Monday, September 3, 2012

Upon the completion of my first year

Time flies when you’re having fun, so I suppose it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I recently completed my first year as president of Hawai‘i Pacific University. This milestone provided a welcome opportunity for me to reflect on what has transpired during a heady and hectic 12 months, and prompted me that I ought to share with friends of HPU some of the highlights, given our mutual interest in  America’s largest private, not-for-profit  university serving Hawai‘i and the greater Pacific Rim region.

Perhaps the most important effort during these 12 months has been the creation of HPU’s first comprehensive strategic plan – a document recently approved during a half-day retreat of the HPU Board of Trustees. It charts an important new vision: For HPU to become consistently recognized as among the nation’s top 10 comprehensive, independent Western universities, “leveraging its geographic position between the Western and Eastern hemispheres and its relationships around the Pacific Rim to deliver an educational experience that is distinct among American campuses.” In support of that vision, it articulates goals, objectives and tactics in three major areas of focus -- University Positioning, Academic Culture and Student Success – and commits the university to a shared plan of development that will transform HPU over the next five years.

The Oceanic Institute at Makapu'u Point
It would be hard to overstate the promise of that transformation for HPU and the students and constituents we serve. We intend to grow from 8,000 plus students to become a university with 10,000 students studying at three iconic campuses that represent the best of Honolulu’s environmental beauty and diversity – lush Hawaii Loa, historic Downtown and the seaside Oceanic Institute. Envision 350-400 full-time faculty members delivering instruction in academic programs nurtured toward greater impact and success and undertaking research supported by $35 million in annual contracts and grants. Consider physical facilities with more than double the 250,000 square feet we currently have, an endowment more than double the $75 million in savings currently held by the university and fund raising bringing in $15 million annually. These are the exciting outcomes we’re planning and building for now, with implementation of our plan beginning this fall.

Just as important as the plan itself is the university-wide effort that led to its creation, with more than 200 faculty members, administrators, staff members and students taking part. Their participation in task forces, work groups and self-studies yielded the findings that served as the critical foundation of the plan. The significance of focusing the intellectual resources of our community on this essential endeavor is that we will soon be able to implement a plan that not only reflects our best thinking, but that will already enjoy essential support from the very individuals who will be most responsible for fulfilling the plan.

In support of the new student housing, enhanced classrooms and IT capabilities and research capacity envisioned in the new strategic plan, we sought and received approval by the State of Hawaii for up to $120 million in bonding authority. Thanks to the leadership and vision of Gov. Neil Abercrombie and members of the State Legislature, this partnership between public and private entities will help to create the strong private university that Hawaii so richly deserves. I can truly say that in more than 30 years of working with elected officials on higher education issues in myriad states, I have never experienced the level of cooperation and good will that I have from Gov. Abercrombie and his colleagues in the state capitol.

Aloha Tower Markeptplace
As many of you know, the student housing that the bonding would in part provide may materialize at the historic Aloha Tower Marketplace. We have been in conversation with the developer of that site and hope that plans will soon be able to go forward there in a way that would create one of the most remarkable student housing environments in U.S. higher education today. That would not only help HPU to overcome one of the most significant difficulties that students experience when coming to our university – finding housing near our Downtown Campus – but would help to transform a location of unrealized potential into an economic catalyst for metropolitan Honolulu.

To meet the challenges of this level of institutional change, we introduced a new team of leadership, including:
  • Michael Chun, new Chairman of the Board of Trustees
  • Richard Hunter, the newest member of the HPU Board of Trustees
  • Chief Financial Officer Bill Kline
  • Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Andrew Brittain
  • Vice President for Governance and University General Counsel Janet Kloenhamer
  • Vice President for Alumni and University Relations Mary Ellen McGillan
  • Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Todd Simmons
  • Interim Vice President of Enrollment Management Darryl Calkins
  • Special Assistant to the President for Retention Scott Stensrud
  • Dean of Business Administration Deborah Crown
These leaders share the bold new vision for HPU articulated by our Trustees, our executive leadership and our faculty in the strategic planning process, and I believe they’ll be instrumental in charting important new directions for our students, our academic programs and the further development of our university in the coming months and years.

In the midst of all of this, I was humbled and grateful to take part in May in HPU’s largest ever commencement ceremony at the Neal Blaisdell Arena. More than 950 students earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Hawai‘i Pacific University, and our commencement participants were fortunate to hear an address delivered by Board Chairman Michael Chun, just weeks before he concluded a historic 24-year tenure as headmaster and president of Hawaii’s Kamehameha Schools.

The work and preparations we’ve undertaken this summer ensure that the momentum of the past 12 months is focused toward even greater accomplishment in the new academic year, set to begin in just a few short weeks. I am thankful for your support as we embark on that journey and hope news of additional HPU success is prominent for you and other friends of our university in what promises to be a very exciting 2012-13.

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