Āina-focused undergraduate internship program at UH Hilo wins outstanding leadership award

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Alyson Y Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 932-7669
Int Dir, Univ Rel; Dir, Media Rel, University Relations
Posted: Jul 31, 2019

The PIPES at UH Hilo Leadership Team
The PIPES at UH Hilo Leadership Team

The Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science (PIPES), based at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, was awarded the Hawaiʻi Conservation Alliance’s Outstanding Leadership Award at the 26th Annual Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference held on O`ahu July 10. 

The award recognizes a person or organization demonstrating exceptional leadership in advancing environmental conservation in Hawaiʻi that leads to significant better protection of Hawaiʻi’s native ecosystems. Through its efforts since 1994, PIPES has created a strong network of kama`āina who are engaged in the stewardship of their islands and communities across Hawaiʻi to the broader Pacific. Over the past 26 years of creating summer internships for local undergraduates, PIPES has transformed conservation in Hawaiʻi by expanding local participation in resource stewardship efforts and fostering the long-term success of local emerging professionals. 

Natalie Kurashima, Integrated Resources Manager for Kamehameha Schools and a former intern who presented the award, stated, “PIPES has served as a beacon for many of us, a bright spot on the horizon showing us the path forward to a better ‘āina and a better self. The program has thrived in spaces where many others haven’t, growing that space and cultivating it to become abundant. This cultivation has occurred both within each intern personally as well as the many organizations and landscapes their reach has touched. Mahalo palena ʻole iā ka ‘ohana PIPES for not only giving us an opportunity to come home for a summer, but an opportunity to find our life’s passion and come home for forever.”

“The conservation community has experienced a marked increase in local representation and influence within a single generation, which, in turn, has shifted how conservation is done in Hawaiʻi,” noted PIPES Program Director Sharon Ziegler-Chong. “The legacy of this group continues to grow as alumni can now be found within almost every conservation agency or organization. 

“Since its start, PIPES has mentored over 700 local interns, 60% of which are currently employed in conservation careers. Over 50 host organizations and dedicated funding partners have helped develop this next generation of mālama `āina leaders and resource managers.” 

Past and present PIPES leaders were honored at the award ceremony: Sharon Ziegler Chong, Ulu Ching, Noe Puniwai, Rita Miller, Linnea Heu, Cherie Kauahi, and Jordan DeJesus. 

This year’s PIPES cohort of 39 interns will share their final presentations on August 1 and 2 with live-streaming available (see PIPES website: hilo.hawaii.edu/uhintern for link). 

For more information on PIPES, contact Ziegler-Chong at ziegler@hawaii.edu or 808-990-3768.