KAHULUI - Three members of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents have thrown their support behind a proposed bachelor's degree in sustainable science and management and expressed hope that the degree will spring from Maui, where officials have developed such plans.
The regents - Kula businesswoman Teena Rasmussen, an at-large regent; retired Maui Judge Artemio C. Baxa, a Maui County regent; and retired UH professor Ramon de la Pena, of Kauai - responded positively to a Friday-morning presentation led by Joie Taylor, a faculty member at the University of Hawaii Maui College.
De la Pena told UH-Maui College officials: "Put the package together; you got my vote."
UH regents previously had approved two bachelor's degree programs for UH-Maui College. A third degree is in the works, with Taylor involved since she was hired some 18 months ago.
"There's a large potential for Maui to be a leader," Taylor said at a meeting of a subcommittee on community colleges. At their meeting held on the UH-Maui College campus, the three regents heard from students, faculty, program administrators and community supporters, such as Maui Memorial Medical Center Chief Nurse Executive Joanne Iritani and Jeanne Unemori Skog, president and chief executive officer of the Maui Economic Development Board.
John McKee, UH-Maui College vice chancellor of academic affairs, introduced a presentation on the proposed bachelor's degree in sustainable science and management. Taylor, who has studied and taught sustainability as it relates to science, led the presentation. She said universities - including Harvard and her alma mater, Cornell - have graduate-degree programs in sustainable science.
Taylor said the proposed bachelor's degree at UH would cover energy-production fundamentals, including distribution and management, water resources management, wastewater treatment and waste management.
Potential jobs for the holder of a degree in sustainable science and management would include environmental planner and environmental scientist, with more than 2,000 related jobs in Hawaii alone, according to Taylor.
She said nearly half of her 50 students in lower-division sciences at UH-Maui College showed serious interest in pursuing a bachelor's degree in sustainable science, if approved.
"I would like to see the Maui College at the center of offering this," Rasmussen said. She advised degree proponents, who might make a future presentation to the other regents, to define "sustainable" more clearly in the context of the proposed bachelor of science degree, and to emphasize potential jobs and reasons why Maui should be at the hub of the degree program.
"What the university doesn't want to do is create a sexy program that doesn't lead to jobs," Rasmussen said.
At Friday's meeting, UH-Maui College Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto said his staff is ready to discuss program details with other UH campuses that have expressed interest in offering studies that lead to the same degree.
He said the bachelor's degree program has "got to have a systemwide strategy" to be successful.
"What's critical is that the entire state come together, discuss this, strategize and pool resources. We need to take advantage of everything we have," Sakamoto said.
McKee said Friday's presentation was made to UH President MRC Greenwood earlier this week. Nevertheless, no date has been set for when the degree proposal might go before the entire Board of Regents.
"When you do bring it to the board, I would like to see it offered statewide. But I would like to see the lead start from here on Maui," Baxa said.
The Maui campus's first four-year degree - a bachelor's of applied science in applied business and information technology - was approved and accredited in 2007. That business degree emphasizes small- and medium-size business management, with a strong information-technology component.
A second degree - a bachelor's of applied science in engineering technology - was approved last year, with upper-division classes set to start this fall. The newer bachelor's degree provides curriculum and training in electronics, computers, optics, remote sensing and other technologies used in industry statewide.
* Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at email@example.com.