UH Hilo Strategic Planning

Meeting Notes - July 23, 2020

Importance of Place Committee Meeting: Thursday, July 23 at 1:00pm

Present: Bruce Torres Fischer, Janice Ikeda, Heather Kaluna, Michele Ebersole, Ka'iu Kimura, Kathleen Baumgardner

Meeting purpose: advance our discussion with the work that committee members have done since our first meeting. We identified a number of topics in response to the question: Imagine the value of making our University’s unique place integral in all we do at UH Hilo - what would that look like and what would result? During this July 23 meeting, each committee member was asked to share what they learned from the people in their networks regarding these topics. The questions formulated in the first meeting notes served as a starting point to assist in this inquiry.

At the close of June’s meeting, committee members were tasked to connect with their networks to bring more voices to our efforts in order to explore how we might better integrate place into what we do at UH Hilo. Members added documents to a shared Google drive or by email in order to supplement the continued conversation. These requests for engagement are ongoing and have been received warmly.

At this meeting, members reported having reached out to many people in their networks - current UH Hilo faculty, staff, and students, UH Hilo alums, industry partners, community members, those working in nonprofit organizations, and more.

These are ideas shared and discussed during the meeting (the order is primarily presented as the discussion unfolded, although comments/ideas have sometimes been combined with like ideas from the conversation and many comments have been added from uploaded notes). Because of the number of bullet points, I arranged them in groups for reader convenience. Some of these ideas may overlap:

Training/Professional Development Opportunities on Campus:

  • There is support from the people to expand Uluākea, making it requisite for all faculty and staff members. Chancellor and Faculty Congress commitment is needed. The Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao position under Kīpuka would have been responsible for institutionalizing Uluākea, but the position was in the search process and “swiped” by the legislature and has not been prioritized by our administration as a position to retain or fund, even with CARES III funding received specifically because UH Hilo is a Native-Hawaiian Serving Institution.
  • Is Uluākea selective because of capacity issues or because it doesn’t fit all people, and is available only to those who are open and more prepared to participate? If the latter is so, is there a way to prepare people with baby steps so they are ready to take part?
  • UH Hilo should provide training to members of the campus community - Wahi Pana (Hoʻokuaʻāina), Kaʻao, Kīpaepae. Although there is room for improvement in these current programs, it is a first foundational step to establish a sense of place especially since three of these practices are Hilo-centric. If we can normalize/institutionalize each of these programs, instead of hosting it for new faculty/staff orientation or convocation, I feel it will help members of our campus community better understand the “why” we do this and how it supports one’s identity to place.
  • Establish programs that create more opportunities for faculty to interact with community and experience place-based learning.
  • Involve all in a learning opportunity (a course, an experience) that emphasizes connections and identity.
  • In attempting to build belonging through explicit invitations to join in and "wash the dishes, our campus needs to value the importance of faculty professional development as an essential need for growing faculty capacity. With less funding available for positions and more demands on faculty time, there is also less faculty engagement in professional development. Could the tenure/promotion review process support faculty to increase participation in professional development and training? Could we have 1-2 days of campus professional development a year where the campus/colleges provide professional development/training instead of class instruction?
  • Language training might be provided for all members on campus. In order to build up to more robust efforts, there could first be basic training on place names, which are often mispronounced. This basic training could focus on phonetics and include an introduction to other resources. Free, basic Hawaiian workshops should be offered.
  • Taking language training farther, students could plug into the host culture and host language if they were all required to take at least one semester of Hawaiian language and culture that includes an applied project relevant to their degree major or “global life” goals (a community/service learning project).
  • Create mentor systems or have faculty partner with others; look to specific departments/programs for model practices. This should be systematic and coordinated.
  • Faculty/staff need more opportunities to experience place, hear stories of place, and interact with different places on the island.

Campus Physical Environment:

  • Campus should feature native landscaping.
  • We should integrate the Hawaiian language across campus in signage. KTA’s effort is an example.

Campus Mindset:

  • There is a desire to build up the comfort level on campus, with safe places where the campus community is encouraged to “wash the dishes.” We should explore how students might wash the dishes, knowing that some areas of engagement are much more difficult.
  • Outside of the current COVID situation, is campus really open? Do retired faculty and staff feel welcome on campus? Do “we all drink the same water” currently?
  • Reciprocity contributes to strong relationships. We need to shift the mindset, and recognize members of the community as experts as well. UH Hilo is a place of learning, and members of the campus community should be both experts and learners. Faculty should lean in and see themselves as learners too. Announcing the intention to learn from the community may invite opportunities for partnership.
  • Currently UH Hilo promotes an individualistic mindset through its structures. UH Hilo has a faculty culture where you seldom admit that you don’t know something. This does not set the right tone for our students, Success is often dependent on the ability to ask questions. Students should understand that hiring parties are looking to hire employees with a growth mindset, but that may not be what they see or experience on campus. Perhaps part of shifting this mindset is to look at “learner outcomes” and think first about what is essential that students should know or be able to do after they complete their course or program.
  • Many people on campus are not familiar with Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao. In 2012 University of Hawaiʻi adopted the HPOKA plan that identified characteristics of a model indigenous-serving institution in Hawaiʻi and three thematic goals - leadership development, community engagement, and Hawaiian culture and language parity. How might HPOKA be fully integrated at UH Hilo, shifting the campus mindset?
  • Help faculty “connect the dots” to how they may already be teaching and doing things that are aligned with ‘āina-based education. This may help prompt more progress if faculty see that they have already cleared some hurdles.
  • Create “cross-cultural” experiences which represent the “most ethnically diverse campus among national universities” or the diversity of the place. Celebrate diversity.
  • Have an open conversation to help ensure that faculty feel comfortable taking part in trainings/programs and are less risk averse and fearful of doing something incorrectly.

Student Service Learning and Community Connection:

  • UH Hilo needs to require all students to have an applied learning/community service experience that includes interacting with the host culture beyond the campus and broader Hilo community. Culture and language should be incorporated into the classroom on a regular basis - not just for Hawaiian Studies classes. There should also be opportunities for outdoor experiences built in.
  • Place-based service learning opportunities are important. The University 101: Paths to Academic Success class offers opportunities for service learning and connection to place and is a key entry point for students. How many students take this course? How will it be structured during the pandemic? What are productive ways to effectively incorporate place while using Zoom? Who has taught University 101? What percentage of students take this class? Could this committee help shape a pilot 101 class?
  • How might we ensure that our academic programs are anchored to our unique place from an instructional perspective? Increase applied place-based learning activities/projects across disciplines. Applied learning should become part of the curriculum structure. All faculty/instructors should use/invite community resources within their courses and research to begin to interact with students and provide them with real-world experiences that are universal. Faculty should not only bring the community into their classes but also get their students out of the classroom and into the community. Student projects should be hands-on, collaborative and interdisciplinary.
  • Create service-learning opportunities that show students different parts of the island while doing positive work for the community.
  • Focus on having lots of small community service activities instead of a few big events and get students engaged during the first three weeks of the semester.
  • Many initiatives and programs support place-based, community-based, applied practices on an individual level, but there is no coordination at the institutional level. This results in one-off efforts, people constantly reinventing the wheel, and missed opportunities. UH Hilo’s Office of Applied Learning Experiences (ALEX) may have served as the primary point of contact for student service learning and community connection in the past. See an ALEX annual report for more information about this past effort.

Changes Through Planning/Inquiry:

  • If we want to increase Hawaiʻi-centered student engagement, we need to have strategic plans that put emphasis on that goal and have an action plan for the campus, faculty and staff, and students. This effort needs to be valued and be part of the tenure and promotion process.
  • We need to ask students about their academic experience and expectations and how the university and faculty can address their needs to impact their progress to graduation. I donʻt believe we really make the effort to ask students. Uluākea was created because Native Hawaiian students were asked about their academic experiences and their recommendations of how to help faculty become better oriented/acculturated to Hawaiʻi life ways out of a Hawaiian world view using Hawaiʻi/Hawaiʻi island place-based approaches.
  • We need to have a more collective campus definition of what an Indigenous-serving institution means 1) for our campus and 2) the campus to our island. Our identity needs to be clearly defined in our campus vision/mission statements and operationalized and evaluated to ensure all units of the University are addressing the campus vision and mission tied to their budget allocation.
  • We might better articulate our relationship and identity with our community, by going into the community (business and K-12) and doing a “listening tour.” We are part of the larger ecosystem. Find out: What is the community perception of UH Hilo? What are our commonalities with our broader community perspectives? How is place being defined by the people around us? Do we have accountability to the place?
  • Continue conversations with faculty/staff/students to define our “unique place” What qualities define UHH as a unique place?

Hiring Policies:

  • UH Hilo could prioritize hiring Hawaiʻi-connected faculty/instructors who are knowledgeable about Hawaiʻi/Hawaiʻi island and orient/acculturate all faculty to be able to transform their curriculum, pedagogy, and discipline that is Hawaiʻi/Hawaiʻi island place-based.
  • Could ‘points’ be allocated in the hiring process and consideration given for ‘local people’ with host culture/language experience?
  • Should Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao and its goals be integrated into the hiring process?

Connecting Industry and Community Members with our Classrooms:

  • People from industry (on this island and Oahu) are wondering how their expertise could be applied in classes, especially now when many classes are being offered online. These professionals are interested in engaging with and keeping students in Hawai’i to fill industry positions. Accessibility to industry could open up by hosting and connecting with these experts. Is there a go-to UH Hilo contact for industry professionals? We may need a point person so that we are intentional, focusing on building relationships with organizations and individuals who invest in Hawaiian culture.
  • There are UH Hilo programs (like PIPES) that have a network of ‘āina-based partners who have served as internship sites and mentors for our students who could partner with more faculty to bring experiential learning opportunities into our classrooms or might assist with curriculum development support.
  • There is a large community of UH Hilo and UH alumni who are working in ‘āina-based positions and are an untapped resource. We should bring back UH Hilo and HCC grads to learn how their experiences have worked well and not so well in other environments.
  • UH Hilo could plug into active community-based programs that draw from place by supporting applied learning experiences through “real” community and workforce projects on Hawaiʻi island that make a difference. Coursework/program outcomes would engage students in first-hand learning experiences where students could apply course content and skills in/with the community. Support could include more accessible vans and small project funding for applied learning, cross-discipline, and interdisciplinary focus projects.
  • We could host mixers that bring academia and business together, with a professional environment, where people can make connections and form partnerships.
  • Vibrant Hawai‘i could bring people into UH Hilo classes to contribute knowledge in rural health, agricultural sustainability, resilience, and other timely topics, creating broad and deep relationships.
  • We should find ways to mesh UH Hilo and the community. If we desire ‘āina-based learning, the result is kuleana and a connection to the ‘āina through partnership.
  • As a campus, we could learn about engagement with place-based partners including efforts like the ʻĀina Aloha Economic Futures initiative.

Integrating Place Through Student Careers:

  • We could examine careers coming out of UH Hilo and how they connect to place. Do we even have a handle on the diversity of jobs available, qualifications for our Hawaiʻi employment market or new kinds of innovative employment?
  • We need to beef up the career gateway for our students. This could provide early opportunities through courses and capstone projects.
  • We also need a better process for connecting with alumni in order to assess how their majors prepared them for place-based careers.

Campus Entry Points (Outside the Traditional Classroom Setting):

  • While ‘Imiloa serves as a community hub, the Center struggles with playing up that it is part of UH Hilo. We should find ways to strengthen/promote this connection.
  • ‘Imiloa and the Performing Arts Center are common entry points for community members. It would be nice to do more, including a lecture series (like the TCBES Symposium) and invite community members to participate as audience members and presenters.
  • Focus on building a network of connections that is continuous and constant, not just one-off opportunities.
  • We should have obvious connection points on campus for community members.
  • We should examine what events we do now and consider how we might broaden both the audience and the presenters.
  • Bring more cultural events to campus. Create a “food club” to highlight and celebrate the diversity of this place.

Visibility in the Community:

  • UH Hilo should integrate some campus events with community events. Why is there a UH Hilo Relay for Life when the community’s relay event is already robust? Look at the community calendar and coordinate University participation in order to establish a presence in the community.
  • We have select members of the faculty and staff who are very engaged in the community. How do we encourage others to do the same and learn from our successes?
  • Visibility in the community is important. Five years ago, Kamehameha Schools was much less visible, but they made a concerted effort to participate on committees and in service organizations. UH Hilo people are not very visible in the community aside from Vice Chancellor Farrah-Marie Gomes.

Communication Opportunities:

  • Identify key aina-based learning champions already within the UH Hilo community and share their stories. Example: a Keck Observatory staff astronomer created a popular comet video. Also, there was a widely-shared series of ocean infographics that a faculty member produced. Sharing this type of content can be very uplifting.
  • We should set goals for messaging/communications and establish aspirations.
  • We should share information/research while presenting ourselves as UH Hilo faculty/staff as well as members of the Hilo and Island community. We should break the campus bubble or boundary that separates us from the community.
  • UH Hilo should share more about our identity, our plans. The community wants to know.

Language and Vocabulary:

  • The DOE is trying to rethink the language/vocabulary we use in order to shift the paradigm (‘āina-based education) through their Hopena Aʻo strategy working from a double direction within schools and from the state to school level. That is the terminology used by many community environment-based agencies and organizations. UH Manoa also offers a certificate program in ʻĀina-Based Leadership.

Action Plan:

  • Committee members will continue to add/update notes in the group’s Google drive folder as conversations continue or are revisited.
  • Based on our discussion and continued discussions with contacts, committee members will come back to our next discussion with one area they feel has the greatest potential right now for impactful positive transformation at UH Hilo related to place. Each team member will share their thoughts on the following: What is the most impactful place-related action that we could work on? What is your ideal vision for work in this area?