Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas and Chancellor Bonnie Irwin sharing microphone
From left, Hawaiʻi CC Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas and UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin, share a microphone at the first joint walaʻau. (Photo credit: Raiatea Arcuri)

Hawaiʻi Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo faculty, staff and administrators were invited to share their insights, concerns and vision of the future for Hawaiʻi Island’s students, particularly transfer students, and how to build strong pathways for student success between both campuses.

The first-ever walaʻau (conversation) was hosted by Hawaiʻi CC Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas and UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin on September 20.

Both chancellors share a passion for community engagement and understand the need for a strong partnership between the two institutions. “We are here to learn how our two institutions can lead the way together to improve life on the island for communities across the state of Hawaiʻi,” said Chancellor Solemsaas. “As the two public institutions of higher education on the island of Hawaiʻi we have a shared kuleana when it comes to our beautiful island.”

Farrah-Marie Gomes speaking to group
UH Hilo Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Farrah-Marie Gomes shares her manaʻo with the group. (Photo credit: Raiatea Arcuri)

During an interactive “word map” poll, the attendees were asked to share their thoughts about the current state of student success of Hawaiʻi transfer students. Words such as seamless, challenging, connection, enthusiastic, friendly, unfriendly, overlap and depends were offered.

During the question and answer period, the chancellors took comments and answered questions on a range of topics. The audience asked about preparation, support and resources for students transferring from Hawaiʻi CC to UH Hilo, and how to keep students on track to graduate and increase their academic success.

“We need to be open minded about how we deliver education,” said Chancellor Irwin in response to a question. “There are different models of education, whether that is a hybrid course, or a full day of instruction with the rest of the curriculum online.”

Strengthening collaboration

Topics that both campuses could further explore and/or strengthen:

  • Mirror classes
  • Early adapters of 2+2 (a program where students plan out a seamless path from Hawaiʻi CC to UH Hilo—current 2+2 programs are in business, administration of justice and natural science)
  • Dual admission
  • Transfer scholarships
  • Transfer student connection/relationship or success support
  • Space planning
  • Bike sharing

Areas identified to work on:

  • Aligning curriculum and learning expectations so that students who move from one institution to the other do not lose any time toward completing their degree
  • Minimizing paperwork for transfer students
  • Imagining what dual enrollment might look like

Both chancellors agree that they would like the sessions to continue. “We will repeat the process at UH Hilo later this year,” said Irwin. “I look forward to the conversation.”

For more on the walaʻau session, read the full story at UH Hilo Stories.

—By Leah Sherwood, a tropical conservation biology and environmental science graduate student at UH Hilo.