Say Hello to Kristen Roney

UH Hilo Welcomes New Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs

Staff Writer: Nick Wagner
Photo Courtesy of Kristen Roney

Kristin Roney UH Hilo students can look forward to seeing the new face of academic affairs, Kristen “Kris” Roney. Roney comes to Hilo after serving the last six years as the associate vice president for Academic Programs and the founding dean of University College and Graduate Studies at California State University, Monterey Bay.

As vice chancellor of Academic Affairs, Roney says that she is here to serve the campus community, “whether that be leading through the hopeful and difficult, cheerleading the amazing efforts and success’ on campus, or advocating for the needs and vision of UH Hilo locally and virtually.”

As her title implies, Roney does many things on the business side of things. She watches the Academic Affairs budget; interprets policy; provides guidance on merging vision and curriculum; and listens to the needs of the UH Hilo community “to better understand and create solutions on problems we face and how to resolve them,” she explains.

Roney, who has been the job since Aug. 17, has enjoyed working with her fellow vice chancellors, learning from them and looking for ways they can partner to best serve students, faculty and staff.

“I will focus considerable effort on creating and sustaining environments in which students can be successful in finding and achieving their goals, whatever those goals are, and much of what I do will be dedicated to identifying needs and supporting that work,” Roney says.

Roney’s interview, acceptance of her position, initial phase of work here at UH Hilo has all been virtual, although she relocated to the island to take the position.

“I won’t pretend that meeting everyone via Zoom—and Zoom only—wasn’t daunting, because it definitely was,” she says. “I could still feel the engagement and energy here, though, and I very much wanted to be a part of it.” The fact that she got a good sense of her would-be colleagues through Zoom meetups and that she knew Chancellor Irwin previously made her feel less anxious about taking the position amid a pandemic.

“I was more excited by the people and work of the campus and community than I was worried,” she says. “It wasn’t the experience new students are having right now exactly, but I do empathize. I also encourage you all to stay your course to your goals. You can totally do this, even through this weird, weird time we are in.”

Those who work with Roney can expect to be “honest about current events” and their effects in shaping the academic vision and strategic actions.

“This is not going to be an easy year for the campus as we address the budgetary fallout from the pandemic, and we will end up having difficult conversations on campus in the sorts of spaces not really conducive to them (such as Zoom meetings),” Roney says.