Islands of Opportunity Alliance poised for high-tech future; UH Hilo to oversee program

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Date: Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Contact: Dr. Rose Tseng, (808) 974-7444; Dr. A. James Hicks, (703) 292-4668

For Immediate Release

Dr. Rose Y. Tseng, chancellor of the University of Hawaii at Hilo, today announced that the University has been selected to administer the Islands of Opportunity Alliance, a consortium of 19 universities and colleges, both public and private, throughout the Pacific Island nations that are committed to increasing the number of professional scientists among people from underrepresented minority groups.

The Islands of Opportunity Alliance was formed to carry out a new Pacific-wide initiative to double the number of minorities in scientific, mathematic, engineering and technological (STEM) professions. It will receive a $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation to meet these goals over the next five years.

According to officials, the program is a prime opportunity for students from underrepresented minority groups that has come at the right time.

“As a university that has always valued diversity and provided education for the underrepresented in society, the University of Hawai`i at Hilo is privileged and honored to take the lead in the Islands of Opportunity Alliance,” noted Tseng, who serves as the principal investigator in the Alliance. “This program will play a vital role in bringing a culturally relevant and scientifically rigorous education in the STEM disciplines from member institutions within five years.

“I would especially like to thank Provost Bernie Ploeger of Chaminade University, Neal Smatresk, vice chancellor for academic affairs at UH Manoa, and Bob Franco, director of planning and grants, Kapiolani Community College, for contributing to the grant process.”

“These are exciting times for both Hawai‘i and the Pacific Island nations, and those who take advantage of the Islands of Opportunity Alliance will be poised for success in today’s and tomorrow’s changing dynamics,” said Dr. Dan Brown, coordinator of research and graduate studies at UH Hilo and program director of the Alliance. “The opportunities are real and already exist in fields such as astronomy, biotechnology, computer science, nursing and diversified agriculture fields, such as aquaculture. The recent earthquake drives home the immediate need for educated and qualified civil engineers both here and throughout the Pacific. Here at UH Hilo, we have a newly-opened School of Pharmacy designed to fill a critical Pacific-wide need for well-trained, highly-paid professionals.”

UH Hilo will collaborate with the following member institutions in the Alliance: UH Hilo, UH Mānoa, UH West O`ahu, the community colleges of the UH system, Chaminade University, the University of Guam, Hawai‘i Pacific University, American Samoa Community College, College of Micronesia, Guam Community College, College of the Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas College and Palau Community College.

The Islands of Opportunity Alliance will use practices that respect and reflect the unique cultural and geographic setting of the Pacific Basin, based on the extensive scholarship on
cross-cultural communication and learning styles of Pacific Islanders and administrative structures that bridge the geographic and cultural differences between islands.

The Islands of Opportunity Alliance is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program. The LSAMP program began in 1991 with grants to six multi-institution collaborative efforts called alliances. Today, there are 35 alliances with more than 450 participating institutions throughout the country, with the Islands of Opportunity Alliance being the newest addition.

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