Looking back, looking forward at Maui’s college

As the University of Hawaii Maui College looks forward to new challenges with new leadership in the next few months, reviewing the foundation established for a potent and effective future may be useful. Since 1990, the college community sought to transform its self-concept. From very traditional programs, services, facilities and mission, our institution needed to accept and then embrace continuous change. Some important examples that represent the steady pace of changes include:

* Communications. To deliver countywide classes, the college introduced a narrowband microwave technology to connect Molokai, Lanai and Hana students to faculty and students in Kahului. Today, a redundant fiber optic system provides high-definition course images of students and faculty that tie West Maui and other students from around the state with Kahului. Classes are also accessible to tri-isle students through our interactive Skybridge closed-circuit HD video system and teleclasses on Maui College Cable TV Channel 354. Before the ubiquitous availability of the Internet, the college had the first UH campus-wide computing system using about 20 terminals connected via coaxial cables to a mainframe computer in 1983. Currently 110 wireless access points on campus and broadband access through fiber-optic cables bridge more than 1,260 computers in classrooms, labs and offices to Internet resources. Last year, the college connected to a l0-gigabit-per-second broadband pipe through a university system initiative to accelerate our connectivity speed. Finally, to promote student computing skills and incentives to achieve their academic goals, a $1.5 million Laptop Graduation Incentive program was initiated by a major benefactor. Currently, $200 and $400 reimbursements are available to graduates who sign up to purchase a laptop, netbook, MacBook or iPad and complete their certificates of achievement and degrees.

* Facilities. Over the past 24 years, our tri-isle community’s college built a foundation for sustained high performance that began on the Kahului campus. Beginning with a campus-wide master plan, the first two years involved burying conduits and systems that would carry electricity, sewage, water and communications to permit our infrastructure to withstand the corrosive salt breezes and potential major weather events. Five major classroom and lab facilities serving all of the major programs at the college were completed. These were: Ka Lama, with classrooms, computer lab, faculty offices and the CareerLink program; Laulima, with the UH Center Maui, Office of Continuing Education and Maui Language Institute; Ka’aike, MCTV’s television studio and our tri-isle instructional TV network, electronics and computer engineering technology classrooms and Computing Center; Kupa’a, with classrooms, math labs and faculty/staff offices; and Ike Lea, a lecture hall and dedicated teaching labs for astronomy, optics, physics, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, biology, microbiology and the marine sciences. Additionally, outreach centers were constructed on Molokai, in Lahaina and upgraded in Hana and on Lanai. A Native Hawaiian Studies Center, Kaiao and a Veterans Center were also completed over the last few years.

* Campus infrastructure. To support the campus’ growth, the college turned to renewable energy and water pump technologies to transform the campus into a center of excellence for sustainability. In 2011, the college entered into a 20-year, $8.7 million performance contract with Johnson Controls Inc. to create a more sustainable campus. Over the life of the project, the college expects to save more than $14 million in electricity, more than 4 million gallons of water and reduce our greenhouse gas generation by 1,134 tons per year. Other energy-efficiency measures include installing energy-efficient lighting, occupancy sensors, smart kitchen hood and exhaust systems, solar hot water heaters, low-flow plumbing fixtures and a campus-wide energy management system. A 585-kilowatt-hour carport photovoltaic system was installed to increase the college’s ability to generate electricity and provide eight stalls to charge electric vehicles, a development to save about 983,000 kilowatt hours, or $122,000 this year.

* Academic expansion. Enrollment, academic offerings and the number of faculty, lecturers and staff also grew. In 1990, Maui County residents could choose from 14 associate-degree programs or 26 certificate degree programs. Today residents can pursue three bachelor of applied science degrees, six associate of applied science degrees, two associate of arts degrees, 11 associate of applied science degrees and 55 certificate programs. Through UH Center’s distance learning options, residents can pursue 22 other bachelor’s and graduate degrees from UH Hilo, UH West Oahu, and UH Manoa. As expected, student enrollment at Maui College grew 74 percent from 2,337 enrolled students in 1990 to 4,076 students in 2013. In 1990, 97 faculty members, 55 lecturers and 44 professional support staff served students. Today the college employs 115 full-time faculty, 142 lecturers, 62 administrative, professional and technical employees and 54 civil service employees.

Maui College faculty, staff and administration collectively contributed to developing this foundation for future improvements and services to our student and our Maui Nui community.

* Clyde Sakamoto is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka’ana Mana’o means “sharing thoughts.” It’s published on the fourth Sunday of each month. Maui College staff assist in preparing the column aimed at providing information about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and its education centers.