Mar 242017

The training focuses on indigenous HIV/AIDS research, awards the recipient up to $20k for a pilot project or buy-out, and provides access to experts in the field.

Misty Pacheco

Misty Pacheco

The Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Science at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo announced today one of their faculty has been awarded a prestigious fellowship for HIV/AIDS research training.

Misty Pacheco, assistant professor of kinesiology and exercise science, was awarded a fellowship with the Lauhoe Indigenous HIV/AIDS Research Training (IHART) program, beginning April 1, 2017, and ending March 31, 2019.

The IHART fellowship offers up to $20,000 in pilot project development seed funding and/or course buy-out; funds to attend conferences, workshops and professional training opportunities; mentors experienced in the field of HIV/AIDS research and/or cultural mentorship; access to editorial, statistical, and behavioral science expertise and consultants at the University of Washington; and online support via the IHART2 website.

“This great accomplishment of Dr. Pacheco doesn’t only illustrate the interesting and noteworthy research within (the UH Hilo kinesiology and exercise science program), but also the continued efforts regarding Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao,” says Harold Barkhoff, chair of the KES department.

Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao, which translates to “Hawai‘i Foundations of Enlightenment/Knowledge,” has the goal of making the UH System the model for using Native Hawaiian knowledge and viewpoints as the foundation for educational programs. In 2012, each UH campus was tasked with developing its own individual campus plan to help fulfill the initiative—UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College are working collaboratively to jointly integrate Hawaiian knowledge into programs and curricula.

Mar 232017

STARS is a week-long, summer educational experience designed to encourage participants to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

A summer program for high school women exploring space exploration, astronomy and engineering will receive a $5,000 sponsorship from the High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC).

In addition to HTDC’s support, the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems’ (PISCES) 2017 STARS (STEM Aerospace Research Scholars) Program will be made possible through partnerships with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope, Subaru Telescope and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

Rodrigo Romo at computer

Rodrigo Romo

“We’re very grateful for this generous award from HTDC,” says Rodrigo Romo, PISCES program manager. “The STARS Program is a great way for young women to learn what kind of careers are possible by pursuing STEM. Thanks to HTDC’s sponsorship, we can expand the 2017 STARS activities and continue offering it to students for free.”

STARS is a week-long, summer educational experience designed to encourage participants to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Participants engage in hands-on activities and presentations conducted by local experts, spanning the dawn of celestial navigation techniques by Polynesian voyagers to the future of human space colonization. The workshop also includes presentations and tours at Hawai‘i’s world-class astronomy facilities, and a mock lunar mission with PISCES’ planetary rover.

In addition, participants are introduced to space mining, aerospace engineering and the future of manned spaceflights to Mars.

“HTDC is proud to support the STARS Program to help inspire Hawai‘i’s young women to get involved in science and technology,” says Robbie Melton, HTDC CEO and executive director. “The program also supports HTDC’s 80/80 Initiative to increase the number of well-paying high tech jobs in Hawai‘i, and aligns with other key programs like TechHire Hawai‘i and the Neighbor Island Innovation Initiative (NI3).”

PISCES launched STARS in 2014, offering the program every summer with a growing number of participants. The program aims to address the existing gender gap in science and engineering-related career fields, while growing Hawai‘i’s technology and innovation sector by inspiring local youth to pursue related careers.

Applications for the Summer 2017 STARS Program, scheduled in late June, will open in May.

Media release from Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Mar 162017

In honor of educator and public servant Ilima Piʻianaiʻa, the fund will benefit the astronomy center in perpetuity and enable the sharing of programming with current and future generations of young people.

Ilima Piʻianaiʻa, with lei

Ilima Piʻianaiʻa

The legacy of the late educator and government planner Ilima Piʻianaiʻa is being celebrated through the establishment of a new endowment at the ʻImiloa Astronomy Center located on the University of Hawaii at Hilo campus.

Gordon Piʻianaiʻa of Honolulu and Norman Piʻianaiʻa of Kamuela have made a gift through the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation to create a new permanently endowed fund to honor their sister and expand access to educational programming at ʻImiloa by K-12 students.

“Just as we are marking the 11th anniversary of our opening, ʻImiloa is thrilled to have our very first permanent endowment, a fund that will benefit the center in perpetuity and enable us to share our unique brand of programming with both current and future generations of young people,” says ʻImiloa Executive Director Kaʻiu Kimura. “We are humbled by the Piʻianaiʻa family’s vote of confidence in ʻImiloa and excited about what this will mean in our second decade and beyond!”

UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney adds, “This wonderful gift will benefit the children of Hawaiʻi for years to come.”

About Ilima Piʻianaiʻa

Born and raised on Oʻahu, Ilima Piʻianaiʻa (1947–2006) pursued a noteworthy career in the public sector, starting with her service as a Hawaiʻi County planner helping to develop a general plan for the island. She later served with the Hawaiʻi Community Development Authority and worked on the Kakaʻako Improvement District, among other projects. She lectured in geography and planning at UH Mānoa from 1980 to 1984, administered the Task Force on the Hawaiian Homes Commission from 1982 to 1983, then held appointments as Hawaiʻi County deputy planning director, director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, director of the Office of International Relations and Affairs, and deputy director of the state Department of Agriculture.

Norman Piʻianaiʻa comments about his sister, “Even though Ilima was from Honolulu, she loved the Big Island and its people. She moved here around 1970 and mentored in the planning department under Director Raymond Suefuji during the days of Mayor Shunichi Kimura, a time when things were in a process of great change in Hawaiʻi. With ancestral roots firmly planted here, we are confident that Ilima would be pleased to know she has in this way returned and will continue to help nurture and contribute to the future education and development of Hawaiʻi Island youngsters.”

A longtime friend of Ilima, Deanne Lemle Bosnak, remembers her as “a perfect embodiment of ‘aloha.’ She personally represented Hawaiʻi’s beautiful blend of cultures, its warm hospitality and its welcoming aloha spirit. She was also a diplomat who worked hard to build bridges between disparate communities and cultures, demonstrating in everything she did a deep respect for the land and the values of its people.”

Annual distributions from the Ilima Piʻianaiʻa Endowment will support access to ʻImiloa by local elementary, middle and high school students, and may include subsidized admission and or transportation to the center, subsidized fees for ʻImiloa programs, and/or program outreach to rural parts of Hawaiʻi Island and the state.

Get involved

To make a gift to the Ilima Piʻianaiʻa Endowment please visit the UH Foundation website.

—A University of Hawaiʻi Foundation story via UH System News.

Mar 162017

The public is invited to comment on a Draft Environmental Assessment for Infrastructure Improvements at Maunakea Visitor Information Station (March 8-April 7, 2017).

Visitor Center at night.

Maunakea Visitor Information Station. Photo credit Maunakea Visitor Information Station.

The public is invited to comment on a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for Infrastructure Improvements at Maunakea Visitor Information Station (VIS). The University of Hawaiʻi Hilo is proposing a set of infrastructure improvements at Halepōhaku to accommodate and address the increase in the number of visitors to the mountain; ensure the safety of visitors and workers; prevent unintended impacts to natural, historic, and cultural resources on the Halepōhaku and adjacent parcels; and comply with the Board of Land and Natual Resources (BLNR)-approved Maunakea Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP).

The Proposed Action includes: a new means of ingress and egress for vehicles to the VIS, a new access lane and parking area, paving of an unimproved path to provide access from the new parking area to the VIS, drainage features, a greenhouse, and relocation of a cabin. Project activities would occur on the university’s leased lands. The access to the ingress/egress and the new parking area would be through access points identified in the Halepōhaku parcel lease.

Improving traffic conditions and visitor access to the VIS is important to maintaining a safe experience for visitors and workers. The CMP states that for safety reasons, all parking should be on the same side of the road as existing Halepōhaku facilities. The proposed infrastructure changes improve access and safety for visitors and workers by adding ingress and egress routes that facilitate traffic flow and building a new VIS Parking Area. The purpose of the project is to replace unsafe, ad hoc, road shoulder parking that is resulting in degraded conditions, and provide for safe access to the VIS from the new parking lot.

Comment period

The public comment period runs 30 days from March 8, 2017 to April 7, 2017.

Comments may be submitted via email to: comments[at] or via regular mail to: Attention: Maunakea VIS Infrastructure Improvements Draft EA Comments, Office of Maunakea Management, 640 N. Aʻohoku Place, Hilo, HI 96720.

Mar 152017

Dean of UH Hilo’s College of Agriculture says there are few annual crops where a farmer can recover costs of high fertilizer and soil amendment inputs required for desired yields coupled with disease and pests in this environment.

By Bruce Mathews.

Bruce Mathews

Bruce Mathews

On January 9, the Hawaiʻi Island Food Alliance Food Access Working Group, together with The Food Basket, The Kohala Center, and the state Department of Health, hosted a presentation in Hilo by Ken Meter (president of the Cross-roads Resource Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota) that was entitled “Growing Secure Food Systems in Hawaiʻi”. The presentation focused on how the pre-European contact native Hawaiians were completely food independent and that the 1900s resulted in a downward spiral in food production in Hawaiʻi, which was particularly rapid from the 1940s onward. The mid 1960s was the last time that about half the food consumed in Hawaiʻi was produced here. The stated goal was to instigate change that results in greatly improved food independence on the Big Island. There was even quite a bit of discussion regarding community-based food systems and avoiding the cash-based economy, and doing food barter.

One of the major challenges was that there was no real discussion of the biophysical and social constraints that would need to be overcome. When I pointed out that Native Hawaiians largely farmed the fertile alluvial valley soils and sweet spot uplands where rainfall was sufficient to grow sweet potato, etc., but not so excessive to result in heavy nutrient losses (soil fertility depletion) by leaching I was told that one can use soil restorative rotations of certain (undefined) legumes to make the former sugarcane lands of the high rainfall Hilo-Hamakua Coast productive for food crops. I politely implied that this thinking was delusional and backed up by scientific evidence regarding the very limited potentials of biological uplift of nutrients and nitrogen-fixing green manures in high rainfall zones with heavily leached soils.

On the infertile upland soils in high rainfall zones the Native Hawaiians practiced slash and burn agriculture with short annual (usually one to two crop) cropping periods and very long fallows or plantings of tree crops such as breadfruit. Long fallows are not practical in the modern era. Neither is expansion of wetland and gulch taro production as most of the fallow areas are now zoned for conservation to protect wetland habitat and wildlife. In this regard it is interesting to note that the waterfowl of concern seemed to survive when Native Hawaiians and then immigrants from Asia cropped the valleys and gulches wall to wall with taro, had extensive aquaculture, and later also grew rice. Furthermore, it is problematic that most of the sweet spot uplands with high soil fertility that were formerly used largely for sweet potato cultivation are presently under the tropical grass pastures of the large privately held ranches. These lands are unlikely to be converted to row-cropped field systems and would require major irrigation infrastructure development to avoid the risk of crop failure during droughts that have become more frequent with climate change.

There is a reason that most of the former rain-fed sugarcane lands on the Big Island are now used for perennial pasture and tree crops that are not as nutrient demanding in terms of soil fertility as most annual agronomic and vegetable crops. In a large part it’s that there are few annual crops where the farmer can recover the costs of the high fertilizer and soil amendment inputs required for the desired yields coupled with the multitude of introduced disease and pest problems in this environment. To make matters worse, applied nitrogen and potassium fertility is rapidly leached away necessitating frequent reapplication. Due in part to the soil fertility constraints and cost of the available lands and labor we are not going to be growing staple crops in major quantities anytime soon.

Some keys to improving food independence are as follows: 1) developing viable strategies to recover essential plant nutrients from the human waste stream in order to reduce dependence on imported fertilizers, 2) designing novel controlled-release and extender fertilizers such as those based on colloidal ion exchangers (exchange fertilizer technology) for more efficient nutrient delivery in the humid tropics, 3) encouraging and facilitating state and federal professionals in horticulture and agronomy to conduct the scientifically non-glamorous but essential work of germplasm evaluation that includes crop nutrient use efficiency and pest-disease resistance parameters, 4) improving the opportunities for people interested in becoming farmers to have relevant training on commercial scale farming practices, and 5) educating people on the multifaceted components of successful rural entrepreneurship.

Bruce Mathews is dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management at UH Hilo. His areas of research are plant nutrient cycling and soil fertility; assessment of the impact of agricultural and forestry production practices on soil, coastal wetlands, and surface waters; and nutrient management practices for pastures, forests, and field crops in the tropics (learn more about his research). He received his bachelor of science in agriculture, with high honors, from UH Hilo in 1986. He received his master of science in agronomy from Louisiana State University and his doctor of philosophy in agronomy, with a minor in animal science, from the University of Florida. Contact.


This column was originally posted at Nihopeku, a blog about UH Hilo’s work toward food security on Hawaiʻi Island.

Mar 142017

UH Hilo researchers believe the biggest challenge that Hawaiian tree species will face in the future is how quickly they will get water, especially in higher temperatures.

By Anne Rivera.
This story is the second in a series on climate change research at UH Hilo.

Joanna Norton and Prof. of Biology Becky Ostertag stand together in a garden.

(l-r) UH Hilo graduate student Joanna Norton and Prof. of Biology Becky Ostertag. Photo by Zoe Coffman.

Scientists at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo are tackling climate change issues with numerous research projects focusing on a variety of target areas ranging from testable theories to the collection of data. In many of the projects UH Hilo faculty, graduate students, and island resource managers are working together to conduct important collaborative research focused on building the community’s ability to adapt to future climate and land use changes.

Professor of Biology Becky Ostertag leads two such projects—a long-term forest research project with many partners across the Hawaiian islands, and a separate research study with graduate student Joanna Norton. Both projects link established and potential problems related to our forests to further help scientists and island resource managers understand the effects of climate change on the island’s environment.

Forest studies

Ostertag’s project, called the Hawai‘i Permanent Plot Network or HIPPNET, is the deployment of permanent research sites across Hawai‘i that track various factors in Hawaiian forests—the birth and death of trees, growth rates, species and so forth—all monitored with the data compiled together like an information packet. This comprehensive history helps to evaluate how Hawaiian species respond to climate fluctuations and allows researchers to make predictions about how Hawaiian forests will do with long term climate change. The collected field data relates to climate change by linking factors such as minimum and maximum temperatures, rainfall, solar radiation, soil moisture and wind speed.

The biggest issue that Hawaiian species will face is how quickly they will get water, especially in higher temperatures, Ostertag explains.

“Water is going to become an important issue with climate change,” she says.

Prof. Ostertag earned her bachelor of arts in biology from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, and later received her doctor of philosophy in botany from the University of Florida in Gainesville. At UH Hilo, she teaches, leads her own research projects, and chairs and advises students in the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science graduate program as she is with Joanna Norton.

Ostertag’s HIPPNET project is a collaboration with the Institute of Pacific Island Forestry of the USDA Forest Service, the University of California-Los Angeles, and UH Mānoa, and has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Pacific Southwest Research Station of the USDA Forest Service, and the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center based at UH Hilo.

Logos of the various agencies supporting the HIPPNET project.

The HIPPNET project is a collaborative research project with support from a cross section of agencies. Click to enlarge.

Additional funding from the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center allows Ostertag and fellow researchers to investigate sapflow, the rate in which trees take up water.

Albizia studies

Norton’s research is part of the UH Hilo collaborations with the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center that link graduate students, agency and community natural resource managers and faculty to focus on today’s challenges related to climate change.

Norton’s project focuses primarily on alternative agricultural methods investigating the use of an invasive albizia tree species (Falcataria moluccana), found here on Hawai‘i Island, as an alternative fertilizer.

Agriculture is one of the biggest influences in climate change—carbon dioxide and methane gas are contributors, however nitrous oxide is the biggest component.

“It is a much more powerful greenhouse gas and it’s coming out of agricultural fields which makes it reactive,” Norton explains.

Oftentimes agricultural gas emitted from the fertilizers is not mentally registered because it is considered routine and regular agriculture.

Norton’s research project includes the collection of albizia trees which are chipped, composted and then spread across agricultural lands ranging from Hilo to Kohala. After the composted albizia trees are dispersed across these agricultural plots, Norton will compare it to chemical fertilizers by analyzing differences in plant growth, soil and plant nutrient levels, and soil water holding capability.

A large pile of wood chips and an orange tree trimming truck in a horse pasture, a black and white horse looks on.

UH Hilo graduate student Joanne Norton’s research project includes the collection of albizia trees, which are chipped, composted and then spread across agricultural lands ranging from Hilo to Kohala. Photo by J. Norton.

Norton originally hails from Washington, DC, but has spent half her life in Hawai‘i. She earned a bachelor of science in biology from UH Hilo, and is now earning a master of science at the university’s Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science program.

She says she came back to school after being in the “work world” and continues to work with various employers conducting agricultural experiments. Her research project is similar to her work, however, she is given the freedom to design the agricultural question.

“Here at UH Hilo, I am learning the latest research on agriculture, invasive species, and climate change, which gives my work context,” she says. “I’m learning how to ask and answer questions in a scientific way as well as learning the logistics and planning that goes into a research project.”

By designing and implementing her own research project, Norton is gaining more than just answers to untested questions—she is learning useful and applicable techniques and information that will help her understand climate change and how adjustments might be made to adjust or prevent these fluctuations.

Partnerships and collaborations

Norton’s agricultural investigations also interfaces with the HIPPNET forest research project, which is in collaboration with a worldwide network called the Center for Tropical Forest Science—projects involved with this network use similar tools for data analysis, which allows for cross-site studies. These cross-site studies show how Hawaiian forests compare to other tropical forests and some temperate forests across the globe.

A map of the world showing the countries participating in The Center for Tropical Forest Science global network.

The UH Hilo HIPPNET project is part of The Center for Tropical Forest Science – Forest Global Earth Observatory (CTFS-ForestGEO), a global network of forest research plots and scientists dedicated to the study of tropical and temperate forest function and diversity. The multi-institutional network comprises over 60 forest research plots across the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe, with a strong focus on tropical regions. CTFS-ForestGEO monitors the growth and survival of approximately 6 million trees and 10,000 species. Click photo to enlarge. Source.

This ability to compare Hawaiian forests and species with the outside world influences Norton’s project. Norton’s project compares a variety of factors, one of which includes the albizia tree fertilizer’s ability to retain water. The HIPPNET plot project’s observations and data analyses show that the water intake rate of Hawaiian tree species means there is a need for alternative fertilizer options. Norton is researching and testing one of many purposed alternative methods.

Norton’s work is funded by the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center, which works in conjunction with managers and scientists from a collaborative agency called the Big Island Invasive Species Committee. Norton’s partnership with BIISC—part of the Manager Climate Corps—is to ensure that her research is applicable to the community—invasive species have become a hard-pressing problem on the island because the invaders force competition between native and invasive species for limited resources and nutrients.

Norton looks forward to continuing her work in agricultural research after graduation. She wants to combine her “on-the-ground skills with the expertise and scientific perspective.”

“Whether my work is primarily in agriculture, land conservation, or climate science, I hope to use my positions to take a multidisciplinary systems approach that is concerned with the entire situation,” she says.

This post was updated on 3/16/2017 to include more details about community partnerships and research projects.


About the author of this story: Anne Rivera (junior, communication) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

-UH Hilo Stories


Also in this series:

Climate change research at UH Hilo: Tree rings and bird song

Mar 142017

Keiki K. C. Kawaiʻaeʻa will discuss indigenous well-being with strategies and insights to consider as it applies to education in Hawaiʻi, teacher education and accreditation.

International topics speaker series (3rd Thursday of each month).

Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa

Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa

TITLE: Indigenous Well-Being through Education
SPEAKER: Keiki K. C. Kawaiʻaeʻa, Director, Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language.
DATE: Thursday, March 16, 2017.
TIME: 7:00 p.m.
PLACE: Lumi Pahiahia at Haleʻōlelo, College of Hawaiian Language, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo (campus map).

Free and open to the general public and UH community.


At the center of our life spirit is mauli. Much like a flame, the vitality of mauli can be seen as an illuminating light or a flicker of a struggling flame. Education can transform lives and serves as a critical context for cultivating a sense of well-being (mauli ola). This presentation will provide a framework for indigenous well-being and some applied examples, strategies and insights to consider as it applies to education in Hawaiʻi, teacher education and accreditation.


The United Nations Association USA-Hawaii Island Chapter and the UH Hilo International Student Services & Intercultural Education Program.


Jim Mellon.

Mar 102017

Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science Master of Science Program Weekly Seminar.

TITLE: Coexistence: The balance of supporting the military mission and managing endangered species.
SPEAKER: Rogelio Doratt and Joshua Pang-Ching, Pōhakuloa Training Area-Natural Resource Office.
DATE: Monday, March 13, 2017.
TIME: 4:00 p.m.
PLACE: Wentworth Hall, room 9 (campus map).

Free and open to the UH community and the general public.

Full schedule of Spring 2017 seminars.

Mar 082017

UH Hilo’s new LGBTQ+ Center is committed to ensuring nondiscrimination and prevention of sexual harassment, including protection for transgender, gender-nonconforming and LGBTQ+ individuals.

By Anne Rivera.

Celebrating and embracing diversity in gender and sexual orientation found in the campus community at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo—and ultimately to become an even more inclusive campus—are goals of the UH Hilo LGBTQ+ Center coordinator, Laura Sherwood. But changes have occurred at the federal level since the start of 2017 that have the potential of impacting that mission—-and one of those changes is the federal government’s reversal of previous guidance issued to universities regarding Title IX protection for transgender students.

Laura Sherwood

Sherwood admits there is a general fear since the changes— “What is going to happen next?” and “How is it going to impact the community?”—however, she says, UH Hilo is addressing these concerns by offering counseling as well as coordinating events to get people involved and engaged in helping to create and take part in solutions.

“It is our responsibility to be inclusive and supportive as well as to create a community where [discrimination] is not an issue,” says Sherwood. “Title IX is gender equality.”

Title IX

Title IX was initially passed in 1972 under the Education Amendment Act. It is a federal law that mandates, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied in the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Title IX not only applies to sports but also includes access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science, standardized testing, technology, and protection from sexual harassment. Since the passing of the law, over 20 proposed amendments, reviews, Supreme Court cases, and other political actions have occurred.

Still, to this day, there are many schools across the United States that are not in compliance with this federal mandate.

Under the previous administration, which ended on Jan. 20, 2017, Title IX protected all students, including transgender and gender-nonconforming students, from sex discrimination. Sex discrimination encompasses nonconformity with sex stereotypes and gender identity—once an education institution is notified that a student asserts that their gender identity differs from previous representation and/or records, the school must treat the student consistent with their identity.

An additional obligation of Title IX as well as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is to protect the privacy of students and records.

David Lassner

Shortly after the reversal of the previous guidance, David Lassner, president of the UH System, issued a statement that reaffirmed the university’s commitment to all students including those of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Regardless of what the federal government compels nationwide through compliance requirements, UH remains steadfast in our community to nondiscrimination and prevention of sexual harassment, including protection for transgender, gender-nonconforming and LGBTQ+ individuals,” Lassner states in his message.

Lassner also mentions how UH had initiated the program of protection of the LGBTQ+ community before the initial federal guidance.

“Protection remains in place across the UH System regardless of this federal action,” he says.

UH Hilo and support of LGBTQ+ community

The LGBTQ+ Center at UH Hilo was developed last fall because the university administration wanted to provide a place for LGBTQ+ students to gather for support and do activities to acknowledge and celebrate certain significant days throughout the year.

Sherwood started her work as coordinator in September 2016 shortly after the Orlando shooting—she was tasked to create and maintain the center. She says her goal is to “build community and safe place” along with having a space students feel they can use as a resource to get information or come to “hang out and simply be.”

“Transgender Awareness Day, Coming Out Day, Allies Day, etc. are all important and the idea is to bring awareness,” explains Sherwood. “There’s pretty much something happening every month [on campus] that aligns with building awareness of LGBTQ issues and rights.”


Events, like the Conversation Café, are held for students twice a month to meet on campus and build a sense of community and involvement. The LGBTQ+ Center extended an invitation to the campus community today to participate in a Conversation Café gathering to discuss the topic of pronouns to encourage an inclusive and equitable environment for the LGBTQ+ community and allies.

“The Conversation Café shows that there is a community of LGBTQ+ students as well as allies who want to be supportive and learn how to be more supportive,” says Sherwood.

Bringing awareness to LGBTQ+ issues and rights helps the UH System uphold their commitment to the community and student body.

“I am grateful to our UH Systemwide LGBTQ+ Commissions, which provides thoughtful and consistent advice and guidance as we work to ensure appropriate protections and support for all members of the UH community,” says Lassner in his message.

Gender discrimination is not tolerated in the UH community—the goal is to be centered more on individual and personal value while eliminating stereotypes and generalizations. Additional support and services can be found at all 10 campuses in the UH System.


Anne Rivera (junior, communication) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

-UH Hilo Stories