UH Hilo FY2023 Annual Report

Fiscal Year July 1, 2022—June 30, 2023


Student Services Building uner large tree.
Student Services building where the Division of Student Affairs is located. (Photo courtesy University Relations/UH Hilo)

For the third year in a row, the Division of Student Affairs is nationally recognized as an excellent place to work.

UH Hilo signs Memorandum of Understanding with Eastern Samar State University, Philippines.

Delegation from Japan visits UH Hilo and an exchange agreement is signed with Eikei University of Hiroshima.

UH Hilo receives state funding to address nursing faculty shortage.

In May of 2023, new COVID-19 protocols are announced, lessening reporting, mask, and isolation requirements.

Decommissioning of UH Hilo’s Hōkū Keʻa telescope receives approval from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Leadership changes

Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs

    • A new vice chancellor for administrative affairs, Carla Hoʻā begins her work at UH Hilo in Jan 2023. VCAA Hoʻā leaves this position in July 2023.
    • Kalei Rapoza is named the new permanent vice chancellor for administrative affairs, effective July 21, 2023.

Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management

    • Bruce Mathews leaves the position of dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Management, and is assigned as the acting associate vice chancellor of academic affairs for research in July 2023.
    • Norman Arancon, professor of horticulture, is named the director of the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Management starting July 2023. This position of director of the college replaces the former dean position.

Deans and directors

    • Michael Bitter is named permanent dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
    • Associate Professor of Management Todd Inouye is named permanent director of the College of Business and Economics.


Red-roofed UH Hilo College of Business and Economics, covered walkway into the entrance.
College of Business and Economics

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business announces the College of Business and Economics has successfully extended their global accreditation in business.

UH Hilo celebrates first aeronautical science graduates; after pandemic hiatus, prospective students are encouraged to apply for fall.

School of Education celebrates 14 graduate students on their way to becoming teachers.

UH Hilo’s Hawaiian studies program marks 40 years.


Michelle Correia and Bethany Okamoto pictured at a green landscape setting.
Alumna Michelle Correia and her daughter Bethany Okamoto. (Courtesy photo)

Current anthropology major Bethany Okamoto is the first second-generation Keaholoa STEM Scholar, following in the footsteps of her mother, Michelle Correia, who was in the program 20 years ago.

Kamalani Johnson is taking the road less traveled in the field of Hawaiian language and culture revitalization.

Community work earns Janice Ikeda an honorary law degree.

Mermaids’ Lament: Full of UH Hilo talent, beautiful and intense independent film premiers at Hollywood film festival.

Halena Kapuni-Reynolds is first Native Hawaiian associate curator for Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Returning to his alma mater, author Emil DeAndreis, a former Vulcan, gives concrete, actionable advice to students of creative writing.

Devon Aguiar leads study on impact of sewage on coral reefs in Puakō.

Jeffrey Tomas is among the first Peace Corps volunteers to return to service overseas after pandemic hiatus.

Academic advisor Valdeane Odachi publishes memoir on life, love, loss, and resiliency.

Indigenous archaeologist Tarisi Vunidilo works on a repatriation project in Germany.

Naleen Naupaka Andrade receives prestigious Native Hawaiian advancement award.

Kealohakuʻualohakuʻupokiʻi Balaz is the first person from Hawaiʻi to be selected for the Obama Foundation scholar program since its inception in 2018.

Nicole Young receives promotion and tenure at her alma mater’s pharmacy college.

Lara Sonoda is named Hawaiʻi Island 2022 Young Professional of the Year.

Hawaiʻi Land Trust names Ulumauahi “Ulu” Kealiʻikanakaʻoleohaililani first steward of Kūkūau Forest.

Shayla Waiki receives a prestigious fellowship to address marine water pollution.

Tyler Gerken publishes a study he conducted as an undergraduate; findings show staph, MRSA in Hilo Bay watershed.

Campus Life

Person takes a photo of the mural of Edith Kanakaʻole portrait on the side of Edith Kanakaʻole Hall, UH Hilo campus.
An attendee at the celebrations on May 6, 2023, takes a photo of the new Edith Kanakaʻole mural by artist Kamea Hadar. The mural is located at Edith Kanakaʻole Hall, named after Aunty Edith, on the campus of UH Hilo. (UH System News)

May 6, 2023, was a day of celebration and reverence at UH Hilo for the beloved Kumu Edith Kanakaʻole, who played a pivotal role in laying the foundation for Hawaiian studies programs in higher education and throughout the community.

Student clubs create peer-based communities, boost mental health and academic success.

Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center hosts Māla Day for Earth Day.

UH Hilo celebrates 2022 United Nations Day with Parade of Nations.

Intramural sports build friendships, community, and lasting memories.

Students respond to lifting of face mask requirements.

UH Hilo retains its No. 1 ranking as one of the nation’s most ethnically diverse campuses.


Two female graduates with lei. Big smiles.
Two graduates at UH Hilo’s Spring 2023 Commencement. (Spencer Honda/Athletics)

2023 Spring Commencement is held May 13 at Edith Kanakaʻole Stadium. Almost 700 students petitioned for degrees and/or certificates and for various post-graduate credentials, including the university’s first graduates of the aeronautical sciences program. Candidates represented the College of Arts and Sciences; Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikolani College of Hawaiian Language; College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management; College of Natural and Health Sciences; College of Business and Economics; and Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy.

2022 Fall Commencement: Two commencement ceremonies are held this fall, one for students who missed the opportunity for an in-person event during the two years of covid restrictions (Dec. 16, 2022), and another for the fall class of 2022 (Dec. 17, 2022).

Community Outreach

A new course—Interdisciplinary Studies: Kuleana and Community—encourages students and instructors alike to strengthen their connections to UH Hilo, the community of Hilo, and Hawaiʻi Island as a whole.

Sociology students conduct study on East Hawaiʻi policing, share findings at community forum attended by police chief and mayor.

Ground blessing is held for new USGS research facility on UH Hilo campus.

History Club asks for lāʻi and lei donations for project honoring leprosy patients of Kalaupapa.

UH Hilo Bonner students emerge from pandemic stronger and more skilled through working with community. At the end of the year, students in the program are honored for that work.

At 2023 AstroDay, UH Hilo faculty and students engage keiki in fun interactive science displays.

Political scientist Su-Mi Lee compiles biographies from Peace Corps volunteers with ties to Hawaiʻi Island.

Geologists Steve Lundblad and Cheryl Gansecki each give a free public presentation on tracking activity at Kīlauea caldera and Maunaloa, respectively.

Researchers examine pandemic-driven changes in fishery use on Hawaiʻi Island.

Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy offers free diabetes prevention program. The college also receives grant to further address statewide health disparities.

Student-designed Ka Pouhana Mentoring Program pairs university student mentors with faculty members to give individualized support to high school students through their first two years at UH Hilo.

UH Hilo’s first Community Partnership Fair connects students to internships and volunteer work.

Upward Bound program is awarded $1.5M to give high school students a boost in science and math.

In the planning stages is a project to create the East Hawaiʻi Historic Preservation Center, a repository for Native Hawaiian and other artifacts from the state of Hawaii, a place where collections can be stored and maintained in perpetuity, allow for visual and possibly of interactions between visitors, students, employees, and the collections. Includes educational classrooms, office/administrative spaces, conference rooms and outdoor lanai areas where students, employees and visitors can congregate. The project is headed by the Department of Anthropology.

Faculty & Staff: Awards & Achievements

Hawaiian studies scholars Kekoa Harman and Pele Harman dedicate their time during a five-day residency at the Kennedy Center in D.C. to creating new teachings for their haumāna on Hawaiʻi Island.

Chemist Matt Platz, biologist Rebecca Ostertag, engineer Shihwu Sung, and psychologist Bryan Kim are recognized in global ranking as top scientists in their fields.

On May 5, 2023, Chancellor Bonnie Irwin hosts the annual Awards and Recognition Celebration, an event to honor the accomplishments of the university’s faculty and staff. This year’s award winners are as follows (click links to read stories on awardees’ accomplishments):

    • Board of Regents’ Award for Excellence in Teaching: Lincoln A. Gotshalk, Professor of Kinesiology and Exercise Science.
    • Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching: Leanne Day, Assistant Professor of English.
    • Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching: Nicholas Krueger, Instructor of Agriculture.
    • Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activities: Adam Pack, Professor of Psychology.
    • Outstanding Advisor/Mentor: Lissa Tsutsumi, Assistant Professor of Applied Agricultural Sciences.
    • Outstanding University Support Employee Award: Dori Yamada, Assistant Theatre Manager, Performing Arts Center.
    • Professional Staff Award: Christina Method, Clinical Education Support Specialist of Pharmacy Practice.
    • Outstanding RCUH Employee: Paula Gealon, Fiscal/Post Award Administrator, Research Administration and Project Development (RAPD), Research Corporation of the University of Hawaiʻi.

In spring 2023, a dozen faculty and staff start permanent positions.

Ten faculty receive tenure and/or promotion in 2023.

In fall 2022, 19 faculty and staff start permanent positions.


An anonymous donor endows $3 million for scholarships at UH Hilo, including first within UH System for LGBTQ+ students.

Total Fundraising Current Fiscal Year (FY23): $7,620,163.96 (total of 3,042 transactions)
Total Fundraising Last Fiscal Year (FY22): $5,829,739

Grants and Contracts

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. Non-research contract activity is most often for improving student services.

Current Fiscal Year (FY23)

    • Research: $5,610,831, with a total of 46 awards.
    • Non-Research: $12,171,469, with a total of 54 awards.
    • Overall FY 2023 Totals: $17,782,300, with a total of 100 awards.

Last Fiscal Year (FY21)

    • Research: $4,529,140, with a total of 46 awards.
    • Non-Research: $13,503,190, with a total of 65 awards.
    • Overall FY23 Totals: $18,032,330, with a total of 111 awards.


Mokini Library at night, fully lit.
Mookini Library (Raiatea Arcuri/UH Hilo Stories)

Mookini Library ongoing renovations include student spaces at the Hawaiian Collection, creating a 24/7 space on the second floor, re-designing the art/media space as high technology and multi-service location, modernization of interior and exterior structures, new roof materials, new and upgraded mechanical and electrical systems (started September 2022, completion July 2023).

Campus Center renovations are underway for modernization of the existing kitchen, upper floors offices and conference rooms, equipment, interior and exterior of the building including painting, electrical and mechanical systems, and pedestrian pathways (started March 2023, completion expected August 2024).

Hoku Kea Observatory decommissioning project county permit is approved (bid process to start August 2023, award construction contract Nov. 2023, projected start Nov.-Dec. 2023).

Design work is finished:

    • Renovations of two classrooms at the biology building (start date June 2023, completion June 2024)
    • A new 1,400-square-foot workshop at the University Farm Laboratory in Panaʻewa (start date May 2023, completion 2024)
    • Skylight and lobby repair at ʻImiloa Astronomy Center (start July 2023)
    • Renovation of the nursing laboratory (awaiting permitting)
    • Exhaust fan replacement at Hale ʻIkena residence hall
    • Food service equipment replacement at Hale Kehau residence hall

Renovation design work is underway:

    • Edith Kanakaʻole Hall
    • Psychology laboratory
    • Sciences and Technology building
    • College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources building
    • Student Life Center
    • Theatre
    • Administration building

Office of Equal Opportunity

Two women sit at a table with marking pens, designing a message on a white t-shirt.
From left, graduate student Anna Ezzy and business major Ekaterina Rose create a shirt for the 2022 Clothesline Project, Oct. 18, Campus Center Plaza, UH Hilo. (Maisie Paulson/UH Hilo Stories)

Domestic Violence Awareness Month, in October 2022, is recognized with a resource fair for students and employees to learn more about local community services available to individuals who experience gender-based violence. The annual Clothesline Project is held as part of a worldwide event where shirts with messages about domestic violence are on display at UH Hilo’s Campus Center Plaza. The Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) also partners with Hawaiʻi Community College during the annual Domestic Violence Awareness conference.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is celebrated in October 2022 with the first series of events sponsored by the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center, named Waiolama and headed by the Chancellor’s Committee for Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion under the OEO. The aim of the events is to educate and share critical knowledge not only about Oceanic Indigenous peoples, but all Indigenous peoples throughout the world. (The TRHT program is a national project of the American Association of Colleges and Universities partnering with higher education institutions to develop campus centers to prepare future leaders to break down systemic racism. UH Hilo received a $25,000 grant from AACU to establish the campus center.)

For Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April 2023, OEO hosts a community resource fair for students and employees who experience gender-based violence. Resources, giveaways and information are provided to attendees.

Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls: Guest speaker Nikki Cristobal, member of the statewide “Holoi ā nalo Wāhine ʻŌiwi: Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls Task Force” sponsored by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Hawaiʻi State Commission on the Status of Women, and state legislators from the Native Hawaiian Legislative Caucus, provided an overview of the findings from the task force’s first report. In attendance were members of both the campus and local community, including county prosecutor, representatives from state Department of Health, members of non-profits and woman-serving organizations, public and charter school educators, Zonta Club members, American Association of University Women of Hawaiʻi, and more.

Other guest speakers are Jodie Roure, an international human rights advocate and humanitarian who discusses her research and activist work with women who experience domestic violence in Puerto Rico and elsewhere, and Jonathan Beane, senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer for the National Football League who speaks on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. Both speakers engaged with the audience in an open Q&A format.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Book Club members read selected books from biographies to popular fiction and hold sessions to discuss the various topics. All UH Hilo employees are welcome to participate.

Research (Selected)

Geographer Ryan Perroy publishes a paper on a new and more effective device he and his team has designed to aerially sample tree branches for the diagnostic testing of forest fungal pathogens, including those responsible for Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death.

Chemist Matt Platz, biologist Rebecca Ostertag, engineer Shihwu Sung, and psychologist Bryan Kim are recognized in global ranking as top scientists in their fields.

Sociologist Ellen Meiser is researching the prevalence of abusive work environments in the culinary industry.

Political scientist Su-Mi Lee is co-editor of new book on North Korea denuclearization process. In a separate project, Lee is compiling biographies from Peace Corps volunteers with ties to Hawaiʻi Island.

Historian Jeff Smith and psychologist Chris Frueh find military, civilian suicides driven by societal factors, not war.

Tim Grabowski, unit leader at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiʻi Cooperative Fishery Research Unit in Hilo and an adjunct associate professor of marine science at UH Hilo, and co-author Michelle Shuey, an instructor of geography and environmental science, along with several colleagues from other universities, examine pandemic-driven changes in fishery use on Hawaiʻi Island.

Professor of Pharmacy Practice Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Leng Chee Chang, postdoctoral associate Feifei Liu, and graduate student Sasha Nealand (née Kovacs) are researching anti-inflammatory quinoline alkaloids from the roots of ʻūhaloa (Waltheria indica); findings are published in the Journal of Natural Products.

UH Hilo marine science professor Marta deMaintenon publishes new genetic research showing evolution of marine snail.

Marine scientists Tracy Wiegner, Steven Colbert, and Tim Grabowski, along with a graduate student Walter Boger collaborate with colleagues in Alaska, discover common ground on climate adaptation.


Group of 13 students, all in lei, pose in three rows for photo.
Graduate students in the UH Hilo School of Education’s master of arts in teaching program, celebrate completion of their first year of studies in the two-year program, May 11, 2023, at the Campus Center Plaza. From left, front row, Ryan Coad, Kenneth Bugado, Kawika Venhuizen, and Jojo Balagot. Middle row, LiAnn Yamamoto, Kaitlyn Funai, Brysha Balancio-Sadamura, and Kaelyn Uchida. Back row, Haley Johns, Danelle Leite, Laura Luther, Shari Becher, and Tiffany-Ann Hoota. Unable to attend was Taylor Ogawa. (Courtesy photo from the School of Education/UH Hilo)

Academics (Selected)

Achievements (Selected)

    • Poli-sci student Leoshina Kariha is selected to represent Hawaiʻi at the 2023 College Student Congress.
    • Students present their work at international English studies conference held on campus.
    • Match Day: 11 UH Hilo pharmacy students accepted to postgraduate residency programs.
    • Budding environmental scientist Saxony Charlot inspires appreciation of Hawaiʻi’s ecology through her art.
    • Anthropology class creates museum quality exhibit at Mookini Library.
    • Students in the UH Hilo Bonner Program are honored for their work in the community.

Research (Selected)

    • Two graduate students, Olivia Jarvis and Naiʻa Odachi, present their research at the 4th International Congress on Biological Invasions hosted in Aotearoa New Zealand.
    • Three second-year pharmacy students—Alyssa Kam, Yang Xu, and Chae Min Lee—present their nanotechnology research at statewide symposium.
    • Students travel to Stanford University for workshop on seafaring, present their research.
    • Anthropology student Reyanna Savedra is collecting data on the experiences of students who visit with therapy dogs, as well as researching the benefits of the human-animal bond.
    • Sociology students Kelly “Amy” Black, Caitlin Peil, Rosenet Timius, and Jake Villa conduct a study on East Hawaiʻi policing, and share findings at a community forum attended by the Hawaiʻi county police chief and mayor.
    • Anthropology student Reyanna Savedra is collecting data on the experiences of students who visit with therapy dogs, as well as researching the benefits of the human-animal bond.

Scholarships (Selected)

    • Sofia Ferreira (bachelor of science in marine science with certificate in data science in 2022 and now graduate student in the tropical conservation biology and environmental science program), Jaeda Ventura (psychology with certificate in educational studies), and Kaylie Wolverton (nursing) receive scholarships from the American Association of University Women, Hilo Branch.
    • Lichen Forster (geology) and Maya-Lin Green (communication with certificate in business analytics) are awarded $1,250 each to pursue a higher education degree in journalism or a related field.
    • Kylan Constantino (Japanese studies), Joshua Kosloski (marine science), and Eric Pohlman (linguistics) are on global adventures supported through scholarships.

Awards (Selected)

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