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The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa saw a record crowd at its annual open house event on January 23, which attracted more than 2,400 attendees from around the state and the world.

The Mānoa Experience normally brings hundreds of prospective students and their families to the campus each year. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held virtually and completely online. That enabled more participants from outside the islands to join the event. Attendees came from all over the world—including Hawaiʻi, continental U.S. and countries such as Canada, Australia, Japan and Korea.

“The virtual Mānoa Experience allowed students and families the chance to enjoy ‘visiting’ the campus through the safety and comfort of their own home. Participants were able to see everything right on their screen,” UH Mānoa Associate Director of Admissions Abigail Huliganga Hurgo said. “We didn’t know what to expect or have anything to compare it to. Although the modality of the event changed, the heart and who we are as a campus did not.”

A total of 52 booths were online representing 18 colleges and 29 departments and support services. Groups ranging from the colleges and schools to ROTC and student groups manned virtual booths to provide answers to questions and give more insight to life on campus. The live campus tours were the most popular attraction with more than 1,400 attendees. Tours were given in and around campus, including residence halls.

“During a time of distancing, the Mānoa Experience—our signature open house event—was reimagined,” said Ryan Yamaguchi, interim assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management and director of admissions. “It has been great to see the evolution of this event over the years. We went from a 300 person event held at our Campus Center to now a 2,400 attendee virtual event. This goes to show the efforts that we all are making to traverse this new landscape to reach our community.”

Many who attended were impressed by the university’s efforts.

“I think that this virtual open house also showed how we’ve adjusted to the changes to fit the needs of what is happening in the world right now. The pandemic has not stopped us from continuing to provide services and, sharing the story of who we are as a campus and why students should choose to come to Mānoa,” Huliganga Hurgo said.

Attendees provide positive feedback

In response to the Mānoa Experience, many provided positive comments to their time attending the event.

  • I have been an educator (in both the classroom and student personnel administration) for 30 years, and it is clear to me that your faculty and staff care a great deal about the work they do and about supporting undergraduate students. None of the 6 other schools to which our son has applied are doing anything this thorough and personal, and we really appreciate all the work that goes into creating an event like this. Our son was ready to commit as soon as we finished the event. (Parent)
  • Presenters handled difficult questions about an unknowable future during this very difficult time with grace and patience. Thank you. (Parent)
  • This was a great experience. It sounds like the school was close and just as caring before COVID. I hope to get accepted because this is exactly the kind of school I would want to be associated with. (Student)
  • I was able to hear what classes were right for me and how the professors were able to explain what the course is and what will be needed and what you will gain from this was both simple and amazing. (Student)
  • I enjoyed meeting with teachers and students. I loved the small meetings and the accessibility of the staff and professors and their willingness to talk and answer questions. I feel like I have found my people! (Student)

This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success, one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan, updated in December 2020.

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