University faculty members Tommylynn Benavente, Dean Crowell, Lisette Marie Flanary, Michael Furuto, David Gordon Garmire, Mazen Hamad, Thomas K. Hussey, Robert D. Joseph, Ann Y. Kennedy, Davin Kubota, Mari Matsuda, Jessica Nishikawa, Maile M. Taualii and Lance Uyeda were honored with the Board of Regents’ Medal for Excellence. The award is a tribute to faculty members who exhibit an extraordinary level of subject level mastery and scholarship, teaching effectiveness, and creativity and personal values that benefit students.
Tommylynn Benavente began as a lecturer at Leeward Community College in 1984. For more than 30 years, Benavente has set the bar high for her students, while providing the guidance and encouragement for them to succeed. Her work as a teacher exhibits a relentless dedication to curricular improvement and a tireless enthusiasm for creating enriching opportunities for her students, the program and the college. In 2010, Benavente was honored with the Masaki and Momoe Kunimoto Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions to Vocational Education.
Benavente worked with island chefs and developed externships for her students that have become an integral part of the culinary arts program, enabling students to work along side some of Hawaiʻi’s best known chefs. Over the years, Benavente has built strong community connections, exemplified by the hugely successful Annual Scholarship Brunch, which attracts more than 1,000 people each year and raises more than $10,000 for scholarships.
Benevente is a master in building confidence in her students and improving their abilities in communication, problem solving, organization and adaptability. She is the ultimate role model for all her students.
She obtained her master’s degree in educational technology from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
It is not often that the committee receives a nomination from the entire graduating class. Students describe this year’s awardee Dean Crowell as a skilled craftsman and talented educator. He uses a variety of techniques and draws from his own personal experience to teach and inspire students to succeed. Students say he is a motivational force in their academic experience.
Crowell’s lectures are clear and informative, incorporating a variety of media including visual displays, videos and hands-on demonstrations. His classes are disciplined and structured and he expects high levels of achievement from students. Beyond daily coursework, Crowell uses projects and activities to teach students leadership skills, and the importance of hard work and dependability. Indeed, service learning projects are a hallmark of each student’s education.
His concern for students extends to their success after graduation. He brings speakers to talk about different parts of the trade and works with employers and union representatives to provide job opportunities to students.
Always encouraging, years from now, students will remember his motto, “Perceive, believe, and you will achieve!”
Lisette Flanary brings 20 years of experience to the UH Mānoa Academy for Creative Media in the fields of producing, directing and writing for film and television. At the core of her teaching practices is a dedication to the university’s commitment to creating a Hawaiian place of learning that highlights indigenous scholarship concurrent with valuing local identity, community and diversity.
She has developed courses that ensure student filmmakers will receive rigorous educational experiences to well equip them professionally upon graduation.
One student writes of a pivotal moment in her education when she realized that Professor Flanary believed more in her project than the student did herself. A colleague explains her teaching success as a combination of exuding tremendous respect for students with maintaining high academic standards.
Michael Furuto is a dynamic educator who is passionate about his students, their learning, and working together to achieve overarching goals. He is a strong proponent of using a variety of pedagogical approaches to optimize student learning and strives to exemplify the saying “Give a man a fish; and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Furuto endeavors to help students succeed both in-and-out of the classroom, and emphasizes real-world application problems to assist students in connecting math to their everyday lives. He has mentored students from all over the state.
“Michael Furuto is the best professor I have ever had,” said a UH West Oʻahu student. “He goes out of his way to make sure his students fully understand the material. He’s always available when we need him and he always greets us with a friendly smile.”
A UH West Oʻahu faculty member commented, “Michael’s dedication and support for his students is outstanding. I’ve been teaching for 40 years and he’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever known.”
David Garmire of the Department of Electrical Engineering is considered by colleagues to be one of the most accomplished faculty in his college. He has pursued excellence in teaching to simultaneously accelerate his own innovation and inspire students to achieve their life goals.
He merges engaged face-to-face pedagogy with unique uses of technology to create high levels of performance by students working with advanced material. He was involved in the development of the new UH iLab in Building 37, a space considered to be an “innovation incubator” because it allows students to collaborate and create inventive solutions to challenging problems.
Rather than retreating to his office, he can often be found at a desk in the lab, and is fully present while students work.
Mazen Hamad received his PhD in chemistry from the University of Washington and worked for four years as a research chemist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prior to joining UH Hilo in 2008. He specializes in teaching the analytical chemistry classes but also enjoys teaching general and organic chemistry.
In analytical chemistry, Hamad teaches students to use modern instrumentation to analyze real world samples. These skills will help students excel in the workforce after graduation or will give them a running start in graduate school.
In general and organic chemistry, his goal is to help students like chemistry. Students should see that chemistry is interesting, important and useful, but this perception can be clouded when they feel frustrated. By keeping students engaged and working hard, students can overcome the challenges and focus on how chemistry can be beneficial to their lives.
When not in the classroom, Hamad enjoys working with various university governance committees, supporting science education at local elementary schools, mentoring students in undergraduate research, updating chemistry curricula, reviewing articles for scientific journals and contributing to community science events.
A graduate of Maui Community College, Thomas Hussey worked as an automotive master technician in both the private and public sectors. He has more than 20 years in the automotive industry and 24 years at UH Maui College.
Hussey’s involvement in community activities includes work with Keiki Fest and DARE. At the Holoholo Ka’a event on the UH Maui College campus, Thomas brings his drag race car and a customized golf cart with life-size action figures for keiki photo opportunities.
His primary joy is when he explains the theories behind the operation of vehicle parts and hears students say, “I get it now,” as he watches their confidence and competence develop. Hussey’s commitment to excellence is visible in his encouraging students to “challenge themselves” while paying close attention to safety because “they are responsible for the lives in the vehicle they service.” One of his greatest joys is when he can place a student in employment.
Hussey keeps current with the latest technology so he can pass this on to his students. He plans to expand the automotive shop, gain additional instructional faculty and create a hybrid and an alternative fuel degree. A colleague said, “Thomas is THE go-to guy in emergencies and friendships.”
Ann Y. Kennedy serves as the accounting program coordinator and is a licensed CPA in Hawaiʻi. Her drive for teaching comes from seeing students aim high with their educational, career and personal goals, and helping them achieve what they may not have dreamed possible.
She was selected as the Kauaʻi campus representative for the 2014–2015 Community College Leadership Champions and 2015–2016 President’s Emerging Leaders Program. Kennedy also served as lead advisor of Alpha Pi Xi, Kauaʻi’s Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society 2013–2015. During that time, the chapter was recognized as a Top 100 Chapter out of 1,285 total chapters and received numerous awards including Horizon Advisor and Distinguished Honors in Action Project.
One student’s thank you note stated, “Thank you for believing in me more than I believe in myself.” These acknowledgements inspire Kennedy to continue helping students realize that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to do. She also aims high with her own learning, by constantly seeking new outlets for ideas and teaching approaches.
Associate professor, English, Kapiʻolani Community College
Davin Kubota, associate professor and coordinator of writing intensive courses, believes that his role as a teacher is to “allow students to develop agency by making them take pride in their words, making them stand by these words with critical thinking, passion, then fostering a desire to bring about academic, soft-skills and real-world change to the diverse worlds which they impact.”
He is constantly progressing in terms of his teaching methods. In recent semesters he has utilized a flipped classroom technique to better involve students with their learning.
One of his students shared this about him, “I read the quote at the beginning of the email notification, and it read “…a great teacher inspires.” Simply put, that is exactly what Professor Kubota does; he inspires you as a student, and he does not inhibit creativity. In fact, his assignments and methods promote effective self-expression through uninhibited creativity.”
Kubota has collaborated at the Study Hub at Kapiʻolani CC, judged at Hawaiʻi Speech League contests, participated in the ESU Shakespearean Monologue Competition, International Café Club and the Gaming Club, enhancing his rapport with students and colleagues.
Robert Joseph has the exceptional ability to teach a range of astronomy courses in a way that facilitates students to learn to think like researchers and to feel comfortable to ask questions in their own fields of interest.
A unique course of his own design is Astronomy 140, the historical and conceptual development within astronomy and its influence on intellectual history and other disciplines.
His service to UH Mānoa students is exemplified through the Institute for Astronomy and the Honors Program, yet he manages to make time to teach the subject to inmates at the Women’s Correctional Center in Olomana and to elder students attending the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. At the heart of his teaching philosophy is that astronomy is a human enterprise.
Editor’s note: Robert Joseph passed away on May 9, 2016.
Mari Matsuda had two great influences on her teaching life: her mother, a teacher of teachers in the community college system, and former Chief Justice William S. Richardson, namesake of the law school. Both taught her to value what each student brings to the table—an ability to learn and an instinct for justice.
Her seminar, Organizing for Social Change, is taught in a workshop format so students can become resources for one another in problem-solving while completing projects. Many of her students have gone on to become full-time change agents in Hawaiʻi and beyond.
This gifted professor has written extensively on legal education and intersections with other fields, and her inspiring work is widely read due to her ardor for the subject matter.
Jessica Nishikawa is an engaging teacher and expert clinician with a focus on geriatrics. She instructs many of the school’s foundational graduate courses and is described by students as the best professor they’ve ever had.
Because she believes that effective teaching involves adaptation based on reflection and student feedback, her courses continually evolve. A colleague says she sets up students for success by being organized, approachable, having a great sense of humor, providing clear instructions, setting high expectations and giving thorough and timely feedback.
She has extended her teaching into the community through the career and technical education program for public high schools and, in doing so, helped raise the quality of education in the health services pathway.
When Maile Taualii arrived in the Department of Public Health Sciences, she was tasked with establishing the world’s first and only accredited Indigenous master of public health specialization with no textbooks, models, competencies or guides. By working with people to define what would be of greatest use to their communities, she developed and grew the Native Hawaiian and indigenous health specialization. This pathway celebrates the strengths of native peoples and educates decision-makers.
Said one of her students, “Sometimes I feel I do not have the support of everyone in my family, but Dr. Taualii has been there to make sure I succeed. She has pushed me to become stronger and taught me to believe in myself, something I could not have achieved on my own.”
Lance Uyeda constantly strives for excellence in the classroom and inspires students to achieve.
His students say he impacted their college experience in a positive way—he is always prepared for class, delivers creative instruction and sets them up for success. With Uyeda ’s help, students are able to set goals, explore current and real-life problems around the world and strive to be, not only good students, but good citizens as well.
One colleague commented, “As a teacher, Lance paints in vivid colors with his heart. Working with him in an IS 103 learning community was the single most transformative experience of my career as an educator. I literally learned something priceless about our craft every Tuesday and Thursday.”