UH Hilo HistoryUniversity of Hawaiʻ at Hilo

Description of the Institution

The University of Hawaiʻ at Hilo (UH Hilo) is part of Hawaii's ten-campus statewide system of public higher education. Located in Hilo on the Island of Hawaii, it consists of a traditional College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), a College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management (CAFNRM), a College of Business and Economics (CoBE), a College of Pharmacy (CoP), a College of Hawaiian Language (Ka Haka `Ula O Ke'elikolani), and a College of Continuing Education. A Chancellor is the chief executive officer and he is responsible to a President who heads the statewide system. A Board of Regents appointed by the State Governor is the legal governing body for the system.

The institution is situated on the largest island in the Hawaiian Archipelago and, with an area of  4,038 square miles, it has more land than all of the other islands combined. For this reason, the island bears a semi-official designation as the "Big Island." The institution is located in the town of Hilo, a community of 40,759 residents (2000 U.S. census; estimated at 50,289 in 2007: http://hawaii.gov/dbedt/info/economic/library/facts/Facts_and_Figures_State_and_Counties.pdf) containing the major airport and harbor facilities of the island as well as the governmental and financial centers. Hilo itself is located 250 air miles from Honolulu.

Some information about Hilo and the Big Island can be found at:




Established in 1947 as the "Hilo Campus," the institution served as an extension division of the College of General Studies of the main University of Hawaiʻ at Manoa campus in Honolulu. The initial student enrollment was 46 lower-division undergraduates and, until 1954, the campus had only three full-time faculty members using makeshift facilities. In 1955, with an enrollment of 155 students, the Hilo Campus entered a second stage of development. It moved to the present site and took occupancy of the first buildings specifically designed for its use. The mission of the campus at this time was to offer a two-year program with a concentration in the arts and sciences, and introductory courses in education, business, and engineering.

In 1969, the Board of Regents authorized the transformation of the Hilo Campus into a four-year college. A third year of studies was added to the curriculum in 1969 and a fourth in 1970, when the institution's name was changed to "Hilo College." At that time, the institution was merged administratively with the existing two-year community college (which was formerly a technical school administered by the state department of education), the center for continuing education and community service, and later a four-year college of agriculture to form the University of Hawaiʻ at Hilo. All instructional units shared common student, fiscal, and administrative services. In 1979, at the request of the faculty, Hilo College was renamed the College of Arts and Sciences to more clearly represent its mission of providing a residential undergraduate experience emphasizing teaching excellence.

In 1990 the Board of Regents voted to separate Hawaiʻ Community College from the University of Hawaiʻ at Hilo. The two institutions are still sharing some fiscal and administrative resources. Academically, the UH Hilo provides baccalaureate and selected graduate and professional degrees, and the HawCC provides associate degrees. Total number of students at UH Hilo increased from 1461 in Fall1989, to 2790 in Fall 1999, to 3974 in 2009.

Current information can be found at http://hilo.hawaii.edu/prospective/glance.php.

Graduate and Professional Studies at UH Hilo

            The first graduate program at the University of Hawaiʻ at Hilo was the Masters of Arts in Hawaiian Language, administered by the Hawaiian Language College (Ka Haka 'Ula O Ke'elikōlani).  The Program was approved in Fall 1997 and the first students were accepted in Fall 1998.  Their first Masters degree was conferred in Fall 2002.  This was followed by the approval of the Masters of Education Program by the Board of Regents in February 2000, with admission of the first cohort in Fall 2000.  This cohort's first graduates received their degrees in Fall 2002.  The Master's degree program in China- U.S. Relations was approved in January 2002 and admitted its first students in Fall 2004., graduating its first students in Spring 2006. The Masters of Arts in Counseling Psychology Program was approved in May 2002 and matriculated its first class in Fall 2005.  The Masters in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Sciences was approved in October 2003 and admitted its first students in Fall 2004.  The first students in the Ph.D. Program in Hawaiian and Indigenous Languages were admitted in Fall 2006, with approval of the program coming in October 2004.  The College of Pharmacy matriculated its first class of students in the PharmD.degree program in Fall 2007, and will produce its first graduating class in May 2011.  At this time, UH Hilo offers six Masters Programs, one Ph.D. Program, and the PharmD program. 

            Graduate programs were originally administered in part through the UH system Graduate Council, and this body had authority to approve all graduate programs in the system.  On March 14, 2003, The Board of Regents established a Graduate Division at UH Hilo.  UH Hilo established its own Graduate Council in Fall 2003, originally chaired by James Juvik, Professor of Geography, and succeeded by Daniel Brown in Fall 2004.

Research at UH Hilo

            Research at UH Hilo was administered through the Office of Research Services for the UH system, located on the Manoa campus, until an agreement was reached in 2000 between Chancellor Rose Tseng of UH Hilo and Harold Matsumoto, Executive Director of the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaiʻ (RCUH), to open a Hilo office of RCUH to administer UH Hilo grant activity.  That same year, Dr. Tseng asked Daniel Brown, Professor of Anthropology, to take on the duties of Coordinator of Research, with these duties including creating and chairing the UH Hilo Research Council, developing policies and procedures for submittal of extramural grants, developing an intramural grant program, administering RTRF (returned grant overhead monies), and coordinating grant administration with the Hilo office of RCUH.  In January 2008 Dr. Michael Crosby was appointed Interim Vice Chancellor for Research at UH Hilo, and he was succeeded in that position by Daniel Brown in February 2010.  Dr. Ken Hon was appointed to succeed Brown as the chair of the UH Hilo Research Council in March 2010.