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Rachel Solemsaas

Hawaiʻi Community College Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas has announced she will be stepping down after the spring 2023 semester. Solemsaas has served as chancellor of Hawaiʻi CC since 2016.

“It truly has been an honor to serve Hawaiʻi Community College as chancellor, but personal family-related matters have necessitated that I leave this institution that I love and have served for seven years,” said Solemsaas. “Hawaiʻi CC has an amazing history in the Hawaiʻi Island community and I am incredibly proud of our “Kauhale’—the faculty, staff, students and community members—for all that we have accomplished together.”

Solemsaas’ belief in higher education as a pathway to social mobility, especially for many traditionally underserved students, informed the college’s efforts to increase access and equity.

Under her leadership, Hawaiʻi CC adopted an “island-wide” approach, assuming administration of the Kō Education Center in Honokaʻa, establishing innovative Career and Technical Education Early College programs at high schools and enhancing the Hawaiʻi CC–Pāl​​amanui campus in Kona.

“It was really important to me that we become more accessible for all segments of the Hawaiʻi Island community, and we made great strides in this area,” Solemsaas said. “At the Hawaiʻi CC–Pālamanui campus, for example, we created a new physics lab, outdoor learning center, apprenticeship program and helped establish a 700-acre dryland forest preserve adjacent to campus.”

Three-year graduation rates for both full-time (36.3%) and part-time (10.4%) first-time freshmen reached all-time highs, and Hawaiʻi CC closed success gaps for target student populations, including Native Hawaiians, Filipino and Pell Grant students.

Hawaiʻi CC continued its commitment to Native Hawaiian students through the Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao initiative and was the first UH institution to include a land acknowledgement in campus meetings and public presentations. Hawaiʻi CC also adopted the Kaʻao framework for its First-Year Experience programs, for data analytics and for the development of its strategic plan.

Solemsaas joined Hawaiʻi CC as the campus faced low financial reserves of less than $1 million, and will leave the college on sound financial footing with more than $10 million in reserves. Hawaiʻi CC also increased grant funding, securing $12.5 million in extramural funding, and private philanthropy, with the largest single private donation in the college’s history of $1 million.

In addition, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges reaffirmed accreditation for Hawaiʻi CC for seven years in 2018.

“Chancellor Solemsaas has done a remarkable job in her seven years at Hawaiʻi CC and was truly committed to the college and Hawaiʻi Island community,” said UH President David Lassner. “I commend her for expanding the college’s reach on Hawaiʻi Island and its underserved communities and her work guiding the campus through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Solemsaas’ last day on campus is scheduled for June 30, 2023. Consultation will take place with Hawaiʻi CC campus constituents regarding the next steps in campus leadership so that an interim chancellor can be named by May 12, for posting with the public agenda for the May 18 Board of Regents meeting.

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