential university workers reporting for work on campus. The main goal of the university community is to help students successfully complete the semester, especially graduating seniors—and all expectations are met. The university celebrates 2020 Spring Commencement with a virtual ceremony video filled with over 730 submissions from students, faculty, and staff, and congratulatory messages from Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin and the deans of each college (scroll down to Commencement section to view video).

Following commencement, executive leadership focuses on fall preparation. Committees are named to work on the types of instruction that will be needed for fall. The goal is to deliver the best education possible to students, both on campus and online, with a focus on keeping the university community safe during the pandemic. Classrooms are measured, seats removed or blocked off to ensure appropriate distancing. The Scheduling Committee is apprised of the new capacity numbers and are adjusting the schedule accordingly. Traffic patterns in and out of buildings, hand sanitizing stations, and other adjustments are being made and funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as CARES. Student Housing staff works on plan to house as many students as possible with adequate physical distancing and cleaning protocols in place. While the number of students in residence halls will be reduced in the fall, the goal is to serve as many students as possible.

But even with arrival of this disruption and the development of a “new normal” in the spring and coming fall semesters, the university has an immensely successful year, filled with accomplishments, accolades, milestones, and celebrations. Here are the highlights of the 2019-2020 year at UH Hilo.



A group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera
Current interns, mentors, alumni, and staff from the Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science, known as PIPES, celebrate winning the Outstanding Leadership Award at the 26th Annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference held in Honolulu, July 10, 2019. Courtesy photo.

The Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science, known as PIPES, is awarded the Hawai‘i Conservation Allianceʻs Outstanding Leadership Award at the 26th Annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference held in Honolulu July 10, 2019. The award is given to a person or group that has demonstrated exceptional leadership in advancing environmental conservation in Hawai‘i that leads to significantly better protection of Hawai‘i’s native ecosystems. PIPES is dedicated to educating and growing the next generation of natural resources leaders through recruiting and retaining local undergraduates in related fields of study and ultimately careers. The internship experiences for the students focus on personal, academic, and professional success through a foundation of aloha and mālama ‘āina, with the ultimate goal of returning to healthy ecosystems and thriving communities.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program is re-accredited through 2029 by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The reaccreditation is the maximum 10-year term, received following a rigorous process that included a self-study, site visit and a review of the DNP nursing curriculum. The UH Hilo DNP program currently has 28 students, and has graduated 39 students since 2015.

The Counseling Psychology Graduate Program is now accessible to off-island students via distance learning technology. In a new hybrid system, students in the counseling psychology graduate program who live on Hawai‘i Island receive their classroom learning in a more traditional way, while students on neighbor islands now have access through a videoconferencing system. Coordinators of the program hope the new system helps increase much-needed mental health clinicians across the state.

The Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences receives national award for inclusive excellence and diversity. The American Kinesiology Association’s Inclusive Excellence Award recognizes academic programs that exemplify the core principles of inclusive excellence and diversity. The 2019-2020 award honors the commitment of the UH Hilo program to inclusiveness through its recruitment, retention, hiring, curriculum development, and administrative structure.

UH Hilo joins Interstate Passport Network, allowing for easier transfer of students. A student in a network institution earns a “Passport,” which includes lower-division general education, then that student can now transfer to UH Hilo and have their learning recognized and general education credits accepted.



Bonnie Irwin
Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin

UH Hilo welcomes Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin to UH Hilo on July 1, 2019. In her first monthly column, Chancellor Irwin shares her vision for the university:

…My favorite definition of leadership is that it is a process of moving an organization from its current reality to its aspirations. My first task at UH Hilo is to listen and learn what the campus and community aspirations are and then focus our energy toward achieving them, all the while making sure we are ambitious enough in those aspirations to really help the island with its needs—economic, educational, and cultural—while also protecting the ‘āina through sustainable activities.

I take this responsibility to heart. I strongly believe in the concept of regional stewardship for comprehensive universities: i.e., that a primary mission of our campus is to lift up the region, in this case Hawai‘i Island. One of the reasons I wanted to come to UH Hilo is because of our unique cultural emphasis in programs and curriculum, notably the acclaimed work being done to revitalize Native Hawaiian language and culture for the benefit of not only Hawai‘i’s indigenous people but also everyone in the state. The future of our university and our local community are inextricably linked…. [full column]

Greg Chun is named executive director of Maunakea stewardship. Chun will oversee relevant UH programs to ensure recognition of Maunakea’s natural, cultural, educational and scientific resources and will report directly to UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin.

In the spring of 2020, executive management searches are underway for vice chancellor for academic affairs, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students, and deans for the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Natural and Health Sciences.



Group photo of five alumni.
Prior to their departure to Japan, a group of UH Hilo alumni participating in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) pose for photo during orientation in Honolulu. From left Jenna Pontes-Borje, Kyle Cannoles, Anayah Doi, Alex Kaetsu, and Thea Loo. Courtesy photo.

Five alumni are selected to be assistant language teachers for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program sponsored by the government of Japan. The teachers will be placed at locations in Japan. The five UH Hilo alumni are:

  • Alexander Kaetsu (Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics).
  • Anayah Doi (BA in Linguistics, Minor in Japanese Studies, and Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages or TESOL). Doi studied abroad at Hokkaido University as an undergraduate.
  • Jenna Pontes-Borje (BA in Linguistics, Minor in English, Certificate in TESOL). Pontes-Borje studied abroad at Tokyo Gakugei University as an undergraduate.
  • Thea Loo (BA in Linguistics, BA in Japanese Studies, Minor in English, Certificate in TESOL).
  • Kyle Cannoles (BA in Computer Science, Minor in Japanese Studies, Certificate in Database Management).

In her homeland of Kosrae, alumna Faith Siba earns post graduate diploma in sustainable development. The intensive postgraduate program based at James Cook University, Australia, is part of a multinational project aimed at producing professionals in sustainable biological, social, and economic resilience.

A solo art exhibition by alumnus Christofer Churchill opens at a prestigious LA gallery. Churchill is an Ojai-based artist working primarily in painting, collage, and drawing. His works are often filled with vibrant and saturated color with overlaid lines and scrawls that loosely depict landscapes, faces, and other organic forms. A large triptych (three-part) painting, titled La Lluvia (2000), approximately 84″ x 216″, was created by Churchill while a UH Hilo student and is installed on campus at the Student Life Center.

The 2019 “Jan Ken Po” art exhibit, juried by alumna Margo Ray, opens at Wailoa Center. The collection also includes work by several students and recent graduates of the UH Hilo art program. In conjunction with the exhibit, Ray’s own artwork is on display at Wailoa’s Fountain Gallery with a collection of her prints and mixed media works on canvas.

Building on skill set learned doing research as undergraduate at UH Hilo, Tino Wells is now working at national research institution. At the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Wells is working on machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence, or AI, that involves the development of computer programs that can access data and use it to learn for themselves. The know-how on researching and creating those computer programs is the skill-set the national lab values in Wells.

Astronomy alumnus Theodore Pruyne discovers second closest object on record to graze by Earth. Now a research specialist at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, Pruyne discovers the second closest object on record to graze by Earth and not impact, a close approach that happened only about seven hours after discovery. The next month, Pruyne discovers a possible mini-moon orbiting Earth.

Alumnus Joshua Tavares lands iconic Broadway musical role in Rent. Tavares traces his acting roots to UH Hilo and credits renowned drama professor Jackie Pualani Johnson for shaping him into an onstage storyteller.


Two students seated at a table in front of a window
Two students enjoy a new seating area at Mookini Library. Photo by Raiatea Arcuri/UH Hilo Stories.

The university ‘ohana returns from summer break to find a newly furnished lanai and lobby at Mookini Library. With an innovative design connected to nature, the library entrance way now immerses patrons in natural elements with comfortable seating made with local woods, tables shaped like rivers, images of ‘ōhi‘a blooms, and the aroma of fresh brewed local coffee. It’s a comfortable and welcoming place to study, meet up, or sit quietly to collect one’s thoughts. Students gather there from dawn to well into the evening hours.

U.S. News and World Report ranks UH Hilo as most ethnically diverse campus among national universities. In the 2020 report of college rankings, UH Hilo received a diversity index of 77 percent, followed by Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI, tied with Rutgers University, Newark, NJ, at 76 percent, and the University of Nevada–Las Vegas, NV, at 75 percent.

Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai food pantry is officially opened in fall 2019 and has food available to any UH Hilo student in need of food assistance. Following guidance from the UH System Food Insecurity Committee, the pantry helps those in need. Students are asked to use the food pantry services only as needed so as many students as possible can be served. The pantry is not intended to supply all food a student needs for the week, but provides supplemental food to those who are in need of this type of support.

UH Hilo receives grant from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to strengthen suicide prevention resources. Goals of the new project are to reduce mental health disparities, educate students and campus community about substance use and abuse to prevent suicide, and decrease reported levels of student distress and suicidal ideation on campus.

The campus celebrates National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, 2019. Informational tables are set up on the Campus Center Plaza, with a photo booth, games, food, and “Coming Out Open Mic” fun inside the center.



Three graduates with money head dresses.
Three graduates following ceremonies for UH Hilo 2019 Fall Commencement. Photo by Raiatea Arcuri/UH Hilo Stories.

At 2019 Fall Commencement, 170 students petitioned for degrees and/or certificates from the College of Arts and Sciences; College of Natural and Health Sciences; College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management; College of Business and Economics, the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy; Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke ‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language; and other post-graduate credentials.

For Spring 2020 Commencement, UH Hilo congratulates and honors graduates with a special virtual commencement video. The university postponed its traditional in-person ceremony, originally scheduled for May 16, 2020, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Approximately 608 students petitioned for degrees and/or certificates from the six colleges and various post-graduate credentials. The virtual commencement video has over 730 submissions from students, faculty, and staff, and congratulatory messages from Chancellor Irwin and the deans of each college.



Large group of school children, many in red t-shirts. Four or five adults stand with the children. The group is gathered in the lobby of Imiloa Astronomy Center.
‘Ike Kai keiki at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. Courtesy photo from ʻImiloa.

ʻImiloa Astronomy Center hosts keiki for day of “mauka immersion.” The children explored the water cycle, Poli‘ahu and snow on Maunakea, tracing weather patterns and hurricanes on “Science on a Sphere,” and learned about the challenges of packing water for a long-distance sail on Hōkūle‘a.

The 3rd Annual ʻŌhiʻa Love Fest is held at UH Hilo’s ʻImiloa Astronomy Center where keiki learn how to become citizen scientists. Emphasis is on keiki activities at booths and tables where young ones learn about sanitation practices to protect against the spread of Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death fungal disease.

Schoolchildren learn about Hawai‘i’s “Fantastic Bugs” at UH Hilo summer camp in 2019. At two week-long summer camp programs held at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center—one in June and one in July called “Fantastic Bugs and Where to Find Them”—campers do “insectigations” of curious creatures and their habitats.

A newly discovered quasar is given a Hawaiian name through ‘Imiloa naming program. In honor of its discovery from Maunakea, the quasar was given the Hawaiian name Pōniuāʻena by thirty Hawaiian immersion school teachers during a workshop led by UH Hilo’s ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

Schoolchildren learn about farming and livestock at UH Hilo Ag Farm. In a collaborative program between UH Hilo and Kamehameha Schools, several dozen first graders visit the university’s Agricultural Farm Laboratory in Pana‘ewa six times over the summer of 2019 to learn about agriculture.

Hawaiian language expert Larry Kimura names new telescope instrument. The name of the telescope instrument, Nāmakanui (The Big Eyes), to be installed at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Maunakea, refers to the three individual receivers that make up the instrument, each of which Kimura named after three red-colored, big-eyed species of nocturnal fish: ‘Ū‘ū, ‘Āweoweo, and ‘Ala‘ihi.

The aquaculture center partners with Honolulu Community College to improve water quality at Sand Island. Native oysters cultured at the UH Hilo Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Center will be used to improve water quality at Sand Island, Honolulu. At ceremonies to launch the project, baskets of oysters are placed in the water at Honolulu Community College’s Marine Education Training Center and the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s mooring area. The center also partners with Maui Nui Marine Resource Council to improve water quality at Māʻalaea Harbor.

The pharmacy college launches medication education and disposal project for elderly. The statewide project, headed by the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, is funded through an Opioid and Medication Education and Disposal grant focused on educating the elderly about simple alternatives to the disposal of unused medications.

UH Hilo hosts a motivational event for high school students of Pacific Islander heritage. The students attend workshops and panel discussions and then a resource fair showcasing UH Hilo programs and support services, career possibilities, community organizations, and UH Hilo Pacific clubs.

A case study based on UH Hilo research of coastal erosion is published in the “U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.” The innovative research combines historic aerial photos, current drone imagery, and topographic surveys to discover coastal changes around Hawai‘i Island. The results of the study are informing policymakers who are crafting a new setback policy for coastal development.



UH Hilo focuses on high impact research that has meaning for the island and state. Many projects are done in collaboration with county, state, and federal agencies. Research at UH Hilo is used to advance the university’s teaching mission and incorporates both undergraduate and graduate students, with niche graduate programs creating areas of excellence. Much of the research activity at UH Hilo has economic impact in local communities.

For FY2020, (July 1, 2019—June 30, 2020), UH Hilo is awarded a total in grants and contracts of $14,325,206 with 107 total awards.

Current Fiscal Year (FY20 )

    • Research: $3,863,987, with a total of 52  awards.
    • Non-Research: $10,461,219, with a total of 55 awards.
    • Overall FY21 Totals: $14,325,206, with a total of 107 awards.

Last Fiscal Year (FY19)

    • Research: $7,298,274, with a total of 59 awards.
    • Non-Research: $9,888,878, with a total of 77 awards.
    • Overall FY21 Totals: $17,187,152, with a total of 136 awards.




Ryan Perroy stands with presenters of award. He wears a lei.
UH Hilo geographer Ryan Perroy (center) stands with Stanton Enomoto (left) of the Department of the Interior’s Office of Native Hawaiian Relations, and David Benitez, an ecologist at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Perroy is presented with the first place award of The ‘Ōhi‘a Challenge at the Hawai‘i Conservation Conference in Honolulu, July 10, 2019. Photo by Danny Duda.

Campus and System Awards

  • Excellence in Service Award: Norman Arancon, Associate Professor of Horticulture and Chair of Performing Arts
  • Pulama ʻIke Award: Francis Dumanig, Assistant Professor of English
  • Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi Award for Excellence and Innovation: Larry Kimura, Associate Professor of Hawaiian Language and Hawaiian Studies
  • Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching: Patsy Iwasaki, Instructor of English
  • Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching: John Burns, Assistant Professor of Marine Science
  • Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award: Kirsten Mollegaard, Professor and Chair of English
  • Distinguished Service Award for Improving Student Life: Mackenzie Slayton, Associate Director of Campus Recreation
  • Excellence in Building and Grounds Maintenance Award: Levi Mangiboyat, Janitor, Auxiliary Services

Nine faculty and staff are named UH Hilo Quintessential University Citizens for the 2019-2020 year (click links to read stories on each recipient’s work):

Geographer Ryan Perroy wins $70k prize for his innovative use of drones in his research on Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death. Associate Professor Perroy won The ‘Ōhi‘a Challenge for his use of drones and remote sensing devices to detect the fungal disease decimating Hawaiian forests. The competition was sponsored by Conservation X Labs, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Native Hawaiian Relations, the National Invasive Species Council Secretariat, and the National Park Service.

Two faculty from the pharmacy college are chosen for a national leadership program. Hawai‘i is the only state with two teams selected for the exclusive Robert Woods Johnson Foundation’s Clinical Scholars Program. Among team members are UH Hilo assistant professors of pharmacy practice Camlyn Masuda and Chad Kawakami.

Indigenous educator Makalapua Alencastre receives lifetime achievement award from national association. Associate Professor Makalapua is recognized by the National Indian Education Association for her 40 years of working on the reestablishment of Hawaiian as the primary language of the family and education. Her professional and research interests include indigenous immersion education-program planning and evaluation, teacher education, and educational reform.

Larry Kimura, Hawaiian language preservationist, is named a Living Treasure of Hawai‘i. Associate Professor Kimura receives the honor from the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i for his extraordinary commitment to the preservation and use of the Hawaiian language.

Pacific Business News names Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Farrah-Marie Gomes one of 29 awarded the 2020 Women Who Mean Business. The award recognizes women who are helping their businesses and industry grow while also raising up the community.

Hawai‘i Business Magazine names Ka‘iu Kimura as honoree in the publication’s 11th Annual “20 for the Next 20.” Kimura is honored for her work as director of ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center at UH Hilo, where she is bringing Maunakea to the forefront through educational opportunities that couple the mountain’s culture and history with astronomy.

The following faculty are awarded tenure and promotion in 2020:

  • Tenure and Promotion
    • Jeanette Ayers-Kawakami—Associate Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences
    • Cherie Chu—Associate Professor, Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy
    • Tobias Irish—Associate Professor, College of Arts and Sciences
    • Stan Nakanishi—Associate Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences
    • Jolene Sutton—Associate Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences
  • Tenure
    • Wesley Sumida—Associate Professor, Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy
  • Promotion
    • Norman Arancon—Professor, College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management
    • Celia Bardwell-Jones—Professor, College of Arts and Sciences
    • Margary Martin—Associate Professor, College of Arts and Sciences
    • Shawon Rahman—Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences
    • Ghee Tan—Professor, Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy
    • Brian Wissman—Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences


Two story building with glass front. Sign: Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, University of Hawaii at Hilo.
New building for the UH Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy. Photo by Raiatea Arcuri/UH Hilo Stories

Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy: Construction is finished on new building; dedication is held Dec. 2019. The $31-million, 45,000-square-foot, two-story building is a contemporary design with classrooms for applied learning, high-fidelity simulations, and distance audio-visual communications. There are also multiple lab spaces, a simulated pharmacy facility, offices, a student community center, and myriad gathering and study areas.

Office of Maunakea Management: Infrastructure improvements and renovation within UH’s managed lands on Maunakea, including mid-level facilities at Hale Pohaku, the summit access road and the Maunakea Science Reserve. This project is focusing on the Maunakea Visitor Center. Project began January 2019 and is completed.

Pharmacy Modular Buildings: Major overhaul of walkways, sewer and other utilities, interior walls, lighting, flooring, acoustical ceiling tile, telecommunications, fire alarm, air conditioning, ventilation, cabinetry, sinks, doors, and lab equipment. Construction contract executed, working on Notice to Proceed.

Hale Alahonua Student Housing: Design air conditioning improvements for tenant units and lounge areas. Coupled solar PV, ground and roof mounted, and battery storage to provide day and night operation. A power consumption monitoring and management system for the individual A/C units. Commissioning HELCO rebate program optimization and energy consumption analysis. Notice to Proceed date August 19, 2019. Contractor is approximately 25 percent completed as of June 2020.

Title IX Soccer Field and Softball Field: Topographic survey and geotechnical investigation of existing site conditions including structural, electrical, mechanical engineering, architectural and landscape architectural elements, grass softball outfield and soccer field, drainage and subdrain system, a restroom and concession area, utilities, walkways. Bids open May 12, 2020; construction contract executed June 10, 2020.

Aeronautical Flight Simulators: Construction and equipment for Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science program to include two CRX open cockpit simulators, six desktop simulators, maintenance and software upgrades.

Tennis Courts: Remove existing tennis courts asphalt surfaces and markings, repave and remark with new including new tennis court stanchions, chain-link fencing and gates. Work also to include removal, disposal and remediation of hazardous materials.

Student Services Gutters: Replace with new stainless steel gutters and repair/replace roof leaks to single ply roofing.

College of Natural Health Sciences, Life Science Biology Building (select rooms): Design and construction for the renovations of two biology classrooms includes work on demolition, concrete, structural steel, carpentry, architectural finishes, laboratory equipment, plumbing, air conditioning, ventilation, electrical, telecommunication, fire alarm. Work also to include removal, disposal and remediation of hazardous materials.

Nursing Laboratory: Design and construction, demolition, concrete, structural steel, carpentry, architectural finishes, laboratory equipment, plumbing, air conditioning, ventilation, electrical, telecommunication, fire alarm. Also removal, disposal and remediation of hazardous materials.

Campus Center: Gas water heater replaced. Also, in another separate project, the planning, design and construction to the repair and improve the Campus Center building and infrastructure through modernization efforts, including student spaces, interior and exterior structures, roofs, mechanical and electrical systems, and pedestrian pathways.

Agricultural Farm Laboratory, Pana‘ewa: Design, construction of 1,400 square-foot workshop including plumbing, electrical, work benches, emergency shower and central vaccum system. Horse barn renovations include design and construction of a new storage room, electrical, air conditioning, roof extension, and new HELCO service to the building.

Hale Kehau Student Housing Dining Facility: Kitchen ceiling replacement includes design, construction to remove and replace existing acoustical ceiling tile in kitchen, with protection of existing equipment and supplies before, during and after hazardous material abatement, hiring an independent Qualified Environmental Consultant (independent of hazardous material contractor), removal and hazardous material abatement of existing ceiling tiles, replacement with new ceiling tiles. Construction contract executed, on site work to start July 17, 2020.

East Hawai‘i Historic Preservation Center: Planning, design and construction of a new East Hawai‘i Historic Preservation Center. Center to be a repository for native Hawaiian and other artifacts from the state of Hawai‘i, a place where collections can be stored and maintained in perpetuity, allow for visual and possibly interactions between visitors, students, employees and the collections. Visitors will be able to observe the curation process and be part of an interactive work environment. There will be a cultural area where students can intern with the Hawaiʻi State Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Hawaiʻi State Historic Preservation Division. Also to include educational classrooms, office space, conference rooms, and outdoor lanai where students, employees, and visitors can congregate.



Young woman in huge rainbow colored sun glasses with lenses shaped like hearts. She holds a animal figure made of fringy rainbow colored paper.
The UH Hilo Office of Equal Opportunity co-sponsors “Coming Out Day: A Safe Space Social” at the Campus Center on National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, 2019. The event offers informational tables, a photo booth, games, food and “Coming Out Open Mic” fun.
  • Vacant position is filled at the UH Hilo Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO): Confidential Advocate/Prevention Educator. Office is now fully staffed, with Director/Title IX Coordinator, Lead Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students, Investigator/Compliance Officer, and Office Administrator.
  • Investigations are conducted into allegations of discrimination on the basis of a variety of protected status classifications including sex, age, disability, harassment and sexual misconduct for students and employees. Mediation is successfully engaged to resolve issues and work to improve employee relations on campus.
  • Outreach is conducted, in-class education, faculty and staff education, tabling at events, and sponsor or co-sponsor events that promote diversity, non-discrimination and a safe campus. Events include policy education for new students, athletes and other classes by invitation with focus on implementing a response to the UH System Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct. Domestic violence as a focus area is identified and programming centers around DV and other intersections with DV (i.e. vulnerable populations such as students with disabilities, LGBTQ+, etc.).
  • Recruiting for diverse faculty is promoted by assisting in advertising efforts and other steps to increase application rate of qualified, historically under-represented individuals as indicated by review of data for annual affirmative action plan.
  • Requests for disability accommodations are assessed in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); office responds to increased requests given COVID-19 and increased risk.
  • Multiple trainings are conducted to increase employee understanding and awareness of rights under the ADA and how to request a reasonable accommodation.
  • OEO collaborates with Black History Month Committee to co-sponsor eight events on campus, including guest speakers, musicians, films and facilitated discussion.
  • OEO collaborates with Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center to bring diverse speakers to campus to increase dialogue and civil discourse pertaining to current diversity, equity and inclusion concerns/issues relevant to students and employees (i.e., Black Lives Matter, Mauna Kea/Thirty Meter Telescope controversy).
  • OEO sponsors executive/manager and employee training on civil workplaces, implicit bias.
  • Office maintains certifications and up to date training for office to comply with changes in policy and regulations impacting the office (i.e. Title IX).
  • The office creates and maintains a safe, clean, welcoming space for lactation needs for students and employees.
  • Office staff assists in campus accreditation program evaluation of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) including diversity survey design to assess student experiences and alignment with UH Hilo goals and objectives.
  • The OEO  provides staffing for and collaborates with LGBTQ+ Center and Womenʻs Center. Co-sponsors events such as Coming Out Day, Denim Day, World AIDS Day, Domestic Violence Awareness, Clothesline Project, and many others.
  • The office co-sponsors and provides speaker at UH Hilo 2nd Annual Women in STEM Conference.



A group of people riding on the back of a boat in the water
Benthic survey team starts their survey day at Pearl and Hermes Atoll, July 26, 2019. On a routine summer expedition to do an annual survey of the reef at French Frigate Shoals, marine scientists made two unexpected discoveries: a demolished reef and an invasive alga. Photo by Nick Jeremiah/NOAA.

Marine scientists and partner researchers investigate how climate change affects coral reef at French Frigate Shoals. On a routine summer expedition to do an annual survey of the reef at French Frigate Shoals, the team makes two unexpected discoveries: a demolished reef and an invasive alga.

Scientists document how rainfall brings harmful bacteria into Hilo Bay. The study is a collaboration of state agencies along with UH Hilo faculty and alumni now working in health and science fields. The findings show staph and fecal indicator bacteria in Hilo Bay increase with rainfall and river discharge. Cloudy water is associated with higher bacteria concentrations, and high salinity with lower bacteria concentrations.

Geologists’ groundbreaking lava research during 2018 Kīlauea eruption is published in the leading journal Science. For the innovative research, scientists examined magma in near real-time during the eruption at Kīlauea Volcano’s lower east rift zone in May 2018. The collected data proves invaluable to both the scientists and emergency response teams on the ground.

Ecologists identify groups of species at greatest risk of extinction. Maya Munstermann, a recent graduate of the tropical conservation biology and environmental science program, and her thesis advisor Matthew Knope, an evolutionary ecologist specializing in speciation and extinction, along with colleagues at Stanford, Tufts, Swarthmore, and University of California Santa Barbara, are pioneering a new data-driven approach to assessing extinction risk that “zooms out” from the traditional focus on individual species to examine groups of species that are at risk based on their ecological traits.

Evolutionary ecologist Matthew Knope publishes an invited review article with The Royal Society. The work by Knope and research colleagues argues that animals have not only evolved increased resiliency to environmental change, but have also made the physical environment increasingly more stable. In another collaborative study led by Knope, published Feb. 28 in the journal Science, the findings show that animal biodiversity in modern oceans is best explained by lower extinction rates in animal groups that are ecologically diverse, rather than by higher origination rates, as previously predicted.

A team of faculty and undergraduate students investigate whether or not computer vision tools can detect disease on coral reefs as well as the human eye. The findings show machines can complement human evaluation. As part of a five-week research experience conducted during the summer, the team analyzes the accuracy of physical eyes-on surveys conducted in the water compared to surveys based on photographs of the reef.

A study conducted by a management professor finds “America First” policy results in expansion of minority-owned U.S. firms. Assistant Professor of Management Todd Inouye and a team of researchers find the “America First” policy actually encourages minority entrepreneurs to expand through activating their diaspora networks in order to do more business abroad.

Biologists document loss of bird song in Hawaiian honeycreepers on Kaua‘i. The researchers do study on Kaua‘i because it is in crisis mode: bird populations are crashing due to disease and habitat loss, and with that, the species are losing their songs. Kristina Paxton, an ecologist and post-doctoral researcher at UH Hilo, is lead author of the study.

Marine scientists train junior scientists in waters of the Marshall Islands. Ten Marshallese students are trained over the 2019 summer in scientific methods of collecting data on water quality, algae cover, and reef composition. The students do the research themselves, in the Marshall Islands, and the knowledge and skills each budding scientist gains will be of great benefit to the communities and environment of their homeland.

A team of researchers studies gender equity in STEM fields at the UH community colleges. The team of UH Hilo staff, faculty, and students, along with community experts, are carrying out qualitative and quantitative research across the seven UH community colleges. Survey results thus far show salaries and wages are insufficient, but coaching and mentoring is effective in helping new faculty navigate the system.

A research team coauthors a comprehensive historical study of suicide in U.S. Army that challenges assumptions about suicide rates. The largest historical study to date of suicide in the U.S. Army is published Dec. 13, 2019, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open, authored by Jeffrey Smith, lead author and associate professor and chair of the history department at UH Hilo, and coauthors Michael Doidge, historian with the Department of Defense’s Defense Health Agency; Ryan Hanoa, a senior majoring in history at UH Hilo; and B. Christopher Frueh, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at UH Hilo. The comprehensive study challenges the assumption that combat is the primary driver of suicide in active duty U.S. Army forces—the researchers find that suicides decrease during active war across the 19th and first half of the 20th century, but then that paradigm changes during the “endless” wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan when suicides rates increase during wartime.

A graduate student works to save the critically endangered palila songbird on Maunakea. Alex Bischer is in the professional master’s internship track of the tropical conservation biology and environmental science graduate program at UH Hilo. His palila work is designed to prepare him to actively contribute as a scientist in environmental and conservation fields.

A long-term study by UH Hilo scientists shows Hawai‘i Island forests can regenerate once cattle and pigs are fenced out. Twenty-five years ago, biologist Patrick Hart tagged 7,000 trees in a declining Hawai‘i Island rainforest. A recent survey of the site reveals conservationists’ efforts are paying off.



Kaylen and Drew hold up map.
From left, Kaylyn Ells-Ho‘okano and Drew Kapp hold up the map they created. The map details of the ahupua‘a (traditional land divisions) that make up the moku (district) of Puna. Photo by Raiatea Arcuri/UH Hilo Stories.

Academic Accomplishments

  • Budding cartographer Kaylyn Ells-Ho‘okano works with her mentor Drew Kapp, a geographer at Hawai‘i Community College, to create a map showing details of the traditional land divisions in the district of Puna. The work honors the original names and ways of understanding the landscape.
  • The newest student pharmacists mark start of studies at traditional White Coat Ceremony. The White Coat Ceremony is a tradition in medical, pharmacy and other health care schools to mark the transition of students starting their path toward doctoral degrees. Students receive a white coat as part of the ceremonies, and distinctive to Hawai‘i’s ceremony, each student also receives a lei as they enter the stage to recite the “Oath of a Pharmacist” in the presence of fellow students, faculty, staff, community supporters, and family.
  • Three students participate in a prestigious program in biostatistics and applied research at the University of Iowa College of Public Health. Math majors Sarah Loving and Lino Yoshikawa, and marine science major Carson Green, are chosen for the program that admits only 24 students from a national pool of applicants. The seven-week program, held at the Iowa Summer Institute in Biostatistics, provides case-based instruction of real biomedical research, computer laboratory training, research projects, and clinical research activities to undergraduates.
  • An English student’s short story is published in the prestigious literary journal Bamboo Ridge. Asia Au-Helfrich‘s short story, “Free Home,” starts as a class assignment and is now published in Bamboo Ridge Journal of Hawai‘i Literature and Arts (Issue #115). Bamboo Ridge is a Hawai‘i-based literary journal and nonprofit press. The annual journal of poetry and fiction features work by both emerging and established writers with diverse backgrounds.
  • Students visit and intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Heather Kaluna, UH Hilo assistant professor of astronomy and alumna of the same program, urges her students to either tour or intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech.
  • The Hawai‘i State Science and Engineering Fair goes virtual with web platform co-founded by student George Donev. In response to the stay-at-home order brought on by the coronavirus, the science fair, an annual event that draws hundreds of students from across the state, went virtual on the website Student Corner, the brainchild of the UH Hilo computer science student.
  • Graduate student Rachel Gibson is awarded a fellowship from the American Psychological Association. A main criteria for the fellowship is having a strong commitment to a career in mental health services with ethnic minority transition age youth (ages 16 through 25) and their families, which matches up perfectly with Gibson’s career plans.

Research Accomplishments

  • Agricultural students conduct trials on growing rice in East Hawai‘i. The lead investigators of the project, horticultural researchers Sharad Marahatta, assistant professor of horticulture, and Norman Arancon, associate professor of horticulture, say the findings could benefit local farmers and the entire agricultural community of Hawai‘i.
  • Geography student Jesse Tabor is doing bee research with his mentor Jonathan Koch (a UH Hilo alumnus now a post doc at his alma mater). The research—identifying habitats of nonnative and native bees—could prove to be critical to preserving Hawai‘i native bee populations.
  • A group of undergraduates participating in a federal program to advance under-represented students in biomedical and behavioral sciences present their research at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students held in Anaheim, Calif. The students are part of the Students of Hawai‘i Advanced Research Project, commonly called the SHARP program, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) and administered through the UH Hilo Department of Anthropology.
  • Graduate student Bryan Tonga initiates the first comprehensive study ever done on nearshore water quality in Micronesia. Findings will contribute vital information to climate adaptation efforts in Pohnpei and other tropical Pacific island nations, allowing them to better manage their coastal waters, improve water quality, and reduce damage to coral reefs in the face of climate change.
  • Students identify an undocumented oyster speciesIn identifying the oyster, the students do all the research from start to finish: DNA extraction, amplify a gene that’s typically used for DNA barcoding, the analysis, and then write a report on what they found.



  • The 2019-2020 Student Employee of the Year Award goes to Mirei Sugita who works at the Center for Global Education and Exchange.
  • The Athletics Department announces 31 UH Hilo student-athletes receive Division II Academic Achievement Awards. The program recognizes the academic accomplishments of Division II student-athletes; the 31 UH Hilo honorees are three more than the previous year. Awardees have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher, attended school a minimum of four semesters, and been an active team member during this past academic year.
  • Two students receive top honors at international leadership conference. At the 42nd Annual HOSA – Future Health Professionals International Leadership Conference, Daniel Kimura receives Top 10 honors in Medical Terminology. Travis Taylor is one of the first finalists to receive Top 20 honors for his work in Human Heredity.
  • Two students present their research and receive awards at a statewide conservation conference. Graduate student Koa Matsuoka is awarded Honorable Mention in the category of Graduate Student Oral Presentation; Matthew Dye receives Honorable Mention in the category of Undergraduate Student Poster Presentation.
  • Two students bring home awards from national student e-poster competition. Nate Sunada and Sheldon Rosa each receive honorable mentions at the 2020 Student E-poster Competition of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • Students bring home awards from statewide Marine Option Program Symposium. All four UH Hilo students who attended symposium brought home awards, including Best Research Presentation, which has now been won by UH Hilo MOP students for 27 of the past 32 years.
  • First place prize at the HIplan business competition was awarded to a team of four students from UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College who designed an app that connects community members with skills and materials to rebuild homes that were lost during the 2018 lava flow.
  • UH Hilo pharmacy student Henry Quach wins a national counseling competition. To earn top place the third-year pharmacy student competed against students from pharmacy schools across the country and excelled in the skill of counseling patients on safe and effective drug use.
  • UH Hilo, UH Mānoa team wins national award for Hawaiian coral reef virtual reality computer application. Winning the Best Visualization Showcase Award at a research conference, the app is made from thousands of images of coral reef habitats collected by marine scientist John Burns and his research team during ship-based research expeditions led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

Fall 2019 Enrollment

  • Total enrollment: 3,372
  • Undergraduates: 2,810
  • Graduate: 554
  • Men: 1,230
  • Women: 2,109
  • Hawai‘i residents: 2,422
  • Hawai‘i Island residents: 1,742
  • Resident status: 2,355
  • Non-resident status: 1,017
  • Western Undergrad Exchange: 308
  • U.S. citizen: 3,016
  • International: 137
  • Full time: 2,598
  • Asian: 1,991
  • Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 1,271
  • Hawaiian ancestry: 1,081
  • Caucasian: 755
  • Mixed race: 458
  • First time freshman: 449
  • First generation: 630


Report compiled by Susan Enright, public information specialist, Office of the Chancellor. Comments and corrections are welcome.