A group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera

UH Hilo FY20 Annual Report (in progress)

(Fiscal Year July 1, 2019—June 30, 2020.) In progress, last update: Dec. 31, 2019.


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 UH Hilo 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.

UH Hilo’s graduate program in counseling psychology 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.



Bonnie Irwin
Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin. Photo by Bob Douglas, June 2019.

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



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 UH Hilo 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, UH Hilo 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 UH Hilo 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 UH Hilo alumna Margo Ray, opens at Wailoa Center. The “Jan Ken Po” 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.



Two students seated at a table in front of a window
Two students enjoying 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 often 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 will provide 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 grant 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.



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 Imiloa Astronomy Center where keiki learn how to become citizen scientists. Emphasis was on keiki activities at booths and tables where young ones could learn about sanitation practices to protect against the spread of Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death fungal disease. (See video at right.)

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 did “insectigations” of curious creatures and their habitats.

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 visited the university’s Agricultural Farm Laboratory in Pana‘ewa six times over the summer of 2019 to learn about agriculture.

UH Hilo 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.

UH Hilo 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.

UH Hilo pharmacy college launches medication education and disposal project for elderly. The statewide project, headed by the UH Hilo pharmacy college, 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 motivational event for high school students of Pacific Islander heritage. The students attended 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.



As of Nov. 30, 2019 (July 1—Nov. 30, 2019), UH Hilo is awarded $2,569,879 for 31 research projects, and $4,779,560 for 29 non-research projects. (This section will be updated as the fiscal year progresses.)



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 was 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.

UH Hilo 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 UH Hilo 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.

UH Hilo 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.

The following faculty are awarded tenure and/or promotion in 2019:

  • Tenure
    • Shugeng Cao, Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
    • Kathy Cooksey, Associate Professor of Astronomy
    • Misty Pacheco, Associate Professor of Kinesiology & Exercise Science
  • Promotion
    • Maria Haws, Associate Professor of Aquaculture
    • Sunyoung Kim, Professor of Psychology
    • Julie Mowrer, Assistant Specialist in International Programs
    • Jonathan Price, Professor of Geography
    • Scott Saft, Professor of Linguistics
    • Dianqing Sun, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Tenure and Promotion
    • Lindy Hern, Associate Professor of Sociology
    • Su-Mi Lee, Associate Professor of Political Science
    • Li Tao, Associate Professor of Biology
  • Promotion, Instructors
    • Erica Gina Bernstein, Mathematics
    • Amy Gregg, Gender and Women’s Studies
    • Jenni Kimiko Guillen, Biology
    • Amy Horst, Music
    • Zorana Lazarevic, Mathematics
    • Laurell Luth, English Language
    • Colby McNaughton, Education
    • Laurie Sagle, English
    • Michelle Shuey, Geography and Environmental Sciences
    • Celeste Stanton, Dance
    • Susan Wackerbarth Oldfather, English
    • Lisa Parr, Marine Science
    • Zinat Ferdous Rahman, Mathematics
    • Aaron Tresham, Mathematics
    • Simona Văduvescu, Chemistry



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

Construction is finished on UH Hilo’s new building to house the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy; 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.



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.

UH Hilo 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, marine scientists made two unexpected discoveries: a demolished reef and an invasive alga.

UH Hilo scientists document how rainfall brings harmful bacteria into Hilo Bay. The study was 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.

UH Hilo geologists’ groundbreaking lava research during 2018 Kīlauea eruption 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 proved invaluable to both the scientists and emergency response teams on the ground.

UH Hilo 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.

A team of UH Hilo 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 analyzed 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. UH Hilo 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.

UH Hilo biologists document loss of bird song in Hawaiian honeycreepers on Kaua‘i. The researchers did the 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.

UH Hilo 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 did the research themselves, in the Marshall Islands, and the knowledge and skills each budding scientist gained will be of great benefit to the communities and environment of their homeland.

A team of researchers is studying 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.

UH Hilo 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 was 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 found that suicides decreased 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.

UH Hilo graduate student works to save 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.



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 worked 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.
  • UH Hilo’s 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 LovingandLino Yoshikawa, and marine science major Carson Green, are chosen for the program that admitted 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.
  • UH Hilo English student’s short story is published in the prestigious literary journal Bamboo Ridge. Asia Au-Helfrich‘s short story, “Free Home,” started 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.
  • UH Hilo students visit and intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Heather Kaluna, UH Hilo assistant professor of astronomy and alumna of the same program, is urging her students to either tour or intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech.

Research Accomplishments

  • UH Hilo 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 UH Hilo undergraduates participating in a federal program to advance under-represented students in biomedical and behavioral sciences presented 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.



  • UH Hilo 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 received Top 10 honors in Medical Terminology. Travis Taylor was 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.

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.