Reaching out to all of Maui Nui


Most of you know our main Kahului campus. You may not know we serve three smaller communities — Hana, Lana’i and Moloka’i — with outreach centers. They were established in the early ’80s with SkyBridge and HITS (Hawai’i Interactive Video Service) which, back then, were amazing new distance learning technologies. They have, of course, mostly given way to the ubiquitous Zoom.

Over the decades, the three UH-MC satellites have evolved significantly. There are registration and counseling services, testing space and proctoring services. They support all UH system distance programming. In addition to serving high school and college students, they interface with the community by providing free Hawaiian language classes, workforce training and more. They may be small. But they are mighty.

When the Hana Community Center closed at the end of 2020, 15 organizations were displaced. Our center was one of them. “It was a jarring time for our community, on top of COVID, with everyone looking for space,” said Fawn Helekahi-Burns, our site coordinator. “We got lucky. Christopher Sanita, who had been a teacher here before and then gone to California, returned and became the principal of Hana School.

“He realized having the college on his campus was beneficial for our kids so we now have a fully functional classroom. We’re also able to rent out two additional classrooms for Zoom and sheltered classes.”

There are 52-plus students, 23 of them are early admissions — taking all their high school courses at the same time as college courses. We also serve 40 community members with Hawaiian language classes.

“I think COVID has provided more opportunities for outreach students,” said Helekahi-Burns. “It opened up more degree programs and more classes for more students.” Challenges notwithstanding, things “look better and brighter every day.”

Lana’i native Pam Alconcel has been the site coordinator there for 18 years.

“The center was established more than 30 years ago,” she explained. “The late Senator Daniel Inouye was instrumental in getting a U.S. Department of Labor grant for what was then Maui Community College to help students in our community transition from agriculture to tourism.” Access and services have expanded exponentially since those early days.

The center is housed in the town square of Lana’i City in its own building leased from major island landowner Pulama Lana’i.

“We have good Wi-Fi, one classroom set up for 10 to 12 students to be on Zoom, a computer lab that can also accommodate 10 to 12, and a small ‘back room’ for at least six,” said Alconcel. “We partner a lot with the high school so about 50 of our 75 students are dual enrollments (taking high school and college courses simultaneously). And many of them receive scholarship funding from Pulama Lana’i.”

You may recall that three high school seniors left Lana’i last year with their associate degrees as well as their high school diplomas.

“We’ll have another three in the next two years,” said Alconcel.

Nontraditional students are taking liberal arts courses and then transferring to online degree programs — especially business and education — through West O’ahu or Manoa.

Like the other outreach centers, there is great dedication to the larger community.

“In response to occasionally spotty Wi-Fi, we can get students a hotspot and we can loan out computers,” Alconcel said. “We also offer noncredit courses. We have a Certified Nurse Assistant class, we even have one person taking a Renewable Energy and Solar Training course.”

Moloka’i is our largest and most robust outreach center. A major facilities upgrade and relocation took place in 1999 and the center in Kaunakakai has six classrooms, a learning center/library and administrative offices. It can craft its own limited offerings and has a lecturer budget. We can also rotate different UH-MC course offerings as needed and hire from a pool of instructors. Students can start any degree from our Moloka’i Center.

Susan Nartatez is our academic adviser serving all the outreach centers; she’s also acting site coordinator for Moloka’i. “Enrollment is currently at 125, many of whom are dual enrollments and nontraditional students,” Nartatez said.

“We have a staff of 12 that includes three grant-funded personnel — one provides services to Native Hawaiians and all play vital roles in helping with persistence, recruiting, marketing. We’re very conscientious about the services we provide because this is a small, interconnected community.”

As we do here, Moloka’i continues to face COVID-19 challenges head on.

“The pandemic has made things so challenging and that will continue into the spring 2022 semester,” Nartatez said. “Students here prefer face-to-face classes. There are benefits to learning with other students and with an instructor. But we’re going to continue to provide the best educational opportunities and services possible. We are here to welcome students whenever they’re ready.”

We should note that a fourth center in Lahaina is closing at the end of this semester. With more classes offered online, more integration and new strategies, West Maui students now have more choices.

“Access, in general, is not much of an issue anymore,” said Kahele Dukelow, Dean of Arts and Sciences. “We are still extremely committed to our rural communities and figuring out how we can best support them in whatever they decide they need. We depend on the centers to be the voices of their communities. We want to know how we can flex to meet their needs. That’s the commitment for us.”

For more information about our Outreach Centers, visit http://maui.hawaii.edu/outreach-centers/. To learn more about UH Maui College, see http://maui.hawaii.edu/.

* Dr. Lui K. Hokoana is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka’ana Mana’o, which means “sharing thoughts,” appears on the fourth Saturday 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.


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