Did you know University of Hawaiʻi students travel to New York City annually to participate in a model United Nations competition… and that they’ve won awards for their work there?
Or that UH students are cultivating medicinal gardens that could hold the cure for cancer?
Students and faculty throughout UH’s 10 campuses are achieving many things the public rarely hears about. That’s why Wendie McClain began hosting Rubber Slipper Tours, a systemwide initiative to spread the word about interesting programs and projects at UH while cultivating goodwill ambassadors for the entire system.
When her husband David began his term as UH president, Wendie wanted to become well versed in the work of the system’s faculty and students, so she toured each campus.
“People at each campus would say ‘Did you know we do this?’ or ‘Did you know we’ve achieved that?’ and I would find myself just constantly saying ‘Wow,’” she recalls.
As she traveled around in the state, she realized that the community at large was hungry for the good news about UH. “People were asking me ‘What are the great things going on at UH?’ They really wanted to know the wonderful work that faculty and students were doing.”
During summer 2007, Susan Lampe, UH Foundation associate vice president for development, approached Wendie after hearing about Arizona State University’s Sneaker Tour initiative. Founded in 1992 and still active, the ASU program created a way for the community to become more involved with the university’s campus.
Delighted, Wendie saw the tours as a way to do the same for all the campuses of the UH System.
The inaugural tour was held at UH Hilo in spring 2008; 11 more have followed, and the tour name has been trademarked as a unique UH program.
At the beginning of each tour, Wendie gives invited participants a list of what she calls “Did you knows?” to prepare them for an experience of discovery.
The inevitable “Wows!” are further amplified when tour-goers chat with students and faculty about their projects and interact with campus chancellors.
The casual nature of the tours gives attendees direct access to UH’s world-class researchers and the students who will one day be leaders in industry, science, education, government and more.
Response has been overwhelmingly positive, Wendie says.
Sponsored by the Office of the President in partnership with the UH Foundation and campus chancellors, Rubber Slipper Tours have been held at UH campuses on Oʻahu, Kauaʻi, Maui and the Big Island. During 2008–09, most campuses have scheduled one or two tours to highlight their outstanding programs.
“I’m so appreciative of all the cooperation we’ve received from each campus. Mahalo to chancellors, tour coordinators, volunteer groups and all who help organize and do the groundwork for each tour,” says Wendie.
“They create the unique atmosphere of their campus’s ʻohana that the tour participants feel a part of at the conclusion of each tour.”
Now that’s a Wow!