Big Island Colleges Collaborate to Improve

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UH Hilo Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Farrah-Marie Gomes shares her manaʻo with the group. Photo credit: Raiatea Arcuri

The first-ever walaʻau (conversation) was hosted by Hawaiʻi Community College Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas and University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.

Hawaiʻi Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo faculty, staff and administrators were invited to share their insights, concerns and vision of the future for Hawaiʻi Island’s students, particularly transfer students, and how to build strong pathways for student success between both campuses, according to a UH press release.

“We are here to learn how our two institutions can lead the way together to improve life on the island for communities across the state of Hawaiʻi,” said Chancellor Solemsaas. “As the two public institutions of higher education on the island of Hawaiʻi, we have a shared kuleana when it comes to our beautiful island.”


During an interactive “word map” poll, the attendees were asked to share their thoughts about the current state of student success of Hawaiʻi transfer students. Words such as seamless, challenging, connection, enthusiastic, friendly, unfriendly, overlap and depends were offered.

During the question-and-answer period, the chancellors took comments and answered questions on a range of topics. The audience asked about preparation, support and resources for students transferring from Hawaiʻi CC to UH Hilo, and how to keep students on track to graduate and increase their academic success.

“We need to be open-minded about how we deliver education,” said Chancellor Irwin in response to a question. “There are different models of education, whether that is a hybrid course or a full day of instruction with the rest of the curriculum online.”


Strengthening collaboration

Topics that both campuses could further explore and/or strengthen according to the walaʻau:

  • Mirror classes
  • Early adapters of 2+2 (a program where students plan out a seamless path from Hawaiʻi CC to UH Hilo—current 2+2 programs are in business, administration of justice and natural science)
  • Dual admission
  • Transfer scholarships
  • Transfer student connection/relationship or success support
  • Space planning
  • Bike-sharing

Areas identified to work on:

  • Aligning curriculum and learning expectations so that students who move from one institution to the other do not lose any time toward completing their degree
  • Minimizing paperwork for transfer students
  • Imagining what dual enrollment might look like

Both chancellors agreed that they would like the sessions to continue, the release stated.

“We will repeat the process at UH Hilo later this year,” said Irwin. “I look forward to the conversation.”

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