Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas leaving Hawaiʻi Community College

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Hawai’i Community College Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas is stepping down on June 30, 2023, due to personal reasons.

Rachel Solemsaas, who has served as chancellor of Hawai‘i Community College since 2016, will be stepping down after the spring 2023 semester, the college announced Friday.

“It truly has been an honor to serve Hawai‘i 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,” Solemsaas said in a news release.

“Hawai‘i CC has an amazing history in the Hawai‘i 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, the news release said. 

Under her leadership, Hawai‘i Community College 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 Hawai‘i Community College – Pāl​​amanui campus in Kona. 

“It was really important to me that we become more accessible for all segments of the Hawai‘i Island community, and we made great strides in this area,” Solemsaas said. “At the Hawai‘i 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 Hawai‘i Community College closed success gaps for target student populations, including Native Hawaiians, Filipino and Pell Grant students. 

The college 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. The college also adopted the Kaʻao framework for its First-Year Experience programs, for data analytics and for the development of its strategic plan. 

Solemsaas joined the college when 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. The college 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 Hawai‘i Community College 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 college 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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