I Hereby Grant You

Staff Writer Holly S.Trowbridge

Photos Provided By Karlee Oyama, the Marine Option Program, and Lorna Tsutsumi

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What are certificate programs? How do they work? What are they all about? UH Hilo offers thirty-seven different undergraduate programs and four graduate ones. According to Shelby Wong, the Curriculum and Catalog Coordinator, these programs can offer students “an opportunity to get an additional credential in something that might be a little more interdisciplinary, or of a specific skill set that employers are looking for.”

The certificate that a student chooses to pursue does not necessarily need to correlate to their major. The list of programs can be found on the university’s web page, listed underneath all the minors offered.

“The biggest population of people doing certificates are already working towards a bachelor’s degree with us. However, people out in the community have the option to come back as an unclassified student and just do a certificate,” Wong states.

The first Undergraduate Certificate Program offered through the University of Hawai`i at Hilo was the Marine Option Program in 1980. This program is unique in that it is a system-wide certificate program, which allows for any student within the University of Hawai`i system to get involved.

“The Marine Option Program is a very experiential program that gets students out into the field and working with professionals,” says instructor and program coordinator Lisa Parr. The program offers many opportunities for studying marine science, such as scuba dive training with SeaSTARS and the Sea Turtle Stranding Response Team.

Another certificate program that’s offered is the Beekeeping Certificate, which was pioneered by Lorna Tsutsumi, an entomology professor. Tsutsumi explains: “There was a great deal of interest with bees and we were very fortunate about six years ago when we formed a partnership with a chef who was interested in bringing more awareness to the importance of honeybees for sustainability, food, and pollination.” Earning the Beekeeping Certificate “shows that you have a certain level of beekeeping mastery,” Tsutsumi continues.

Another certificate, managed by Scott Saft, is the Contemporary Indigenous Multilingualism Certificate. Saft is an Associate Professor of Linguistics and the Coordinator for the Linguistics Program at the university. He also helps with the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, or TESOL, Certificate.

The purpose of the Contemporary Indigenous Multilingualism Certificate is “to encourage minority students, but especially students who have a background in an indigenous language, to pursue their native language,” Saft states.

The Contemporary Indigenous Multilingualism Certificate was created in 2014. “Only one student has graduated with the certificate so far, but we are hoping for more,” Saft says. “Because we’ve had an increase in the number of students from the Federated States of Micronesia, we want those students to understand the gift of language that they have, with the hope that in the future they will teach their native language to the public and to their children.”

Ultimately, certificate programs are created with students in mind. Saft points out that if students are unsure whether or not they want to major in a particular field, pursuing a certificate might lead them in the right direction. “They can take a few classes, get something out of it, and at some point they might be able to use that in their future careers.”

Susan Wackerbarth, an English professor at UH Hilo, is coordinator of the Creative Writing Certificate Program. The program is in its second year and is on track to be completed by 21 students at the end of this semester. Wackerbarth says she looked at the TESOL Certificate when forming the curriculum for the Creative Writing Certificate Program.

Wong, the Curriculum and Catalog Coordinator, explains: “In the past five years, we’ve had a lot of new certificates come through, because they are approved on a campus level. It allows us to stay current because if there is a new field we can get it approved and on the books within a year.” Completed certificates will show on students’ transcripts but not on diplomas.

To get involved with a particular certificate, students must declare it on a change of major form. “It is always good to talk to an advisor,” Wong suggests. The contact information for the coordinators over each certificate program are available on the UH Hilo Degree and Certificate Program website.

Some new programs coming next fall are Data Science, Hawaiian Indigenous Media Early Education, and Public Policy. Saft explains, “There are a number of ways a certificate could be helpful. It shows a diversity of knowledge that a student possesses, and it can show that a student is very well-rounded, and that could be attractive to future employers.”