University of Hawaiʻi alumnus Ian Kitajima was not a good student in high school and was always cutting class to go surfing. Despite his high school study habits, Kitajima was among the first in his family to go to college, first attending Windward Community College, then moving on to the UH Mānoa Shidler College of Business, where he double-majored in marketing and international business.
After earning an impressive score in his upper-division international finance course, Kitajima realized how much he changed.
Kitajima is now the director of corporate development and “technology sherpa” at Oceanit. For nearly two decades, he has helped guide the Hawaiʻi-based technology company that turns science into applied solutions for the world’s problems. He also serves as a company talent scout in an unconventional way.
“I look for the people we don’t know we need,” he said, explaining that he always keeps an eye out for good people, even beyond human resources requirements. “Oceanit lives in the future—we invent the future. So I’m actually looking ahead of that.”
Helping the future of Hawaiʻi
Looking back, Kitajima thinks if you would have asked people right after high school if they thought he’d make it to where he is now, they would have said, “No, and I’m not going to invest any resources in helping that person.”
That is precisely the kind of student Kitajima wants to help in the future.
Kitajima and his wife intend to establish the Lianne and Ian Kitajima Endowed Scholarship through their estate plans. The fund will be available to students from Windward CC with a GPA of 2.0 or higher.
“A lot of times scholarships go to students who do well,” he said. “But it’s actually the students who are maybe the C students—who want to go to college, but may not get the opportunity to go because they don’t have the resources, or because they didn’t prove that they were worthy in high school—who really need them.”
In addition to his planned scholarship gift to help students, Kitajima shows his appreciation to UH by generously giving his time. He serves as a virtual professional-in-residence through Shidler College’s Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship. He sits on advisory boards for UH Mānoa’s mechanical engineering department and Outreach College, and serves on the UH Alumni Association board of directors and the Windward CC Ambassadors Council.
Kitajima has come a long way and accomplished great things since his “flunkie surfer guy” days. He knows there will be students like him, who, if given the chance, can do great things, too.
“I’m really proud that I went to UH. You make the experience yourself,” he said. “You can have a world-class education at the University of Hawaiʻi.”