Award-winning members of UH Hilo ʻohana honored at annual event

Several members of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo community received annual awards at celebration held May 3, 2018.

Photos by Bob Douglas, click to enlarge.

Group photo with Patsy.
Patsy Iwasaki received the Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi Award for Excellence and Innovation. Details below.


Student Employee of the Year: Natalie Quinajon, student assistant, Office of Admissions
Natalie Quinajon
Natalie Quinajon

Natalie Quinajon plays an important role in the Office of Admissions’ communication with the public, primarily by monitoring and answering email inquiries, which often requires deciphering complex questions to determine the best course of action. She also serves as the primary tour coordinator by scheduling tour guides and meetings with faculty and admissions counselors. Quinajon is thorough and mindful when providing information, and exhibits a calm, kind demeanor when speaking with students and parents. This academic year she took on the additional task of transferring admissions files to the registrar, which she completed for both the fall and spring semesters.


Mentor Recognition Award: Cheryl Ramos, Professor of Psychology and Hōkū Pihana, Keaholoa STEM Scholars Program Coordinator.
Group photo
At center, Cheryl Ramos and Hōkū Pihana.

This is the first year for the Mentor Recognition Award, which can be awarded to faculty and staff members. There were two recipients this year, each nominated by students and/or new alumni for their contributions to student success.

Presenter remarks for Cheryl Ramos:

Aloha, my name is Paige Okimoto and I am here to present this award for outstanding mentoring to the students at UH Hilo. I first met Professor Ramos during a one on one meeting to discuss specific classes needed for my psychology major. She was very informative and easy to talk. One of my favorite qualities about Dr. Ramos is her ability to be honest and not always tell you what you want to hear while encouraging and being positive. This is what other students had to say about Professor Ramos:

“She has always been available and helpful to me, while still maintaining good boundaries. . . . I feel so encouraged and supported.”

“Professor Cheryl Ramos is an amazing human being. Her soul is pure and honest. Thank you!”

Presenter remarks for Hōkū Pihana

Aloha, my name is Qiyamah Williams and I am here to present this award for outstanding mentoring to students at UH Hilo. I met Hōkū Pihana my first semester here at UH Hilo. I had just transferred here from Florida and was feeling very lost in this new school and new place. Hōkū talked with me and made me feel like I belonged. She introduced me to other students, gave me my first research experience and has been not only a support system, but a friend to me during my time here. She’s not only impacted me but other students as well. Here are some things they had to say about Hōkū:

“Hōkū is a true leader, especially for us Native Hawaiian students who are interested in STEM fields.”

“Ms. Pihana goes above and beyond to make sure that her students are well supported so that we can achieve our academic success.”

On behalf of all the students you’ve impacted, I’m very proud to present this award to Hōkū Pihana.


Jim Mellon
Jim Mellon
The Distinguished Service Award for Improving Student Life: Jim Mellon, Executive Director of Global Education and Exchange, and Director of International Student Services and Intercultural Exchange

Jim Mellon has expanded intellectual, cultural and social learning by securing $8 million from the U.S. Department of Education to support initiatives that include the Student Support Services Program and the Pacific Islander Student Center. International Nights, an event that celebrates the students’ cultures, is another beneficiary of funding secured by Mellon. He helps first-year international students transition to UH Hilo through a Host Family program that connects them with families in the local community. Mellon also connects international students to the community through the Global Ambassadors Program, where they discuss their home cultures at island schools and before community, professional and civic organizations.


Miles Nagata
Mile Nagata
Excellence in Service Award: Miles Nagata, Director of University Housing

Nagata oversees University Housing on a 24/7 basis to provide student residents a home-away-from-home. He and his team work closely with administrators to expand and enhance the number of available beds, and for the past two years has worked to address affordability and occupancy. His support for campus initiatives cuts across multiple units, and colleagues look to him for historic knowledge, best practices or the most practical way to get things done. He also supports various events, like the Division of Student Affairs annual fish fry, where he joins colleagues in catching, cleaning and cooking fish.


Pūlama ʻIke Award: Lee Dombroski, Manager of the Performing Arts Center
Lee Dombroski
Lee Dombroski

The Pūlama ʻIke Award recognizes a significant contribution to developing and promoting the spirit and mission of the University. Lee Dombroski positions UH Hilo as an island-wide community arts resource by developing an annual season of performances for the public ranging from music and dance to educational arts. The artists who perform also become a source of educational opportunities for UH Hilo students by offering masters classes in their respective fields. Dombroski provides free arts performances to school children, and makes Performing Arts Center facilities and services available to outside promoters and events. She creates new opportunities to showcase the arts, and expands community outreach and participation by partnering with business and community organizations, creating fundraising events and obtaining grants.


Patsy Iwasaki
Patsy Iwasaki
The Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi Award for Excellence and Innovation: Patsy Iwasaki, Lecturer in Communication and English

Patsy Iwasaki infuses her teaching with storytelling artistry in graphic novel and video format. Her graphic novel, Hamakua Hero: A True Plantation Story, and the video documentary of the same name have provided rich distillations of island history for UH Hilo students, along with other readers and viewers. The documentary is an ongoing project on the legacy of island businessman and labor martyr Katsu Goto that has evolved into a community-based production involving numerous individuals from UH Hilo.

Iwasaki recieved a monetary gift and medal and has her name engraved on a perpetual plaque dedicated to recipients of the award, which is permanently housed in the Office of the Chancellor.


More photos of event

Click to enlarge.


About the photographer: Bob Douglas is a local artist, photographer, and sometimes part-time student who volunteers his photography skills to the Office of the Chancellor and UH Hilo Stories.

Media release.