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UH System Awards Convocation

Sept. 27, 2011
View faculty and staff award winners.

Today, we gather to honor our University of Hawai‘i faculty and staff members for their dedication and service to our students, campuses and community. Our faculty and staff are the lifeblood of our university, and it is because of their contributions that the university continues to grow in both national and international stature.

This annual awards ceremony provides us with a great opportunity to not only reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished, but to also look forward to what we hope to achieve in this next academic year. The UH System will become the best performing integrated system of higher education for the state of Hawai‘i and a model for the country.

There is no doubt that we continue to navigate through challenging waters. The scientist in me likens our circumstances to biology and the nature of complex organisms in response to stress. In some cases, stress enhances survival because it forces organisms to adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions.

The same is true for the University of Hawai‘i. We have been faced with many difficult choices. We have needed to adjust rapidly, but we have done so with a spirit of cooperation, and we will emerge even better for it. Our progress under stress can be attributed to our talented faculty, our dedicated staff and the generous assistance provided by our large community of supporters.

I am extremely proud, and you all should be as well, in what we have been able to accomplish in the face of this adversity. We’ve accommodated the largest number of students on our campuses ever, with more than 60,000 students enrolled statewide. As we’re enrolling more students than ever before, we’re also graduating students at greater rates than we have ever before.

People are turning to the University of Hawai‘i to help them achieve their dreams of creating a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. It is clear that the value of higher education has never been greater.

Value of Education

Findings from a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reinforce the view that good education and skills are extremely valuable and that publicly supported education provides a great return on investment to overall society and economic security.

We are seeing that firsthand here at the University of Hawai‘i. UH Hilo graduated its inaugural class from the only College of Pharmacy in the Pacific region this past spring. The first 80 students received their ceremonial hoods and many have already been hired for jobs that require PharmD degree in 16 states, as well as Guam and Washington D.C., at various retail chains, community pharmacies and hospitals.

According to a survey conducted by the College of Pharmacy, more than a third of the graduates who found work so far accepted jobs that allow them to stay in Hawai‘i. Upon their graduation in May 2011, 66 percent of the recent graduates reported that they had obtained a job or were working in a paid residency. The average salary for graduates working full-time but not in a residency program is $117,000.

This is a remarkable accomplishment for a new program like the College of Pharmacy, and I commend their administrators, faculty and staff for their hard work that has led to the success of their first graduates.

Our UH community colleges throughout the state are also helping to create opportunities for a better life for our students. Their low cost and open access provide an entry point for many who have traditionally been left out of higher education. Through the national community college program Achieving the Dream, our community colleges are helping our Native Hawaiian students and other under-served populations achieve their dream of higher education.

We are extremely pleased that in four short years, the number of Native Hawaiian students in the UH System has doubled, from 4,600 to 9,200. Native Hawaiian students are now more than 27 percent of the student body of our community colleges.

These students are graduating with associate degrees and transferring to our baccalaureate programs. The number of Native Hawaiian students graduating from a community college jumped 35 percent and the number of students transferring on to baccalaureate programs within the university increased 32 percent.

This is in large part due to the commitment of our community college faculty and staff who have embraced the Board of Regents’ pledge to make the University of Hawai‘i the premier indigenous serving higher education institution.

I am very proud to see the community colleges excelling at the unique role they serve in our educational mission. Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that our UH community colleges were awarded $24.5 million for their Community College and Career Training Grant. This grant, in partnership with business and government agencies, will focus on job training in new and emerging fields such as healthcare, green jobs, and sustainable agriculture; on college and career readiness for adults; and on delivering career programs throughout the state through distance learning.

More than 300 community colleges applied for these grants, and of the 32 that were selected, UH community colleges received the largest award. Many of those we honor today with the various community college chancellors’ awards have played a large part in developing this level of excellence.

Social Benefit

Investment in higher education pays off for society as well as our students. UH has groomed generations of government, business and community leaders who have played major roles in our state, our nation and the world. We have supported and educated groundbreaking pioneers in science, medicine and technology. And we have helped to raise the quality of life of citizens in Hawai‘i and around the globe.

Did you know that two alumni of our Manoa Department of Economics were appointed by South Korea President Lee Myung-bak as cabinet members earlier this year? Dr. Choi Joong-kyung heads the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, handling the government’s export and corporate policy. Dr. Kim Dong-soo was named the 16th chair of the Fair Trade Commission, Korea’s antitrust watchdog. Both received their doctorates from Manoa. It is gratifying to know our faculty, like those we honor today with the Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching, play an important role in shaping the future leaders of the world.

The university’s role as a revenue center and an important economic driver for the state is also one of our great strengths. It may surprise you, but the University of Hawai‘i is one of our state’s top businesses. Over the last four years, we’ve been listed in the top six of Hawai‘i Business magazine’s Top 250. On the most recent list published, we were number four.

Our line of business on the Top 250 list is identified as “higher education and research.” It is this line of business that brought in almost a half billion dollars in outside funding in the past academic year.

Today, we honor people like astronomers J. Patrick Henry and Lisa Kewley from the Institute for Astronomy and Drs. Abby Collier and John Melish from the John A. Burns School of Medicine for both their teaching excellence and scholarly contributions that have added to this success. They are expanding the boundaries of knowledge and enriching the lives of our students and communities.

The University of Hawai‘i is the steward for two of the best sites in the world for astronomical observations located here in Hawai‘i—Mauna Kea on the Big Island and Haleakala on Maui. Each has been selected for new projects that will provide the best and most advanced facilities for use by our scientists and students. These projects also help to diversify the state’s economy and give local young people with scientific and technical talents a wealth of opportunities to realize their potential without having to leave home.

In the health and life sciences, experts from multiple disciplines throughout our Manoa and Hilo campuses, including those in medicine, social sciences, public health, natural sciences, information technology, pharmacy and cancer research, are coming together to coordinate innovative discoveries to target specific health problems like heart disease, diabetes, asthma, dementia and cancer.

We broke ground nearly one year ago on a new facility for our University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center. The project will usher in a new era for cancer care in our state. It has come to fruition thanks to a statewide alliance, the UH Cancer Consortium, that involves the largest healthcare partners in Hawai‘i.

Our consortium partners have been working closely with UH since 2009, and we formalized the arrangement earlier this year. The consortium has already been awarded national funding for collaborative work to conduct gene expression studies focused on ways to detect liver cancer. This research could have profound impacts on tests for the early detection of liver cancer and possible drug therapies.

Technology and Innovation

The consortium is a perfect example of our enhanced innovation and technology efforts. We have a significant strategic advantage to turn our already robust research efforts into increased job opportunities for Hawai‘i and the nation. Our goal is to create an innovation economy for Hawai‘i.

In order to accomplish this, we are implementing a number of initiatives focused on invigorating technology commercialization efforts throughout our 10 campuses statewide and encouraging a spirit of entrepreneurship in students and faculty through curriculum enhancements and activities.

For example, the University of Hawai‘i Foundation has collaborated with the Hawai‘i Strategic Development Corporation to create the Upside Fund, which will provide seed capital and early-stage financing to companies commercializing UH research. The first investment of $100,000 by the Upside Fund was made last December to launch Protekai, Inc., which commercializes intellectual property developed in the research laboratory of Dr. Angel Yanagihara of the John A. Burns School of Medicine. These molecules have the potential to create powerful new biomedical research and diagnostic tools.

The Shidler College of Business at Manoa offers a number of entrepreneurship activities that are inspiring students across disciplines to pursue an idea for a business, seek mentorship to fulfill their entrepreneurial aspirations and provide substantial cash prizes to support their ventures.

To encourage faculty innovation, particularly in the area of sustainability, Manoa has instituted a biannual $1 million Sustainability Grant Program that funds proposals to advance sustainability initiatives. The 2009 award resulted in the REIS Center, (for renewable energy and island sustainability), which is composed of faculty from the College of Engineering and eight other schools and colleges to work on cutting-edge research and education problems in renewable energy and island sustainability. Most recently, an effort focused on renewable energy from plants was funded involving faculty from SOEST, CTAHR and the Shidler College of Business.

Sustainability

Sustainability will be a large theme as we work to integrate it into our plans for the future. Hawai‘i’s commitment to conservation, cooperation and sustainable measures is reflected in the concept of malama ‘aina, taking care of the land. By caring for and establishing a life in balance with the ‘aina, we ensure our own future.

We are expanding our research efforts in sustainability and renewable energy, and we’re also providing our students with practical training while also reducing our own energy footprint. Clean, sustainable energy projects are not just about energy costs but also about training the future workforce in this emerging field.

Currently, there are 9,000 jobs in Hawai‘i defined as green. That number is expected to increase over the next two years by more than 27 percent. Addressing these workforce needs and developing sustainable technologies will continue to be important for the future.

UH Manoa alone is one of our community’s largest consumers of energy, second only to the Pearl Harbor Shipyard. It has made impressive improvements through aggressive energy conservation efforts, including powering down entire sections of campus during designated Manoa Green Days and installing modern, energy-efficient cooling systems. This has reduced energy use by 20 percent in the past four years, and Manoa is well on its way towards achieving the goal of reducing campus energy by 50 percent by 2015.

Earlier this month, Manoa took a significant step in transforming from an energy user to an energy generator by dedicating, with the help of Gov. Abercrombie, a solar photovoltaic system on the roof of Sinclair Library. This $271,000 project is the first in a large-scale $35 million campus photovoltaic project that will generate nearly 5 megawatts through solar energy, which will provide 7–10 percent of the campus’s energy needs.

Similarly, the community colleges have invested $50 million in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects across all seven campuses. UH Hilo is also investing in photovoltaic projects.

The new UH West O‘ahu campus in Kapolei is not only a university where students will come together for an enriching learning experience, but a place where sustainability practices are integrated in the development and operation of the campus and within the surrounding community. Just one short year away from opening the doors, the new campus will be state of the art and provide one of the most contemporary, energy-efficient and stimulating learning environments in the nation.

Through education, research, service and construction activities, UH works diligently to incorporate new and innovative ways to promote sustainability in all that we do. There is nothing like residing on an island 2,000 miles from the nearest landmass to make one understand the importance of an absolute need for living in harmony with one’s surroundings.

Asia Pacific Leadership

Though we may seem isolated at times, our strategic location in the middle of the Pacific and our unique strengths position the University of Hawai‘i to be a leader nationally and, particularly, in the Asia-Pacific region.

That’s why it is so fitting that our state is serving as the host for the 2011 APEC Summit. I am honored to represent the university and serve as a member of the Hawai‘i Host Committee.

One of the interesting things about APEC is that it is a bit different than many other international organizations; it’s purely a collaborative organization based on consensus decision making and voluntary commitments. Much like the university community, and much like our island culture, APEC outcomes stem from collegial discussions and informal dialogue. What an opportunity it will be to see this dialogue carried out on the world stage, just steps from our university.

This will be one of the greatest opportunities for our state and the University of Hawai‘i. We will showcase to the world the power of strategic collaborations and innovation.

We have achieved our successes so far by the excellence of our faculty and staff, and it is because of this excellence that we will achieve our goal to become the best performing integrated system in the country.

Thank you to all our faculty and staff, and especially to the gifted teachers, talented researchers and tireless public servants whom we recognize today. Your dedication and resiliency is inspiring, and the University of Hawai‘i will endure for many more years to come because of our outstanding faculty and staff.