This summer we’ve been busy moving forward with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s new Strategic Plan, focusing on the action planning stage. In this month’s column, I would like to share with you the progress on three of the plan’s goals.

Students and the Community

One goal of the plan is to strengthen and support ‘āina- and community-based learning for our students. A foundational component to this goal is our students going out into the community to work directly with local organizations, gaining hands-on skills that are of benefit not only to the student, but also to the organization and the local community or environment at large. This type of service learning teaches our students how to become good citizens and good stewards for the public good, while also preparing them well for employment or advancing their education immediately upon graduation. 

This summer, Julie Mowrer, acting director of our Center for Community Engagement, and the committee she heads tasked with finding ways to grow our service learning programs, began their work. They started by conducting a survey among faculty and staff who are experienced in this type of community engagement to better understand what people already do. One question they asked is “What do you believe UH Hilo can do as a campus to demonstrate the importance of our community partnerships?” The Chancellor’s new Community Advisory Board has also been asked for feedback. The information gleaned from this collective mana‘o will help guide our way forward in strengthening community engagement.


Another goal of our new strategic plan is to strengthen and support research. This initiative is led by Jim Beets, professor of marine science and chair of our Research Council. UH Hilo faculty conduct place-based, applied research of benefit to the people of Hawaiʻi Island and the state. It is crucial that in these tough economic times, our researchers remain fully supported in the work they do on important issues from climate change to environmental protection to cultural preservation and more. 

The first item of business in strengthening our research capacity is to offer events and workshops that support research development. In addressing this goal, the Research Council conducted a faculty workshop last academic year on research opportunities and university resources for supporting research development, and the council is planning to conduct another workshop this fall. The group is also planning another round of Seed Money Grants this fall, which will be focused toward junior faculty and staff and interdisciplinary research.

The Research Council is also hoping to provide information for the New Faculty Orientation to provide new faculty with additional research support information.  


Our new strategic plan also has a goal of nurturing and strengthening campus relationships and campus culture. To address this, a new program for UH Hilo employees, “E Launa Pū: Reconnect, Learn and Enjoy!” launched in June, led by Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, our interim director of University Relations. The goal is to give staff opportunities for self-development while connecting with each other in meaningful ways. Topics for both indoor and outdoor activities are based on results from the recent University Relations Action Plan Employee Survey. 

For June and July, an activity was offered every week, including workshops on gardening, food safety, professional development, auto maintenance, interactive abstract drawing, and cooking. There also are monthly professional development workshops scheduled through March 2023 presented by Ku‘ikahi Mediation Center.

I do hope the “E Launa Pū” program grows with more and more people participating, especially those who have been living in virtual isolation since covid restrictions were imposed. Connecting with others, especially in a fun learning environment, is a crucial part of feeling healthy, productive, and valued. I encourage all employees to join in!

I’m excited to see our new strategic plan already affecting change throughout our campus. I plan on updating you on more of our progress throughout coming the academic year.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin