In appreciation

In this month’s column I’d like to express my sincere appreciation to some of the heroes at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and throughout the community who have stepped up during this challenging time.

There are the unsung heroes, the staff of UH Hilo, who are stepping up in countless ways to support our students and institution. From those on the front lines to those adapting to work from home, and everyone in between on hybrid schedules, you are the heart and soul of the university, keeping everything running smoothly and efficiently despite all the challenges at hand. I am especially grateful for the care and attention given to our students, making sure they are on track with their studies and staying safe while being physically and mentally active at their studies, work, and play. 

Deep appreciation to our faculty for applying their ingenuity and dedication to students to provide the best experience possible. Everyone has stepped up beautifully to online teaching, and our students are excelling. Many in the faculty had to learn new technology and then figure out logistics to recreate the classroom experience as closely as possible. Through this resourcefulness, many have discovered unexpected benefits to online teaching such as higher attendance and engagement, and more options for one-on-one and group discussions resulting in quicker learning. I applaud you all. 

Thank you to our students (and their families), who, despite all the unknowns, continue to trust us with their education and personal/professional development. I am impressed with and grateful for the level of responsibility and sincerity with which our students, new and returning, have risen to the task of covid safety and online learning. I give thanks to the parents who trusted us to support their children academically and personally once they left their family home. Yes, we are all one ‘ohana with a common goal of supporting one another in these tough times.

A big mahalo to our donors, who continue to invest in our success. From local business people to our alumni, donors care deeply about the need to give access to as many students as possible; they know we need to do everything we can to give all qualified students access to the funds they need to attend the university. Behind every scholarship is an individual, foundation, or company with a connection to UH Hilo and a desire to help our students as an investment in the future of our island and state. Thank you all for your generosity.

I want to give additional thanks to our alumni, not just for the donations that help us achieve our goals in education, research, and community service, but for being out there thriving with productive lives and career paths. Our appreciation runs deep for all you give to our island, our state, and region. And to those of you far away, we know you are spreading the aloha spirit, the UH Hilo spirit, everywhere you go. Alumni, from famous to under-the-radar, are inspiring our current students to push through any challenges to complete and receive their degree. I mua!

Before closing, I’d like to add a debt of gratitude to our fellow schools and agencies without which we would not be able to meet our own goals. Hawai‘i Community College continues to partner with us in providing higher education for our island. Our other community college partners and friends throughout the state work with us closely toward the economic health and wellbeing of our island. The Department of Education and Kamehameha Schools both have ongoing partnerships with us, laying the strong educational foundation for the students who enroll in our programs. And I send a special thank you to the people at Vibrant Hawai‘i for pulling together all the threads of our communities into a cohesive vision for the future of Hawai‘i Island.

In closing, let me say that in our placed-based culture of Hawai‘i Island, there can be no more fundamental expression of gratitude than for our surrounding community and the ‘āina itself in which we all thrive. UH Hilo quite literally would not exist without our culturally diverse, strong, resilient, and supportive community that’s nestled into and flourishing in one of the most geographically diverse places on the planet. I feel enormous gratitude for this amazing place, the people and the ‘āina.

Thank you all for your hard work in making UH Hilo an excellent university ready to meet our students’ needs in these challenging times.

Aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin