Interim CAS Dean has Vision for UH Hilo's Future

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Posted: Apr 7, 2003

Dr. Stephen C. Hora has been named Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, effective March 1, 2003. A professor of management science and statistics in the School of Business, Hora has been at UH Hilo for 18 years. He replaces Dr. Stephen Worchel, who stepped down as dean to a professor of psychology position.

"I love it here and so does my family," Hora said. "My children grew up here and I have a grandson now. This is our place."

In his new line of duties, Hora has perhaps taken a page out of Governor Linda Lingle‘s handbook of educational administration. Lingle is on record as wanting to break up the State‘s Board of Education. Hora, surprisingly enough, said that one of the things he would like to accomplish while interim dean would be to make the CAS Dean an unnecessary position at UH Hilo.

"The College of Arts and Sciences is a very big, very complex unit," he said. "We have approximately 30 programs. And I think we would function better as a set of separate autonomous units, one from the natural and earth sciences, another from the humanities and performing arts, one in the social sciences and a school of business and economics.

"Each of those units would be autonomous to the extent that they would have their own budgets," he added. "They would, in effect, be able to write their own futures. They would design their own strategies for achieving excellence and go about those goals themselves without a lot of micromanaging from above.

"I see this as empowering the units to a greater extent than they have been empowered in the past."

Hora readily admits that the vision of decentralizing CAS is his own and not necessarily that of Chancellor Rose Tseng, President Evan Dobelle or the UH Board of Regents, but adds that he has an ally, a powerful one, in Dr. Chris Lu, UH Hilo‘s vice chancellor for academic affairs.

"He and I are in agreement that this would be a good way to go," Hora said.

While interim dean, Hora continues to teach a class in service operations.

"I‘ve learned a lot teaching that class that is applicable in this job," he said. "Part of what we focus on in service operations is customer needs, customer perceptions and what makes their experience a good one so they‘ll come back. I think we need to think the same way about our students.

"For example, we need to focus on the question, ʻWhat is the educational experience like here?‘ Not just in the classroom, but outside the classroom, such as our procedures for handling registration and so forth. Are we making it easy for the student? Are we making it a comfortable and rewarding experience?

"I think we need to ask those questions and seek hard for the answers and design what we do based on how we‘re doing. I‘m taking a hard look at our course offerings, especially at the general education level, the 100- and 200-level courses to make sure that we have enough slots available, that students who go through placement testing have appropriate classes to move into.

"I‘m also looking at the transcript evaluation process for transferring students," he added. "We get a lot of students coming in from community colleges or from mainland schools. I‘d like to make their transition into UH Hilo quicker and as seamless as possible. So when a student shows up and they‘ve sent us their transcripts, the student knows exactly what he or she needs to take to get a degree, that there‘s no delay."

Hora is a native of Altadena, California, and was on the faculties of Arizona State University, the University of Oregon and Texas Tech University before coming to UH Hilo. Since his arrival, he has had visiting professorships at University of Tennessee and Wake Forest University.

"Every one of those campuses has a very good student recreational center, someplace where students can go and work out, swim, take aerobics classes or yoga or self-defense classes," Hora said. "This type of facility is sort of the entertainment center for the 21st century and we don‘t really have anything like that on campus."

Hora, whose own recreational pursuits include golf when he has the time and playing his guitar, acknowledged that those concepts are part of the 6,000 seat multipurpose sports and recreational complex that has been proposed for the UH Hilo campus but which, at a cost of $88 million, has yet to be funded beyond planning and design money.

"My idea is something more modest, that is just for the students, at about $20 million or so," he said. "The plans on the board came about as a part of the concept of the University being an economic engine in the community. This thing just got larger and larger and the price tag has gotten to the point that the money to build this thing may never happen. But the students need something more immediate and just for them while the arena and community center goes through the political process.

"Texas Tech has a beautiful fitness facility for the students and it was financed mainly by student fees."

Ultimately, Hora said, it is the vision of leaders that will shape the University‘s future.

"I think we need to look out and say, ʻWhere should UH Hilo be 20 years from now and what do we need to be doing right now to reach that 20-year future?‘ The funny thing about the future is there isn‘t one future, there are many futures, and we have a certain amount of control in determining which future actually comes true.

"We need to look out into the future and ask ourselves, ʻWhat do we need to do to make UH Hilo all that it can be in 20 years?‘"