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Hawaii Community College Recognized Nationally for Outstanding Performance in Student Engagement

Hawaiʻi Community College
Trina Nahm-Mijo, (808) 974-7551
Hawaii Community College
Kristen Bonilla, (808) 956-5039
External Affairs & University Relations
Posted: Dec 7, 2004

HILO, Hawaiʻi — Hawaiʻi Community College is recognized among the highest-performing institutions in its size category for outstanding performance on two of five national benchmarks for student engagement. This is according to a national report that was released on Nov. 29 by the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE).

The 2004 National Report, highlighting "Engagement by Design," offers findings on the quality of education provided in community colleges, where almost half of the undergraduate students in American public colleges and universities are enrolled. Based on responses elicited from students enrolled in community and technical colleges across the country, the report illustrates where campuses are in areas critical to the quality of teaching and learning compared to similar institutions as well as community colleges nationally.

Hawaiʻi Community College is recognized as one of the highest performing institutions in its size category on two of five national benchmarks—"active and collaborative learning" and "academic challenge."

In most businesses, customer satisfaction ranks as the number one benchmark for company success," said Chancellor Rockne Freitas. We are in the business of education and the remarkable results of the CCSSE survey is a clear testament to the superior quality of work being conducted at Hawaiʻi Community College."

The other three national benchmarks that colleges are evaluated on are "student effort," "student-faculty interaction," and "support for learners."

Research shows that the more actively engaged students are—with college faculty and staff, withother students, with the subject matter—the more likely they are to learn and to achieve their academic goals. The CCSSE survey, based on that research, assesses the degree of student engagement through questions about how students spend their time, the ways they interact with faculty and other students, the degree of academic challenge they experience, and the kinds of support they receive from their college.

It is a tool created to help participating institutions assess quality in community college education, identify good educational practice, and target areas in which they can improved their programs and services for students. The survey also provides data that helps colleges respond to rising expectations for public accountability.

Hawaiʻi CC professors have designed original learning experiences into their programs, which judging by their students‘ responses on the Community College Student Report, lead to successful active and collaborative learning. For example, Ken Boche in the Forest TEAM program uses the Annual Earth Day celebration in April to get his students to work together to beautify the campus‘ Native Hawaiian gardens. Students host school-aged children and give them tours of the gardens, identifying plants, explaining concepts like dispersal, speciation, and adaptive radiation. They also share some of the Hawaiian oral traditions about the plants, their origins, and their uses.

Besides using annual campus events as opportunities to create active learning, Hawaiʻi CC professors also utilize special community events. This past summer, UNU, Hawaiʻi CC‘s Hawaiian performing group under the direction of Dr. Kaipo Frias, worked in collaboration with Halau O Kekuhi and the directors of the Hilo World Sprints Canoe Regatta. They performed ancient dances and chants of canoe voyaging to a world-wide audience of 6,000 paddlers and enthusiasts who came to the Big Island for the event.

History Instructor, Jennie Padilla, uses technology to engage students and to use applied research projects as an effective means of getting students to achieve beyond their own expectations which is the basis for the academic challenge benchmark. She taught a Women in Modern U.S. History
class in Spring 2004 semester in which she asked students to survey websites like "Sweatshop Watch" which identifies manufacturers and retailers who have been cited for labor violations. She then assigns the students to visit local stores like Wal-Mart to research whether the manufacturers are selling products that they are buying. Then, going back to internet research, students sometimes uncover other labor violations occurring in their own backyard.

The survey Web site ( is aimed at promoting public understanding of the work of community colleges, supporting institutional improvement, and advancing public discussion about new ways of defining and examining quality in higher education.

CCSSE is a division of the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin.