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Student walking on the lawn in front of Hawaii Hall


The winners of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Provost’s Strategic Investment Competition were announced in February 2020.

The competition is designed to increase cross-unit and cross-disciplinary collaboration in strategic areas that, with start-up funding, have a strong possibility for success in building on UH Mānoa’s strengths while also addressing challenges.

Out of 42 collaborative proposals,16 proposals were selected to receive a total of $750,000 in start-up funding.

“The selected projects originated from teams that span our entire academic community, representing an extraordinarily diverse array of topics and approaches to learning,” said UH Mānoa Provost Michael Bruno. “I am confident that this initiative will be transformational in improving our undergraduate student experience and learning outcomes.”

The winners

Integrating UH Cancer Center Faculty Researchers into the Undergraduate Experience

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The proposed program will offer undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct research in an interdisciplinary environment and to receive mentoring from UH Cancer Center faculty members to achieve entry into graduate school. Specifically, the program will provide hands-on summer research experiences accompanied by a multidisciplinary curriculum to reinforce their intent to graduate with a science degree and to consider a career to address the burden of cancer in Hawaiʻi. Unlike the usual summer internship experience, the proposed program will allow UH students to continue mentorship during the school year.

Team Members: Gertraud Maskarinec, Cancer Epidemiology; Joe Ramos, Cancer Biology, UH Cancer Center.

Early Undergraduate Course in Transformational Research Experiences (T-REx)

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A place-based research course for freshman and sophomore students that will take advantage of the research expertise within the major STEM Organized Research Units, using a “ridge to reef” integrated systems approach. The course will provide students with a distinct opportunity to engage with a curriculum that emphasizes an integrated perspective of Hawaiʻi‘s diverse natural and social ecosystems.

Team Members: Judith Lemus, Hawaiʻi Institute for Marine Biology; Thomas Giambelluca, Water Resources Research Center; Randall Holcombe, UH Cancer Center; Darren Lerner, Sea Grant; Margaret McFall-Ngai, Pacific Biosciences Research Center; Robert McLaren, Institute for Astronomy; Richard Rocheleau, Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute; Andrew Rossiter, Waikīkī Aquarium; Rob Wright, Hawaiʻi Institute for Geophysics and Planetology; Rakan Zahawi, Lyon Arboretum.

One Health Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Certificate Program

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Preparing students with the skills and knowledge to work collaboratively across disciplines to solve real-world problems is one of the imperatives of institutions of higher education. With the launching of UHealthy Hawaiʻi and the Center for Microbiome Analysis through Island Knowledge and Investigation (C-MĀIKI), UH has made significant commitments to the interconnectivity of the health of the individual, the community and the environment.

Thus, in response to the 2019–2020 Strategic Investment Competition for High-Impact Practices in Undergraduate Education, a multi-unit team of faculty from the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), the Office of Public Health Studies in the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work (MBTSSW), the Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC) in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) proposes to translate current investments into educational capital by collaboratively developing a One Health Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Certificate Program.

A One Health Introductory Course will be developed on the intersection between human health, animal/plant health and environmental health, and a One Health Seminar Course to engage undergraduates with world-class researchers will be developed. (The remaining credits will be from existing courses.) Through the capstone requirement, students will actively participate in the intellectual adventure of generating new knowledge in real time.

The proposed certificate program will provide a multidimensional, holistic perspective of health and strategically integrate UH Mānoa’s top faculty and researchers into the undergraduate educational experience, resulting in measurable outcomes, including growing the undergraduate educational portfolio, boosting undergraduate student enrollment and retention, heightening interdisciplinary scholarship, diversifying research opportunities, building a collaborative One Health workforce, and attracting philanthropy.

Team Members:
JABSOM: Jerris Hedges; Richard Yanagihara, Pediatrics; Sandra P. Chang, Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology; Vivek Nerurkar, Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology.

SOEST: Brian Taylor; Margaret McFall-Ngai, Nicole Hynson, Matthew Medeiros, Pacific Biosciences Research Center.

CTAHR: Nicholas Comerford, Creighton Litton, Natural Resources and Environmental Management; Michael Muszynski, Nhu Nguyen, Tropical Plant and Soil Science.

MBTSSW/Public Health Sciences: Kathryn Braun, Denise Nelson-Hurwitz, Catherine Pirkle, Michelle Tagorda, Tetine Sentell.

Politics and Poetics of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific: An Interdisciplinary Lower-Division Online Course Cluster Bringing Campus Experts into First-Year Courses

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Climate change is an issue of global concern, but the Pacific Islands and Asia are among the hardest-hit regions thus far. UH Mānoa is a leader in Pacific and Asian studies and home to researchers on climate change in those regions in the natural sciences, humanities, art, law and social sciences.

This program proposes to engage with these experts to develop and teach two entry-level online undergraduate courses examining the impacts of and responses to climate change in the Pacific and Asia. The courses will be designed in a way that encourages interactions among first-year students and senior faculty and researchers, and each course will be taught by a UH Mānoa faculty member born and raised in the respective region.

Team Members: Cathryn Clayton, Patricio Abinales, Asian Studies Program; Tarcisius Kabutaulaka, Center for Pacific Islands Studies; Priyam Das, Urban and Regional Planning; Jaimey Faris, Art and Art History; Charles Fletcher, SOEST; Jefferson Fox, East-West Center; Christine Gerhardt, Languages and Literature of Europe and the Americas; Hong Jiang, Geography and Environment; Craig Santos Perez, English.

UH Mānoa Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program

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Investment in this existing program will support its expansion, which will benefit UH Mānoa students and faculty. The VIP program is tailor-made for this purpose, as each VIP team provides a faculty-mentored research experience. It is co-curricular rather than extracurricular, with VIP students taking research courses and capstone project courses.

The funding will be used for the following activities: 1) Adding more VIP teams to increase the selection of topics offered to students, add capacity for additional students, and increase the diversity of student majors in the VIP program; 2) Bolster the new and existing VIP teams to enhance VIP student experiences; 3) Continued support for bridge programs for transfer students from other UH campuses, and outreach events for middle-school students, to help with student recruitment; 4) Assessing the impact of the VIP Program by comparing DFWI, retention, and graduation rates among VIP students to the larger student population.

Team Members: Aaron Ohta, Wayne Shiroma, Anthony Kuh, Yingfei Dong, Electrical Engineering; Brennon Morioka, College of Engineering; Zac Trimble, Reza Ghorbani, Mehrdad Nejhad, Bardia Konh, Dilmurat Azimov, Joseph Brown, Zhuoyuan Song, Mechanical Engineering; Philip Johnson, Guylaine Poisson, Information and Computer Sciences; David Ma, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Miguel Nunes, Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology; Trevor Sorenson, College of Engineering, and Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology.

Law, Aging, and Medicine: Hybrid (blended) Undergraduate Classes and Experiential Opportunities for Pre-Law, Pre-Med, Nursing, Social Work and Gerontology Students

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This program is an opportunity to redesign classes and focus plans to fully integrate undergraduate teaching in the participating faculty’s respective teaching portfolios that are currently managed at the William S. Richardson School of Law, John A. Burns School of Medicine, School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene and the Center on Aging.

The program would put into action innovative techniques such as blended classes, flipped classrooms and other technologically advanced methods to teach courses. It also would aim to provide real world opportunities for experiential learning to undergraduate students as have been provided to graduate/professional school students over the years. The participating faculty will work closely with the Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center, the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene and the Center on Aging to list courses and to encourage collaboration.

Team Members: James H. Pietsch, Lenora H. Lee, Law

Introduction to Environmental Humanities

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The Environmental Humanities Initiative will provide an innovative high-impact approach to undergraduate education by bringing disciplines in the humanities, the natural sciences and social sciences into conversation with the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology and the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.

Two crucial components inform the program’s offerings. First, coursework will be innovative in its course delivery, by including experiential learning and by partnering with area organizations to foster place-based learning as well community and civic engagement. Secondly, class visits by UH Mānoa’s top faculty and researchers will be included. These components enhance a curriculum immeasurably by encouraging civic-mindedness and skill-sets that benefit undergraduate students.

Team Members: Christina Gerhardt, German, Craig Santos Perez, English (Languages, Linguistics and Literature); Jaimey Hamilton Faris, Art (Arts and Humanities).

Integrated Architecture and Engineering Capstone

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This proposal partners faculty from the School of Architecture and the College of Engineering to explore integrated fourth-year undergraduate capstone courses in each unit that support cross-disciplinary problem solving and applied learning. This proposal supports the co-development of pilot curricula in each unit, coordination with relevant departmental curriculum committees and external agencies, and a pilot capstone course to be implemented in spring 2021. This pilot aims at the creation of a new architecture capstone course for architecture students to be offered in spring 2022.

Team Members: Cathi Ho Schar, Architecture; Roger Babcock, Roger Chen, Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Huakaʻi-Based Education: Modeling Best Practices for Large Classroom Learning

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This project seeks to integrate the concept of huakaʻi (trip, voyage, journey, mission) into the large classroom format, providing a crucial connection to this campus, this ‘āina, and its surrounding communities.

This will be accomplished by: (1) piloting the huakaʻi approach on a smaller scale this spring with AMST 353: Indigenous Lands and Waters, and ENG 272: Mele as Poetry with the Harold L. Lyon Arboretum serving as the huakaʻi site; applying the huakaʻi approach this Fall 2020 to an 80-student AMST 220: Introduction to Indigenous Studies course and at least one other large undergraduate English course; and (4) building a database of huakaʻi sites, their community needs and interests, and information and resources on how to integrate a huakaʻi-based communal learning model into classroom learning.

Team Members: Noelle Kahanu, Public Humanities and Native Hawaiian Programs, American Studies; Brandy Nalani McDougall, American Studies; Ku‘ualoha Ho‘omanawanui, English.

Immersive Virtual Huakaʻi (Field Trips)

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Leveraging the SOEST Department of Earth Sciences’ blossoming online course offerings and a legacy of Hawaiian field geology expertise, this initiative aims to incorporate high-impact practices in undergraduate online education through the development of immersive, interactive and bilingual virtual field trips (huakaʻi) to popular volcanic sites throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

Team Members: SOEST/Earth Sciences: Bridget Smith-Konter, Helen Janiszewski, Bruce Houghton, Steve Martel, John Sinton, Thomas Shea, Julia Hammer, Scott Rowland, and Jasper Konter. Alyssa Anderson, Hawaiʻi Institute for Geophysics and Planetology; Haley Cremer, Natural Resources and Environmental Management; Sherrie White, School of Communications; Lalepa Koga, Hawaiian Language; Dorothy Hirata, Alice Swift, UH System ITS.

Improving Student Success in Chemistry Gateway Courses

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General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry (CHEM 161/162/272/273) are common stumbling blocks for students at UH Mānoa, with DFWI (Drop, Fail, Withdrawal, Incomplete) rates in these courses ranging from 23-51 percent. This proposal seeks to address this issue by increasing the types of student support available. A group of faculty in the Department of Chemistry, teamed up with IT assistance from the College of Natural Sciences, will institute innovative and novel approaches to increasing student success, including expanded tutoring with evening and weekend hours, online tutoring options, development of online tutorial videos and adoption of an online textbook, and expanded use of Learning Assistants, TAs and instructors in recitations.

Team Members: Alison Sherwood, College of Natural Sciences; Joe Jarrett, Amy Fuller, Philip Williams, Chemistry; Tony Hall, Lynne Higa, College of Natural Sciences

Innovating the Introductory Nutrition Course

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The flipped classroom is an innovative pedagogical approach to get students more engaged in classroom content. Introductory Nutrition, or FSHN 185, at UH Mānoa is a high-enrollment undergraduate course that meets both general education and degree requirements. Currently, FSHN 185 is taught online and face-to-face (f2f). The f2f section is taught in a traditional large lecture based format while the online format only has a Hawaiʻi, Asia and Pacific (HAP) General Education focus designation. FSHN 185 is offered every semester, including both summer sessions, at or near capacity.

This proposal seeks to adapt the f2f curriculum of FSHN 185 into a flipped classroom that also incorporates HAP content. Modification of FSHN 185 in this way will improve the student and instructor experience and allow for students in all sections to experience the nutrition curriculum through a Hawaiʻi-framed lens. This change will replace the large lecture hall experience of the traditional FSHN 185 classroom with a hybrid course that allows for more intimate instructor-student experiences.

Team Members: Marie Revilla, Monica Esquivel, Human Nutrition, Food, and Animal Science, CTAHR.

Student-Centered Research Education Program for Global Environmental Science (GES) Undergraduate Students

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The proposal seeks to improve upon the existing curricular and evaluation elements of the GES program related to its required student research experience to increase the exposure of early undergraduates (both at UH Mānoa and the UH Community Colleges) to UH Mānoa Organized Research Unit-related research opportunities, to improve the assessment of these curricular and evaluation elements and the dissemination of these results, and to further develop the research pathway for UH Mānoa students from their first semester through graduation so that more students can successfully navigate and reap the rewards of faculty-mentored research experiences.

Team Members: Michael Guidry, GES; Michael Cooney, Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute.

Advancing the Arts: Faculty and Student Collaborations in Film and Animation

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Through faculty mentorship in collaborative filmmaking with Academy for Creative Media (ACM) students, this initiative features exposure to visiting film and animation experts, and through support for their collaborative student capstone course, this initiative will enhance learning opportunities for ACM students.

Team Members: Christine Acham, Brittany Biggs, Vilsoni Hereniko, ACM; Ethan Caldwell, Ethnic Studies; John H.R. Burns, Marine Science and Data Science, UH Hilo; Tarcicius Kabutaulaka, Center for Pacific Islands Studies; and Noelle Kahanu, American Studies.

Hoʻoulu Kaiapuni

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To address a state and Hawaiʻi Department of Education need to strengthen training and certification pathways for Hawaiian language immersion teachers by creating accessible evening on-site HawaDevelopment and offering of a workshop on online teaching in the humanities and related fields. The workshop is designed to provide: (1) an understanding of the basic principles of and technical tools for online teaching; (2) practical exercises in designing online courses and/or converting an existing in-person course into online format; and (3) information about methods of ensuring standards and assessing teaching effectiveness.

Team Members: Jonathan K. Osorio, Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge; Robert Keawe Lopes, Annette Wong, Ron Kekeha Solis, Maya Saffery, Kahikina DeSilva, Hawaiian Language; Eōmailani Kukahiko, Curriculum Studies, College of Education; Kauʻi Sang, Office of Hawaiian Education (HI-DOE).

Training Workshop for Online Teaching in the Humanities and Beyond

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Development and offering of a workshop on online teaching in the humanities and related fields. The workshop is designed to provide: (1) an understanding of the basic principles of and technical tools for online teaching; (2) practical exercises in designing online courses and/or converting an existing in-person course into online format; and (3) information about methods of ensuring standards and assessing teaching effectiveness.

Team Members: Mari Yoshihara, Jeff Tripp, American Studies.

This year’s competition invited collaborative proposals that address two areas of the UH Mānoa strategic plan, innovation in lower-division course delivery and integrating the university’s top faculty and researchers into the undergraduate experience.

The Provost’s Office will provide periodic updates on the progress and outcomes of these initiatives over the next academic year.

The first competition, launched in 2017, provided start-up funding for a diverse set of initiatives, many of which have become ongoing programs that elevate the quality and impact of the university’s work. One example is the Center for Microbiome Analysis through Island Knowledge and Investigation (C-MĀIKI), which was funded with an initial investment of $700,000. Since that initial investment, C-MĀIKI has generated more than $11 million in extramural funding to support research and curriculum development.

Two researchers taking samples from standing water
Researchers taking water samples for microbiome research
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