Papahana Hoʻolālā Hikiāloa - Strategic Plan: 2021-2031

Goal 2: Strengthen Our Commitment to ʻĀina- and Community-based Education

The glow from Hale mau mau crater in Volcano

Goal Vision

Through partnership and discovery our students succeed and our academic programs flourish within the context of a vibrant Hawaiian place of learning. Partnership translates into ideas, collaborative learning and research, reciprocal relationships that make a difference in the local, regional, and global lives of people, and contributes to a resilient and sustainable future for Hawaiʻi. ‘Āina- and community- based education across campus programs lead our students to first mālama ʻāina and to ultimately discover the connection and inspiration of aloha ʻāina.

Aloha ʻĀina: Our Definition

Aloha ʻāina is the kuleana to our land, sea, and sky that feeds, heals, and sustains us; the ea - or breath - between our natural environments and it’s people as was the way of live of Native Hawaiians for over a hundred generations.


A sense of place—of belonging—is crucial to UH Hilo and to each person who sets foot on campus. We wish to take that sense of place at UH Hilo a step further because at its most basic, place is people, and we live and work and play in a broader community of people.

We have established our kuleana to create a welcoming, equitable and safe environment in which our students can thrive, and here we state that a UH Hilo education will be rooted in the community. For this to happen, we must grow relationships, build reciprocal partnerships, and collaborate widely.

First, we seek to identify how our connection to the ʻāina makes our programs unique and clearly articulate each program in the context of place. We will map UH Hilo’s successes to learn from them and find opportunities to scale these efforts in new areas. We will also update curriculum to be relevant to the needs of our students and the state to build resiliency and make a difference for the community, state, region, and beyond.

Students working with community partners is good preparation for citizenship, work, and life. Educational research suggests that by integrating more high-impact practices — service learning, learning communities, research with faculty, internships, study abroad, and culminating senior experiences — campuses see increased rates of student retention and engagement, as well as improved communication skills, problem-solving, and self-directed learning. Knowledge gained from internships, field projects, or experiences in other countries brings value to our campus and community.

ʻĀina- and community-based education with partners is a strategy that gives students direct experience with the issues they are studying in the curriculum and with efforts to analyze and solve problems in our own community. Students learn best when they apply knowledge to life. They receive exceptional value from academic and development activities that go beyond the classroom. Student success is central to all we do at UH Hilo. ʻĀina- and community- based education will be transformational, a pathway for our students to discover aloha ʻāina, which will serve them for their entire lives, while impacting the community immediately.

Our geographical positioning near unique sites and partners—academic, cultural, environmental, recreational—allows us to pursue rare opportunities for discovery that few universities can even imagine. Our unique location already defines many of UH Hilo’s programs and we have strong relationships with other organizations and people whose work is focused on place. UH Hilo is located where many research partners are based, making it easier to build relationships with the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, and others. Our location and the strength of our programs draws people to the university to teach, study, and conduct uncommon research in a place where their lab is the ocean or an active volcano or a tropical farm. Programs like Hawaiian language, education, environmental science, business administration, communication, tropical horticulture, tourism, nursing, marine science, astronomy, and others position us to build partnerships while providing a world-class education.

Members of our vastly diverse community have chosen this place to live for many of the same reasons and are also invested in place. Through partnership and collaboration, we can learn from the historically resilient and innovative people of the community, region, state, and Pacific Rim. Together we can build human, social, economic, and environmental sustainability. We are rooted in place and have an opportunity to engage deeply and make an impact. Working together with the community through research and innovation, we can create solutions to problems that will improve lives, especially those on our island home.

Percent of UH Hilo Seniors Participating in High-Impact Practices (HIPs)

Completed at least one HIP

Year Far West Public UH Hilo Difference
2013 91% 86% - 5
2014 91% 86% - 5
2015 85% 87% + 2
2016 85% 92% + 7
2017 86% 88% + 2
2018 85% 87% + 2
2019 85% 91% + 6

Completed 2+ HIPs

Year Far West Public UH Hilo Difference
2013 57% 62% + 5
2014 57% 60% + 3
2015 58% 60% + 2
2016 59% 60% + 1
2017 58% 58% 0
2018 56% 55% - 1
2019 59% 57% - 2

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo: 2021 - 2031