School is back in session at University of Hawaii Maui College


Hua. Ha’alele. Huaka’i. Ho’i. The four stages of one’s journey through college, through life, really.

Several hundred young people began their college journey Aug. 15, five days before the start of our fall semester at University of Hawaii Maui College. During my welcome to this gathering of first-year students, I told them that their journeys begin with a vision of their purpose — a goal they should set quickly — and a determination to overcome any obstacle that may appear in their way.

The sad truth is that nationally, 50 percent of college freshmen don’t return for their sophomore year. We are taking innovative steps to stem that tide here on Maui. We call it “First Year Experience” (FYE) and it’s a cooperative effort among counselors, teaching faculty, academic support services, student leaders and student affairs representatives. In other words, it’s an integrated effort that spans all of college life, specifically designed to help navigate the entire first year to a successful finish. We believe it will result in more students returning for their second year.

Counselor Eri Nomura is one of the team members. “Transition of any kind is really hard, including the transition from high school to college,” Eri says. “We believe that by building a strong foundation in the first year, more students will return. We’re beefing up career counseling, providing support for academic skills, connecting students to campus resources and peer navigators. We want each student to find his or her purpose.”

“We’re evolving our FYE,” adds Kristine Korey-Smith, director of the Learning Center and professor, Learning Resources. “Instead of front-loading all the information on Welcome Day, we’ll have events and resources available throughout the students’ first year. Very importantly, we’re working with first-year instructors to help students through the critical first year. We want students to utilize the network of support services we offer.”

Happily, some of our freshmen have already found their hua. Brandi Caulfield comes to UH-MC from California. She has two associate degrees from Santa Rosa Junior College and is now enrolled in our Sustainable Science Management program. She’s determined to get her bachelor’s degree in two years.

“My interest is renewable resources and UH-MC offered better opportunities for me,” Brandi says. “A lot of universities in California have cut funding to environmental programs. The Net Zero project here (UH-MC is on track to become the first Net Zero energy campus in the nation) really caught my attention.”

Culinary careers run in Zach Salvador’s family. His dad is a chef, his older brother is a chef and his cousin is famous chef – and UH-MC Culinary Arts Program graduate — Sheldon Simeon.

“I fish and dive so I love to cook seafood,” says Zach. He started his formal culinary education at Lahainaluna High School. “I did an internship at the Westin Nanea’s Mauka Makai and I worked at Gerard’s last year. He’s (Chef Gerard Reversade) a tough chef but I learned so much from him.”

He is now a full-time UH-MC Culinary Arts Program student. And his goal is to open his own restaurant.

Sometimes college provides the opportunity for a second life journey. “This is the first time in 36 years that I’m not raising children,” says Kathryn Moniz. “So I’m doing something I always wanted to do, go to college.”

She is a Manaikalani Scholar (scholarship funded by our Ka Hikina O Ka La program) and her middle child, Jaymie, is a UH-MC graduate now pursuing graduate studies and working for our Pai Ka Mana student support services program. “She really encourages me to take on new endeavors. She’s my rock.” says Kathryn.

Although she works three part-time jobs, she is a full-time liberal arts student with the goal of a music degree. “My mother has dementia. In all her confusion, when I put Hawaiian music on, she’s in heaven. I believe in the power of music for pain management and memory therapy. I want to help people. I can do this. I know I can.”

We know you can, too, Kathryn. And all of us at UH-MC are here to make sure you and all your FYE classmates travel on successful journeys.

Please start thinking now about our spring 2019 semester. To learn about all UH-MC’s excellent degree, associate degree and certificate programs, please visit

* Lui K. Hokoana, Ph.D., is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. “Ka’ana Mana’o,” which means “Sharing Thoughts,” is scheduled to appear on the fourth Sunday of each month. It is prepared with assistance from UH-Maui College staff and is intended to provide the community of Maui County information about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and its education centers.