University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo faculty, staff and a student were recognized at the campus’ annual awards celebration on May 3.
Mentor Recognition Award
This is the first year for the Mentor Recognition Award, and the recipients are professor of psychology, Cheryl Ramos and Kealoloa STEM Scholars program coordinator, Hōkū Pihana. They were nominated by students and new alumni for their contributions to student success.
Cheryl Ramos, professor of psychology
“One of my favorite qualities about Dr. Ramos is her ability to be honest and not always tell you what you want to hear while encouraging and being positive,” said Paige Okimoto, a student presenter. “She has always been available and helpful to me, while still maintaining good boundaries. I feel so encouraged and supported.”
Hōkū Pihana, Keaholoa STEM Scholars program coordinator
Qiyamah Williams, a student presenter, said of Pihana, “I had met Hōkū Pihana my first semester here at UH Hilo. I had just transferred here from Florida and was feeling very lost in this new school and new place. Hōkū talked with me and made me feel like I belonged. She introduced me to other students, gave me my first research experience and has been not only a support system, but a friend to me during my time here.”
Student Employee of the Year
Natalie Quinajon, student assistant, Office of Admissions
Natalie Quinajon plays an important role in the Office of Admissions’ communication with the public, primarily by monitoring and answering email inquiries, which often require deciphering complex questions to determine the best course of action. She serves as the primary tour coordinator by scheduling tour guides and meetings with faculty and admissions counselors. Quinajon is thorough and mindful when providing information, and exhibits a calm, kind demeanor when speaking with students and parents. This academic year she took on the additional task of transferring admissions files to the registrar, which she completed for both the fall and spring semesters.
The Distinguished Service Award for Improving Student Life
Jim Mellon, executive director of Global Education and Exchange and director of International Student Services and Intercultural Exchange
Jim Mellon has expanded intellectual, cultural and social learning by securing $8 million from the U.S. Department of Education to support initiatives that include the Student Support Services Program and the Pacific Islander Student Center. International Nights, an event that celebrates the students’ cultures, is another beneficiary of funding secured by Mellon. He helps first-year international students transition to UH Hilo through a host family program that connects them with families in the local community. Mellon also connects international students to the community through the Global Ambassadors Program, where they discuss their home cultures at island schools and before community, professional and civic organizations.
Excellence in Service Award
Miles Nagata, director of University Housing
Miles Nagata oversees university housing on a 24/7 basis to provide student residents a home-away-from-home. He and his team work closely with administrators to expand and enhance the number of available beds, and for the past two years has worked to address affordability and occupancy. His support for campus initiatives cuts across multiple units, and colleagues look to him for historic knowledge, best practices and the most practical way to get things done. He supports various events, like the Division of Student Affairs annual fish fry, where he joins colleagues in catching, cleaning and cooking fish.
Pūlama ʻIke Award
Lee Dombroski, manager of the Performing Arts Center
Lee Dombroski positions UH Hilo as an island-wide community arts resource by developing an annual season of performances from music and dance to educational arts. The artists who perform also become a source of educational opportunities for UH Hilo students by offering masters classes in their respective fields. Dombroski provides free arts performances to school children and makes Performing Arts Center facilities and services available to outside promoters and events. She creates new opportunities to showcase the arts and expands community outreach and participation by partnering with business and community organizations, creating fundraising events and obtaining grants.
The Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi Award for Excellence and Innovation
Patsy Iwasaki, lecturer in Communication and English
Patsy Iwasaki infuses her teaching with storytelling artistry in graphic novel and video format. Her graphic novel, Hamakua Hero: A True Plantation Story, and the video documentary of the same name have provided rich distillations of island history for UH Hilo students, along with other readers and viewers. The documentary is an ongoing project on the legacy of island businessman and labor martyr Katsu Goto that has evolved into a community-based production involving numerous individuals from UH Hilo.
Photos in this article were taken by Bob Douglas, UH Hilo Stories