Faculty Stories of Excellence
UH Hilo Faculty
These faculty embody UH Hilo's strategic goal – to prepare students to thrive, compete, innovate and lead in their professional and personal lives. A quality education at UH Hilo is more than a promise, it's illustrated in the accomplishments of our students, faculty and distinguished alumni. Here is just a sampling of the wide range of achievements that members of our UH Hilo ‘ohana have accomplished throughout the year. We invite you to join us in celebrating these UH Hilo Stories of Excellence...
- Wave piloting research featured in New York Times Magazine
- Physics Professor’s Research Captures Journal Cover
- Pharmacy Faculty Combat Antimicrobial Resistance
- Dr. Thom Curtis & Student Interns
- Terrance Jalbert - Professor of Finance
- Dr. Tam Vu & Alexandria Nakao-Eligado
- Elizabeth Stacy - Associate Professor of Biology
- Nicolas Turner - Computer Analyst & Geospatial Researcher
- Emmeline de Pillis - Professor of Management
- Dr. Emmeline de Pillis, Dr. Kimberly Furumo, Hannah Furumo & Kerrilynn Higa
Wave piloting research featured in New York Times Magazine
Joseph Genz, an assistant professor of anthropology here at University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo has recently been featured in the New York Times magazine for his work in cultural revival through the study and preservation of Marshallese navigation techniques. Genz and his team are attempting to preserve the knowledge of the Marshallese wave-pilots, and understand their voyaging methods through scientific interpretation. This voyaging project is now in its 13th year, but it has been built upon decades worth of work.
Genz attests that the work done by his team may have a great cultural impact: “The significance of the voyaging project is foremost about cultural renewal. By sailing long distances once again on their outrigger voyaging canoes by reading the waves, the Marshallese are reclaiming their ancestral heritage as a people of the sea.”
Genz plays a crucial role within his team. He says, “As an anthropologist, my role in this project is to co-facilitate the revival with the community group Waan Aelon in Majol, originally led by Dennis Alessio and now by Alson Kelen, and to document the process by which apprentice navigator Alson Kelen learned from Captain Korent Joel and other elders.” Genz also collaborates with scientists such as UH Manoa oceanographer Mark Merrifield, Delft University of Technology oceanographer Gerbrant van Vledder, and Harvard University physicist John Huth, in order to understand the waves as local navigators do. This project represents the collective efforts of many individuals, as they work toward a common goal: reviving the ancient cultural traditions of the wave pilots, before the knowledge is lost forever.
The project also has great cultural implications for the people of Hawaiʻi in terms of global relations. The project also serves to highlight links between the Marshall Islands and Hawaiʻi, “The waves of inspiration from the voyages of Hokule'a and the advocacy efforts of my academic advisor, anthropologist Ben Finney, led to the genesis of this project, and now the Marshallese in Hilo - many of whom are descendants from Bikini and Rongelap - are feeling cultural pride once again.” These communities have been displaced more than half a century ago from the U.S nuclear weapons testing program. “We would like to continue building bridges between the Marshallese and Hawaiian voyaging communities.”
When asked what direction he hopes this project pursues in the future, Genz shares that the project is aiming to continue Alson Kelen’s training, so that he can one day take his own navigation test and become a recognized navigator. Once Kelen has achieved that recognition, he may proceed in training a new generation of navigators, who will then be able to carry on the Marshallese tradition of wave piloting. Additionally, the team seeks to gain a comprehensive understanding of the waves through oceanography and physics, so that Kelen and future wave pilots will have variety of information to complement their traditional comprehension.
Genz is grateful to have the story of this project highlighted in the New York Times. He hopes this article reaches a large audience, in order to increase cultural awareness. He states, “I am glad that the very small NGO Waan Aelon in Majol is getting such recognition for their efforts of cultural revival in the face of so much historical trauma. I am hopeful that readers in Hawaiʻi and throughout the U.S. will strive to learn even more about our Pacific cousins, and in doing so, generate a deeper sense of empathy, respect, and advocacy.”
For a detailed story of Genz’s research published in The NewYork Times Magazine, please visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/magazine/the-secrets-of-the-wave-pilots.html
Read more information about the Anthropology program at UH Hilo.
Physics Professor’s Research Captures Journal Cover
UH Hilo’s own physics professor, Philippe Binder, has recently been featured in The Physics Teacher for his paper entitled, How Giraffes Drink. Binder’s paper has been made the cover article for the December issue of the journal, which is an even more impressive feat when the journal’s readership is considered. Over 10,000 members of the American Association of Physics Teachers receive it; The Physics Teacher is the most widely circulated of the top three physics education journals internationally. The journal is mainly targeted at instructors of high school or introductory university physics courses. Binder’s co-author for the paper was Dale Taylor, a physics Lecturer at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
“It is a big deal for us to get a journal cover...One lands covers either because of the impact or the interest of the paper to be featured. In our case, I think the deciding factor was more the interest. How often does one see a physics paper about giraffes?” says Binder.
Binder’s inspiration for How Giraffes Drink began with a safari trip in Namibia. There, Binder visited Etosha National Park: “This was the first safari for my wife and myself. Etosha in January is quite dry, so the animals come to the water holes to drink. I had never seen giraffes drink. When I saw one of them splay its legs and bend down to drink, staying with its lips under water for 20-30 seconds, I was fascinated. I thought, ‘I really want to know how they do it’. Then I searched the scientific literature and the internet and could not find anything.” The mechanism he and Taylor propose is similar to something called a plunger pump.
Binder hopes his discovery and publication will encourage physics students to ask hard questions about science, and pursue answers for themselves, if one is not readily available. “Hopefully it will help current and future physics majors understand that there are problems to be understood and solved everywhere. Physics is hard work, but there is a joyful component of discovery - and of understanding the world around us at some level.”
Leon Hallacher, professor emeritus of Biology and former Natural Sciences Division chair, expresses his interest in Binder’s paper: “It occurred to me that in the modern history of humans...countless people have watched giraffes drink water without asking how they accomplish the feat. Along comes Philippe Binder who, for the first time in human history, asks the question and provides a reasonable hypothesis.”
As Hallacher implies, the physics behind animal’s drinking mechanisms remains a rather unexplored territory in science. Binder hopes that his work on giraffes will inspire more research in other areas of animal water transportation. Binder attests, “Giraffes are ruminants - animals that chew and re-chew their food. Very important ruminants impact our daily lives - goats, sheep and cattle. Anything we can do to understand them better can affect our survival.”
Binder’s research may be applied to studies of these livestock animals. “It appears that the drinking mechanism for other ruminants may be similar, but not much physics-based analysis has been done. Major papers have appeared in the past 5 years about how dogs and cats drink. Perhaps my work will spur interest on animals of much more practical importance to us.”
“It seems that nature has found a variety of ways to solve the problem of getting water up an animal's neck. Physics certainly plays a role in explaining these mechanisms in terms of physical laws we all agree on.”
Binder is currently looking into the possibility of some follow up research regarding the physics behind giraffe’s activities. Namely, giraffe fighting: “In the animal area I met a giraffe expert in South Africa who is interested in giraffe fighting. They swing their necks at each other, sometimes breaking them. They can go as far as killing another giraffe with a horn blow. The expert, Rob Simmons, proposed a project to understand the physics of giraffe fighting by examining available footage. We are currently discussing this.”
Binder is also looking into the possibility of a study with smaller ruminants. “In the process of learning about how animals drink, I found two really good papers about dogs and cats published in 2010. One of them involves fairly sophisticated techniques...I am in contact with one of these researchers and trying to see if we can study a smaller ruminant.”
Philippe Binder’s main research is in mathematical physics. He’s also currently working to set up a Certificate in Energy Science through the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management. Clearly, Binder’s work means great things for him, and for UH Hilo. Undoubtedly, his work in How Giraffes Drink will lead to new discoveries in the field of biophysics.
Read more information about the Physics program at UH Hilo
Pharmacy Faculty Combat Antimicrobial Resistance
Faculty from the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy are on track to help health care facilities reduce the incidence of multi-drug resistant organisms and the incidence of a bacterium called Clostridium difficile, , also called "C.diff".
Drs.Roy Goo (Kauaʻi), Anita Ciarleglio (Mauʻi), Cherie Chu (Oah‘u) and Allen Shih (Big Island of Hawaiʻi) have been working with the Hawaiʻi Department of Health to establish Antimicrobial Stewardship Programs (ASP) in nearly every hospital throughout the state.
ASPs are designed to improve patient outcomes and lower healthcare associated costs, as well as slowing the development of antimicrobial resistance by the utilization of appropriate antibiotics.
Studies from the Center for Diseases (CDC) show that 30-50% of antibiotics prescribed in hospitals are unnecessary or inappropriate. By insuring that patients in Hawaiʻi receive the best antibiotic for their particular infection, for the proper duration of time and at the dose tailored to their specific needs, these programs should show shorter lengths of stay and quicker recovery, decreased costs to both the patient and the hospital, and a decrease in the rate of development of resistant pathogens.
With Hawaiʻi being a hub for visitors from around the world, there is always the potential for the spread and development of drug resistant organisms, and because these organisms do not isolate themselves to one community or one island it is important that there is an organized state- wide effort to address this growing issue.
Such efforts from the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy have facilitated the compliance of this future requirement to keep Hawaiʻi on the cutting edge of medical care. The latest result of this collaboration is called Hawaiʻi Antimicrobial Stewardship Collaborative (HASC) , providing technical assistance and supporting the development of ASP across the state.
Hospitals around the state involved in this ongoing HASC program include Castle Medical Center, Hilo Medical Center, Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children, Kona Community Hospital, Kuakini Medical Center, Mauʻi Memorial Medical Center, North Hawaiʻi Community Hospital, Pali Momi Medical Center, Straub Clinic & Hospital, The Queen’s Medical Center and the Wilcox Memorial Hospital.
Read more information about the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at UH Hilo.
Dr. Thom Curtis & Student Interns - Professor of Sociology and the Social Sciences Division Chair
Priceless Online Resource for Future Research
In his research on the history of Israel, Dr. Thom Curtis, a professor of Sociology and the Social Sciences Division Chair at UH Hilo, found that some of the only archeological artifacts that are still remaining (from the time periods in which he was interested) were coins. This led to his interest in The Shekel, a journal on current and ancient Israeli coins, instrumental in the understanding of the more obscure sections of Israel’s history. In association with the American Israel Numismatic Association (A.I.N.A), and with the help of four UH Hilo student interns, Michael Sado, Ian Mitchener, Jodi Vierra, and Koran Munafo, Dr. Curtis began the painstaking process of collecting and digitizing every issue of The Shekel . They completed the project after two years of work and more than 2,000 hours spent on developing a searchable, digitized online version of The Shekel issued from 1968-2011, a period of 43 years.
This time-consuming work of Dr. Curtis and his student interns is invaluable for future researchers studying the history of Israel. Without their efforts, this priceless resource would have become more and more difficult to find, and would likely have been forgotten.
Read more information about the Sociology program at UH Hilo.
Terrance Jalbert - Professor of Finance
Terrance Jalbert, is always looking for opportunities to perform research studies within the field of finance. He has accomplished much and more; he has had sixty-six publications so far and has invented a new stock index that considers both stock value changes and currency value changes. Jalbert has been a professor of finance at UH Hilo for nineteen years. Recently he has had yet another publication and it has been recognized by the state due to his remarkable findings. Even in consideration to his previous work “in terms of external impact this is among the most significant of my published work,” stated Jalbert.
Jalbert worked with his friend, Dr. Gary Fleischman, an associate professor at Texas Tech University—and they were able to complete the recent research and publication within four months. Jalbert’s research analyzed the Hawaiʻi state’s income tax itemized deduction limitations that create tax cliffs. A tax cliff occurs when a small change in income results in a disproportionately large change in taxes due. The Hawaiʻi senate bill 570 provides limitations on the extent to which income taxes paid can be deducted on the state return. There are two types of tax cliff that can occur in Hawaii. The first occurs when taxes paid are entirely deductible, but the annual gross income (AGI) changes by a single dollar thus enabling the taxpayer to be within a new AGI category; crossing this tax cliff implies the loss of a substantial tax deduction. The second relates to a provision that establishes an itemized deduction limit for taxpayers with a federal AGI exceeding a threshold. This provision states that the sum of all itemized deductions must be reduced by three percent for each dollar of the federal AGI; therefore it exacerbates both tax cliff components causing the deduction to be reduced by approximately two hundred and forty-six dollars. The findings specifically showed that there is an issue within the Hawaiʻi state tax code that can cause some people to face extraordinary tax rates. “A single dollar of additional income increases the tax due by one thousand two hundred and seventy-nine dollars,” stated Jalbert. He discovered that going over a tax cliff a taxpayer can experience two things: They can no longer deduct the state taxes they have paid as an itemized deduction and that total itemized deductions are limited to fifty thousand dollars. “You don’t want to take away these deductions all in an instant” informed Jalbert.
Jalbert’s publication was first featured in the local newspaper and in Forbes online magazine . This traction is what got a local politician to introduce it into House Bill 83 and to the House of Representatives in the Hawaiʻi state legislature. It has passed through the house finance committee and has crossed over into the senate. Jalbert was asked to testify to the finance committee about the merits of the House Bill 83. Now Jalbert’s discovery will be discussed by the senate to consider changing the status of the bill due tohis proposal to change to the bill to have a more equitable tax approach. In order for such changes to occur they must go through the senate finance committee, but if the changes do go through it will “phase in this tax provision slowly as your income increases rather than using a cliff approach and having it happen all at one time,” said Jalbert.
Read more information about the Business program at UH Hilo.
Dr. Tam Vu & Alexandria Nakao-Eligado
Department of Economics Chair (Dr. Tam Vu on left) and Political Science and Economics student (Alexandria on right)
There is a popular misconception that most state-run undergraduate universities don’t offer many hands-on opportunities for students in their fields. Dr. Tam Vu, the Chair of the Department of Economics at UH Hilo, wants to change that. She believes in making the University a "flipped" institution - one that takes students out of the classroom and into the real world, where they learn valuable lessons and provide community services, all at the same time. In order to reach this goal, Vu utilizes student assistants whenever she can to help complete her projects. Most recently, Vu was asked by the Volcano Art Center to determine if local visual artists make a meaningful contribution to the Big Island economy.
This project applied the knowledge of econometrics - the use of mathematics and statistics to make conclusions from economic data. At that time, Vu was teaching a course on Intermediate Macroeconomics; Alexandria Nakao-Eligado, a Political Science and Economics double major, was taking Vu’s class and had also previously taken her Econometrics class. Vu helped the Volcano Art Center collect data. She and Alexandra then compiled and analyzed it, producing an eight-page professional paper documenting their research.
The result? They found that local visual artists make a large contribution to the per capita and household income of the state - i.e., when visual artists are successful, they contribute to the economy overall. This information is an incredible resource, not only to the Volcano Art Center, but to the local government as well. One of the findings of the paper was that if government funded artist events or festivals, it could result in a large influx of money entering the Hawaiian economy.
In June 2014, Vu decided to submit their report to the Academic and Business Research Institute (AABRI), a major academic conference organizer. The AABRI, after reviewing the paper, decided to invite Vu and Nakao-Eligado to Honolulu to present their work at the AABRI conference, enabling them to communicate their research on a larger scale, as well as publish their paper as a conference proceeding. The Volcano Art Center ultimately used their findings to write a report they submitted to the County of Hawaiʻi.
This kind of hands-on experience is crucial for student résumés, applications for graduate school, and when competing for internships. Nakao-Eligado's research collaboration with Dr. Vu gave her a huge advantage, giving her relevant experience in the field she is planning on entering. Vu is trying to create as many opportunities as possible for every student to get that same level of participation in their learning. Just recently, she had her class produce the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Hilo. Her students visited various super markets, department stores, gas stations, and other businesses in Hilo to calculate the cost of living index – something that had never been done here before. They found that Hilo is the seventh most expensive city to live in the entire country, Honolulu being the second most expensive, after New York. In this instance, each of her students received hands-on experience collecting data and analyzing it, all while benefiting the local community.
Regarding student involvement and participation, Vu has this to say to potential students: “Because [the university] has small classes, it makes it easier to help students when they initiate any project. Many students want to do things, and at this school it is easy for them to do so.” The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo makes it easy for students to start their own ventures and learn in a hands-on environment. When students pioneer a project, they have great support staff to help them take it to fruition. And when professor and student efforts are combined with the Office of Applied Learning Experiences (ALEX), students are given many opportunities to dip their toes into the waters of their future careers.
Read more information about the Economics program at UH Hilo.
Elizabeth Stacy - Associate Professor of Biology
Elizabeth Stacy, an associate professor of Evolution and Biology, loves trees. She came to Hawaiʻi a decade ago when she was offered a job at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. Not long after her arrival, she discovered that Hawaiʻi was a veritable treasure trove of information on tree evolution. She quickly became fascinated by the local flora, especially ʻōhi’a. She was surprised to learn that no one in Hawaiʻi was studying ʻōhiʻa, at least not from an evolutionary perspective. This gave her an unique opportunity to study this native Hawaiian tree, which is currently in the process of diversifying into various species. It is also in several different stages of the speciation process, making it perfect for studying both ʻōhi’a specifically, and how trees in general evolve.
Elizabeth Stacy received her B.S. in Pre-Veterinary Medicine from Penn State University. Soon after, she volunteered on a forest research team that traveled to the Amazon. That’s what first hooked her on studying tropical rainforests and tree speciation. Upon her return, she began pursuing her M.S. at the University of Georgia – this time switching from veterinarian studies to mating patterns for trees in Panama. She later received her Ph.D. from Boston University for her work in Sri Lanka, studying species boundaries and reproductive isolation of trees in local rainforests. Before moving to Hilo in 2004, she studied and taught in Montreal, Quebec, where she instructed a highly diverse group of students. She currently teaches 7 classes at UH Hilo, including upper division Evolution and Biodiversity courses.
Stacy received the prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award in 2010, which funded $750,000 for her research of ʻōhi’a. Stacy has one year remaining in the five-year grant, and has involved over 20 students in her studies. She often travels to Oʻahu to examine what she says is the most interesting thing that she has learned so far – there is a specific variety of ʻōhi’a that only grows on the Waianae ridge on Oahu, and it appears that it is suffering from ‘inbreeding depression’, a term that describes the deteriorated health of ʻōhi’a seedlings due to similarities between breeding partners. Part of the problem with this type of ʻōhi’a is that it has such a small habitat; a major worry of Stacy and her crew is that when sea levels rise and the climate begins to change, the tree will be pushed out of its habitat and may go extinct. While this would no doubt be somber outcome, Stacy also thinks that it is one of the most interesting things her research has uncovered.
Stacy feels that the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is an incredible place, both to teach and learn, offering a low teacher to student ratio so that professors get lots of quality one-on-one time with their students. The University is also surrounded by an ecological gem, an unparalleled resource of biological and evolutionary research. The Big Island is home to a huge variety of ecosystems – 8 of the world's 13 climate zones exist within 2 hours of the University.
Elizabeth Stacy is a hugely dedicated researcher and a great boon to UH Hilo. She has published her work in many academic journals, and is currently in the approval process for another five-year grant to aid her in her research. Stacy hopes that at some point, she will be able to involve more local Hawaiʻi residents in her research, and tie the evolution of the ʻōhi’a together with the cultural significance of this distinctive tree.
Read more information about the Biology program at UH Hilo.
Nicolas Turner - Computer Analyst & Geospatial Researcher
Nicolas Turner, a research employee and alumni of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, is performing some groundbreaking research in an area that is of incredible use to the local community. Through the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones as most people call them, Nicolas Turner and the rest of his team at the Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization (SDAV) lab at UH Hilo have been mapping the current lava flow in the Puna district of the Big Island and submitting their findings to the Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense.
Nicolas Turner, a Mauʻi native, started out his post-high school education at Maui Community College. While there, he took a GIS (Geography Information System) class, which was the first time he realized the fascinating science behind mapping. He came to UH Hilo as an undergraduate in 2001 to study Geography and Environmental Studies, largely due to that class inspiring him to take his studies in geography further. After graduating in 2011 and putting several internships under his belt, he began working for his alma mater. He has been at the SDAV lab for the last three years, utilizing new drone technology to do several projects for the university.
Turner’s first project was the Hawaiʻi County Food Self Sufficiency Baseline 2012. He worked with Jeffrey Melrose, an Urban and Regional Planner in Hilo, and Donna Delparte, PhD at the University of Idaho, to map out the agriculture land along the Hamakua coastline. He did this using drones. He and his team at SDAV would fly drones above the farms to discover what kinds of crops are being grown. This information was submitted to the Hawaiʻi County Department of Research and Development, and was later used to discover how self-sufficient the state is in terms of food supply. Without Turner’s UAVs, it wouldn't have been possible to know what kinds of food were being grown along the Hamakua Coast, and impossible to develop a clear picture of Hawaiʻi County’s self sufficiency status.
More recently, Turner has turned his UAVs to the lava flow currently burning its way through the Puna district. With such a damaging force threatening so many homes and properties, it is crucial that the lava flow is mapped accurately and often. However, this has caused several problems for both the Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense and the Hawaiʻi Volcano Observatory, both of which map the lava flow daily. The flow is very long, has several breakouts, and does not follow a convenient or clear path. Many different ways have been attempted to map it, but each of them have their own specific drawbacks. For instance, the Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense has been attempting to map and observe the flow via helicopter. Helicopters are very useful tools for this kind of research, however, they are very expensive to charter, and sometimes the updrafts from the heated air directly above the lava flow cause uncomfortable and potentially dangerous lurches in the helicopter's flight path. Satellite images are also used, but they are by necessity extremely low resolution. For an application that requires precision like the lava flow does, low resolution photos don’t make very much sense. The only other way that they had been using to map the lava flow is on foot, which poses its own problems, both with danger and practicality. But Turner saw an opportunity to use his UAVs to map the flow, both without putting anyone in danger and while taking very high resolution photos. Turner and his team travel out to the site of the lava flow daily and fly their semiautonomous UAV above the flow. Their UAV is equipped with a digital camera that takes hundreds of photos of the flow. They then take the data back to the university and stitch all of the photos into a single image. Using this technique, they've been able to create highly detailed maps of the flow. Soon, they are hoping to take it even further, by collecting inflation and flow temperature data with their cameras. All of this information is incredibly helpful for the Civil Defense, and enables them to create highly detailed images of the lava flow.
Nicolas Turner is huge asset for the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and the local community. His research provides invaluable information for the residents of the Puna District; his pioneering methods could become the primary means of small-scale mapping in the future. Turner has several people that he would like to thank for motivating him and helping him with his research – namely Chris Nishioka, his mentor at the SDAV lab, and Ryan Perroy, who helped build out the UAV program at UH Hilo. Turner believes that when you are living in Hawaiʻi and attending the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, no career is out of reach. With an incredible fount of research all around the school, Turner says that whatever you want to do, Hawaiʻi is the place to do it.
Read more information about the SDAV Lab at UH Hilo.
Emmeline de Pillis - Professor of Management
UH Hilo Business students have been excelling in international competition, thanks to a capstone class taught by Professor of Management, Dr. Emmeline dePillis. The course runs students through the Business Strategy Game (BSG) – a computer simulation that allows the player to create and control various aspects of a business as if it were an actual venture. Over 50,000 students in 53 countries play the BSG annually. UH Hilo students have repeatedly scored in the top 100. In 2013, Mark Tokuuke came in first place internationally with a perfect score. During the fall 2014 semester, UH Hilo had four teams rank in the top 100 worldwide. Using the Business Strategy Games as a tool, Dr. de Pillis gives students a realistic outlook on future careers in business, preparing them to excel in their field.
Dr. Emmeline de Pillis did not start out in business. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California San Diego in Mathematics and Computer Science. However, soon after she began her career, she realized that there was an aspect of her work that she did not understand – mainly how organizations functioned. One of the things that she did in her career was sales training, where she would teach employees how to sell a product. She really enjoyed helping people take their lives into their own hands and teaching them how to be successful at what they were trying to do. This was one of the primary motivating factors that persuaded her to pursue teaching as a career. After a few years in her corporate career, Dr. de Pillis decided to apply to graduate school at the University of Southern California, with the goal of becoming a business professor. In August of 1997 with doctorate in hand, she left California to begin teaching at UH Hilo, and has been here ever since.
The BSG course at UH Hilo is the capstone course for all Business majors, and must be taken right before graduation. It’s goal is to give students as close to a real world experience as can be offered in a university setting. To accomplish this, it takes into account the many different factors of a hypothetical business: how much money is spent on advertisements and products, the quality of the products, etc. It even allows students to pursue celebrity endorsements. All of these many details come together to provide students with a rich and rewarding experience.
Stacey Aurway, a business major at UH Hilo currently enrolled in the BSG class, has nothing but praise to give about Dr. de Pillis’ teaching strategies: “She doesn't sugarcoat - especially for this kind of class, you don't need to come out of it with a warm and fuzzy feeling, you need to be given the facts and be prepared for what's really out there, because if you send students out there with a false sense of security, you're just setting [them] up for failure.” Dr. de Pillis agrees, saying: “I know how savage the market is. I am very well tied in with the employer community and the job market. For our students to be competitive, they really have to shine.”
While the current semester of the Business Strategy Game course has only just begun, Dr. dePillis has high hopes for her students. One of her students, Debora Cannolas, has already surpassed the national level of 3 out of 6 criteria in the game. Stacey Aurway is also showing great skill in the game. Dr. de Pillis feels that UH Hilo is a fantastic school to study and teach business at. She believes that the focus on learning is genuine here, and that the small class sizes facilitate better learning for students. Stacey Aurway agrees, saying that she adores her professors.
Using the BSG, Dr. Emmeline dePillis is able to prepare her students in a way that would have been impossible before, helping them immeasurably when they graduate and pursue a career in their field.
Read more information about the Business program at UH Hilo.
Dr. Emmeline de Pillis, Dr. Kimberly Furumo, Hannah Furumo & Kerrilynn Higa
College of Business & Economics faculty & students (featured respectively, from top to bottom)
One hundred and fifty submissions were reviewed at the 2015 International Conference on Business and Information in Honolulu. Out of those, sixty-five were accepted to be presented at the conference. Only “Five of the 65 papers were awarded best paper for their track,” said Dr. Harry Keith Edwards, the local host for the conference. Our very own Kimberly Furumo and Emmeline De Pillis, professors at UH Hilo, accompanied by their students Hannah Furumo and Kerrilynn Higa were the acceptors of one of those prestigious awards.
The International Conference on Business and Information provides “a platform for researchers, engineers, and academicians as well as industrial professionals from all over the world to present their research results,” allows for the opportunity to “exchange new ideas and application experiences face-to-face and to establish business and research relations for future collaboration,” says de Pillis.
Professor Emmeline De Pillis specializes in the Management discipline and provided expertise on the theories related to human interaction and behavior, while Dr. Kimberly Furumo, who specializes in the Quantitative area of business, focused on experimental design and data collection. Together they conducted a project that analyzed communications within virtual teams by creating opportunities for students to work together from universities all over the world (including New York, Jordan and Malaysia). “They used the Google Wave tool for all communications and so I was able to print those communication scripts and analyze them to see how interaction was occurring in the team,” stated Furumo. The project intent was to see if a correlation existed between the communication types used and the amount of work that an individual student would contribute to the team. Students Hannah Furumo and Kerrilynn Higa both reviewed the scripts from the virtual teams and analyzed the types of communication used in accordance to the amount of work provided by each student. Kerrilynn stated that coding the data with Hannah helped “ensure inter-rater reliability”. Hannah handled more of the statistical aspect of the research by loading the collected data from the communication scripts into a statistical software package (SPSS) and performing a correlation and regression analysis.
It was discovered that “around ten percent of female participants and half of male participants completely dropped the ball—did absolutely nothing—on at least one assignment,” said De Pillis. They also found that most students would not inform their professors about the “free rider.” De Pillis says that this conclusion creates a fairness issue by allowing these “free riders” to succeed within an academic program through the work of others. She says that she no longer assigns graded group work; she has group discussions in class, but as for anything graded, each student is responsible for his or her own work.
"Winning the Best Paper Award is very encouraging, of course. Our next step is to prepare it for submission in an academic journal,” says De Pillis, who believes in the phrase “publish or perish.” De Pillis continues in saying that it is “an important part of their job as faculty members, to address questions in their field of interest and to share their research with academic colleagues worldwide.” While at the conference, it was suggested that they rerun the experiment with working age adults rather than college students, and to interview the participants to find out why they didn’t contribute to the team project or didn’t inform their professors about the “free riders.”
As for Hannah Furumo and Kerrilynn Higa, they both found the experience very rewarding. Hannah said that she enjoyed “being able to apply what she had learned in the classroom to help her understand how research is completed and how important it is.” Kerrilynn presented their findings at the UH Hilo ALEX Research Conference and felt that the completion of her work on this project “has brought back that drive she has to continue on with her education, see what else she is capable of and to learn more about herself and the topics that interest her.” Both were grateful for the opportunity their professors gave them to gain hands-on research experience in the fields of their interest.
Read more information about the Business program at UH Hilo.