Friday, October 3, 2014

S&P Update on HPU

Yesterday, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s announced that it has affirmed Hawai‘i Pacific University’s maintenance of its 'BB+' long-term bond rating.  HPU’s unchanged rating comes at a time when Standard & Poor's expects that downgrades of private universities will outnumber positive changes. Today’s Star-Advertiser inaccurately reported the S&P announcement as a downgrade on its cover page. This headline is wrong and the university has sent a letter seeking an immediate retraction. (Note: Star-Advertiser's correction ran in the Sunday, Oct. 5, edition.)

S&P noted that HPU continues to have good financial resources for the rating category, with an above-average endowment and focused efforts on fundraising. The agency cited HPU’s good financial resource ratios, low tuition discount rate and a senior management team that has refined its plans that “adequately suit the university’s business position.” The administration had a positive conversation with S&P representatives last week. They complimented the university on its thoroughness and transparency.

We continue to report to the Board of Trustees on how best to improve in rating categories so that we could strive for that in the future. Nevertheless, we recognize it will take a number of years and successful implementation of the ATM project, but a path forward is being charted. We will continue the important work of implementing the university’s strategic plan and vision.

Geoffrey Bannister

Learning about cultural sustainability

Hawai‘i Pacific University volunteers learned about sustainability and native Hawaiian culture during a workday at He‘eia Fishpond, Sept. 27.

Our students and community members — including Student Life staff, myself and my wife Jerri Ross — visited with Paepae O He‘eia, a nonprofit organization that educates about cultural sustainability through its work caring for the ancient Hawaiian fishpond. The visit was part of our Hawai‘i Spotlight program.

For the Fall 2014 Semester, HPU Student Life has teamed up with faculty to discuss the importance of water and how modern day life has affected our natural resources. Our Malama I Ka Wai Program (Take Care of Our Water) will provide opportunities for students to explore Hawai‘i’s unique local landscape, history and learn why they are important to the island we share.

Friday, September 19, 2014

As the World Grows More Interconnected

I read with great interest Tuesday’s Star-Advertiser article that two Hawai‘i residents’ project was one of only 10 finalists among more than 700 entrants, competing for a $50,000 National Geographic Channel Expedition Grant. I later received an email from Hawai‘i Pacific University alumnus and co-lead of the project Nick Holvik (BSBA Economics ’14), indicating that he and fellow alum Emily MacNintch (BA Environmental Studies ’14) were the finalists!

Emily and Nick’s project is titled “Poop Out of Poverty.” All kidding aside, they propose to expand use of bio-digesting toilets throughout India, Mozambique and Tanzania. The United Nations indicates that a third of the world’s population lacks adequate sanitation and that access to sanitation, the practice of good hygiene and a safe water supply could save 1.5 million children annually.

Vote for Emily and Nick at
National Geographic Channel!
Their initiative attempts to address three major issues: sanitation, energy and economic self-sufficiency. First, the toilets don’t use water, so it prevents further pollution and contamination of water resources. Second, the toilets trap the methane from the feces, which can be used for fuel, and it breaks down the human waste into organic fertilizer and kill the pathogens in the feces. Third, the toilets are potentially financially sustainable in that residents would be able to use the toilets for free, while the business owner could sell the energy and compost produced.

While I find the project concept interesting, what I find even more interesting is the series of HPU connections and experiences that led to Emily and Nick’s idea and participation in this. The two are originally from Toronto, Canada, but they did not know each other until they met in Hawai‘i, at HPU, in an economics class.

It was Emily who was introduced to the bio-digesting toilets through her environmental science course in Costa Rica taught by Angela Constanzo, Ph.D., and spoke about them to Nick. Later, both were encouraged by their economics professor Ken Schoolland to apply for a scholarship to attend the Shanghai Austrian Economic Summit this summer. It was Nick who heard a conference speaker note the mind-boggling statistic of fatalities due to lack of sanitation. Further, the speaker indicated the dire need for a solution to provide toilets without running water and plumbing. Eureka! This is where the two had the inspiration to develop this project.

Nick and Emily are quick to note that “the idea could not have happened” if it weren’t for courses one or both had taken at HPU, including Economic Issues of Asia and International Trade and Finance by Schoolland, Tropical Ecology and Sustainability by Costanzo, and Environmental Economics, which is taught by Regina Ostergaard-Klem, Ph.D.

To Nick and Emily: You have used the knowledge that you acquired from your interactions, experiences and education at HPU, identified a problem, decided to take action and committed to making a difference. Your professors and I are proud of you.

To the HPU ‘ohana: Let’s show our support of Emily and Nick. Go to the National Geographic site and vote today and every day until Sept. 29 and please share the story with friends. Together we can help make the world a better place.