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Sept. 14, 2010

Remarks at UH’s 2010 Convocation Awards Ceremony

Good morning and aloha!

I’d like to extend my thanks to Gov. Lingle for joining us today, as well as to all of our regents, distinguished members of the Legislature, chancellors and vice presidents, our faculty and staff, family and friends.

It is truly a pleasure for me to recognize and honor our University of Hawai‘i faculty and staff for your leadership in teaching, research and serving our community.

Today, we celebrate the accomplishments of more than 50 faculty and staff from our 10 campuses across the system who have been identified by colleagues and students for your effectiveness and creativity, scholarship and service.

Joel Moffett, MRC Greenwood, Howard Karr, Linda Lingle

Awardee Joel Moffett with Greenwood, Regent Howard Karr and Gov. Linda Lingle

While we honor our award recipients here today, I wish to extend these sentiments of gratitude and appreciation to all of our faculty and staff. There is no denying that the past year was a difficult one, and there are some clear challenges still ahead of us. A $100-million cut from our budget—23 percent—is without a doubt a very hard thing to deal with.

But, I must say, the resilience and commitment displayed by all of you in the face of this challenge, to continue to do all you can to provide a solid foundation for higher learning for our students, has been nothing short of inspirational.

As the university system welcomes record numbers of students—more than 60,000 for this fall semester—I know that you are all working hard to meet the demands that this growing student population places on our services and our resources. I appreciate your commitment to ensuring our students’ needs are addressed despite these challenges.

As the state’s sole public institution of higher education, the University of Hawai‘i plays a key role in building Hawai‘i’s educational and economic future. With that in mind, earlier this year I outlined three major objectives for the university—increasing the number of college graduates by 25 percent by 2015; contributing to Hawai‘i&38217;s overall economic future through research, innovation and technology transfer; and ensuring our campuses and facilities reflect our mission as a 21st-century university built on excellence.

Through our Hawai‘i Graduation Initiative, we are improving access to higher education for Hawai‘i’s students, working to remove the traditional barriers they face to attending college and ensuring they graduate.

Today we honor people like UH Maui College assistant financial aid officer Kilohana Miller, who is recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure students get the financial support they need to get into college and succeed, and UH Manoa political science professor Richard Chadwick, who is celebrated for his dedication to mentoring graduate students and challenging them to do their best work. They are shining examples of the diligent and dedicated UH faculty and staff who will make the Hawai‘i Graduation Initiative a success.

Our second objective is to meet Hawai‘i’s crucial workforce needs and maximize the state’s potential through research innovation and technology transfer to help fuel new industries in Hawai‘i and diversify the state’s economy. Our students need a top-notch education, but they also need jobs to move into.

To help address the need to grow and diversify our economy, we have created the President’s Advisory Council on Hawai‘i Innovation and Technology Advancement. This council of local and national experts, which includes the dean of the UH Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology, Brian Taylor, and previous convocation award honoree Carl Bonham, will help us chart a new course to enhance the success and impact of our research programs and to build our capacity to create spin-offs and new industries in Hawai‘i.

In the last fiscal year, the university brought in more than $450 million in external research and training grants, surpassing the previous year’s impressive figure of $414 million. This funding allows us to do cutting-edge research that benefits the state, such as that conducted by Daniel Rubinoff, one of today’s recipients of the Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research.

His research in DNA sequencing and molecular systematic techniques addresses pressing questions in agriculture and conservation with particular focus on Hawai‘i’s fragile native ecosystem. He was part of a team of UH researchers working with state agriculture officials to save the native wiliwili tree population by identifying potential enemies of the gall wasps threatening their extinction that could be used as a biocontrol agent.

This and other scholarly contributions and groundbreaking discoveries made by our faculty reflect the work of a 21st-century university. And, our scientists and researchers, faculty and students, and the state of Hawai‘i, deserve a 21st-century university with excellent facilities. This is the driving force behind our third objective—Project Renovate to Innovate. We are thankful to the Legislature for recognizing the importance of investing in Hawai‘i’s university by providing $20 million this past legislative session for this initiative, which is a solid start.

With the recent release of some of these funds by Governor Lingle, one of the renovation projects we will be able to move forward on is Webster Hall on the UH Manoa campus. The existing third floor of Webster Hall will be renovated to create a UH Transnational Health Simulation Center. The new center will enhance interdisciplinary biomedical and behavioral research and education from several schools and colleges, including the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene, John A. Burns School of Medicine, Cancer Research Center of Hawai‘i, College of Engineering and College of Arts and Sciences. The center will also provide collaboration opportunities with UH Hilo’s College of Pharmacy via distance programming.

As we continue to seek funds for these types of large-scale projects, the day-to-day efforts of our staff to maintain and beautify our campuses cannot be overlooked. Hawai‘i Community College’s Maxwell Tom, the recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence in Building and Grounds Maintenance, is praised by his colleagues for his constant efforts to improve the campus’ grounds, and is a perfect representation of what a big difference these efforts can make.

Investing in campus repairs, maintenance and construction has the added benefits of generating jobs and further enhancing our ability to compete for additional funding to pursue research and discoveries that benefit us all. It also maximizes our return on investment from federal dollars we do receive.

MRC Greenwood, Linda Lingle, Sandie Carmichael, Howard Karr,

Windward Chancellor’s Award recipient Sandie Charmichael works in the campus media center

What better example of this than the announcement made last Friday by Sen. Daniel Inouye via video message at our University of Hawai‘i Higher Education Summit of a nearly $36-million award to the UH System from the U.S. Department of Commerce. These federal dollars will allow the university to dramatically enhance Hawai‘i’s educational broadband capabilities, modernize and expand the UH distance learning network and improve public access to broadband throughout the state.

This effort is a collaboration of the University of Hawai‘i with the Hawai‘i Department of Education and the Hawai‘i State Public Library System. It will deploy and enhance direct fiber optic connectivity to all community colleges and their remote distance learning centers, all public schools including public charter schools, and all public libraries on six islands, for a total of 388 participating sites. Some school and library Internet connections will be 3,000 times faster after this upgrade.

The federal money also will purchase nearly 700 computers for public use in 66 locations throughout the state.

By increasing educational attainment, annually attracting hundreds of millions of outside dollars for research and training, translating research innovations into new business opportunities and creating a strong 21st-century learning environment, UH will ensure that our students are well-equipped, and Hawai‘i is well-positioned, to thrive in this competitive global economy.

This important work also requires collaborative partnerships and community support. The University of Hawai‘i Foundation is about to embark on a new capital campaign, inspired by the overwhelming success of the Centennial Campaign that ended last year. One of the most ambitious fundraising campaigns in Hawai‘i, it surpassed all expectations by raising $336 million for the university. That this historic feat was accomplished during such challenging economic times is a testament to the quality of our institution and the commitment of this state to support Hawai‘i’s university.

We hope the dedication of our faculty and staff to enhance the educational experiences of our students; conduct research whose findings result in critical healthcare, environmental and other breakthroughs; and contribute to the improvement of our society will continue to inspire the community to invest in the University of Hawai‘i.

Last Friday, more than 200 representatives from business, community, labor and government gathered together with our faculty, staff and administrators to discuss the importance of higher education to Hawai‘i’s future. Entitled E Kamakani Hou: Mobilizing for Hawai‘i’s Future, this first-ever higher education summit put the spotlight on the importance of building partnerships to maximize the strengths of the university in service to the state.

E Kamakani Hou means “a new wind,” and it is clear that a new wind is shaping a spirit of engagement and collaboration between the University of Hawai‘i and our community.

In her keynote address at the summit, U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter said, “If we are going to succeed on behalf of children, it will take everyone working together. Education is everyone’s responsibility and everyone has a role to play.”

I am confident that, together, we will face the challenges ahead and achieve our goals. I’ve said before—the University of Hawai‘i can, and should, be the best performing system of public higher education in the country. Hawai‘i and its students deserve the very best. We are well on our way, and with our outstanding faculty and staff, as exemplified by those of you we recognize here today, we will make that happen.

Again, I thank you for your dedication and service to the university and our community, and congratulations to all of our award recipients on these well-deserved honors. Mahalo and aloha.