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2005 Teaching, Research and Service Awards Convocation
Remarks by Interim President David McClain

September 13, 2005, Orvis Auditorium, UH Manoa

Aloha! Today we celebrate the latest vintage in a century-long tradition of excellence in teaching, research and service at the University of Hawai’i. Owing to the behavior of Mother Nature over the summer in Kennedy Theatre, we hold this celebration in a non-traditional setting, here in Orvis Auditorium. One might say that the bottle is new, but the wine remains the finest in our vineyards.

As the leader of your university over these past 15 months, I’ve felt at times like a commissioner of a major sports league, with our 10 campuses representing 10 teams. Like major league sports, we’ve got major market teams, teams in small markets and teams with strong regional followings.

I’m pleased to say that every market we serve wants more of us—probably because the value of the excellent education we provide (that is, what it’s worth in the marketplace) is at least three times what it costs our students and their parents to buy it (at Manoa) and as much as seven times (at our community colleges). That’s a fancy way of saying that the taxpayers of Hawai‘i subsidize between 70 and 85 percent of the cost of our students’ education.

To continue with the sports metaphor, our dedicated chancellors are the leaders, the general managers and the coaches of those teams. And today is the day we announce the all-star roster—and an impressive roster it is.

For the last 10 years or so, it’s become traditional for the president to use this opportunity to reflect on the state of the university. Let me do so…briefly.

The "Cliff’s Notes" version of the remarks to come is this: UH is better off today than it was a year ago, and we can all be proud of that. But I’m still not satisfied, and neither should you be.

Our strategic vision is sound. We see ourselves as a university in an island setting, and the values we emphasize are the values that island peoples generally, and Native Hawaiians in particular, exalt: respect for each other and for the communities we create, and respect for the environment in which we live—both bound up in the Hawaiian concept of ahupua‘a, where finite resources were shared for the benefit of all.

Within this island context, we acknowledge and celebrate our multicultural heritage, and our role as a bridge between the cultures of the West and the cultures of the Pacific and of Asia.

I believe this strategic vision makes the University of Hawai‘i both locally responsive…and—in this increasingly globalized, "island Earth" world— globally significant.

Our financial outlook is improved. For the first time in five years, we’ve received new money from the Legislature (excluding collective bargaining augmentations) though we received only about 30 percent of the $70 million we needed for Native Hawaiian programs, workforce development initiatives, critical infrastructure items and to cope with the 15 percent enrollment surge of recent years.

We’ve put in place a multiyear tuition plan that will make what our students and their parents pay more similar to our peer institutions, and we’ve quadrupled the amount of financial aid going to needy students, so that we can continue to be among the nation’s leaders in the access of the poor to higher education.

The University of Hawai’i Foundation raised $34 million for UH, up 30 percent from the year before, and is aiming to raise $43 million this year, the fourth of the Centennial Campaign.

Our research enterprise had another banner year, producing some $354 million in grants and contracts, up from $329 million in 2003–2004. We’ve submitted our indirect cost rate proposal and expect to receive a more generous reimbursement rate for our indirect costs in the years to come.

Our campuses are operating more efficiently. At Manoa last spring, Vice Chancellor Smatresk found a way to offer 8 percent more sections without any additional funding. This fall the Manoa leadership managed the crushing demand for housing with many fewer complaints.

And of course Manoa is the campus which faced a flood that did $100 million of damage and lost only two days of classes—very much representing the kulia i ka nu‘u (strive for the highest) spirit which I said last year would be the motto for my administration.

Across our 10-campus system, our faculty and staff coped with another surge in enrollment, and responded quickly to the booming economy’s needs for workforce training. I’m often amazed that nearly 30,000 individuals are pursuing some form of noncredit education every year at UH.

In a way, I’m pleased that this year the enrollment surge seems to have abated, for with our 50,000 students pursuing a degree of some kind, we are certainly at capacity.

In order to expand our capacity, under the Board of Regents’ leadership the university is embarked on several public/private partnership initiatives, including

These initiatives will be joined by others elsewhere in the UH System to create additional housing, augment campuses, and add research and classroom facilities.

Since some of these initiatives will take us beyond 2010, the final year of our strategic plan, I’ve launched a "Second Decade" project to help us understand the state’s need for higher education during 2011–2020 and where and how UH should respond to that need.

Recently, one of our leading citizens, an executive with several degrees who’s worked and lived in Europe, North America and Asia, took the opportunity to take several courses in the humanities here at UH. I was most interested in his evaluation, as I hope you will be.

Here it is:

Professors—Second to none; as good as the best he’s experienced at leading universities in the United States and Europe.

Student engagement—Many were bright and involved, but more than he expected were just "punching the clock" en route to their degree.

Facilities and the physical environment—Poorly maintained, poorly illuminated…a danger and a tragedy.

His assessment provides a useful template about where we need to go from here.

Facilities, students, faculty—these are the ingredients of the transformational educational experience the University of Hawai‘i has provided to its graduates over the years. As your president, it’s my responsibility to sustain and improve all three.

In the year just finished, with the help of the regents, UH System leadership team, chancellors and really the entire UH ‘ohana, we’ve made some progress…but I’m not satisfied, and much remains to be done.

Mahalo nui loa for the opportunity to serve this great university which has been my professional home for the last 15 years.