Investing in the future

Neighbors: Profiles of our community

With the help of University of Hawai‘i Foundation donors, UH-Maui College continues to cook up new educational opportunities, including the addition of the Maui Food Innovation Center, which provides technological expertise, innovative training, consultation, a manufacturing facility, and a resource hub for nascent and established food entrepreneurs. Photo courtesy Chris Speere

Did you know the National Security Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently designated UH-Maui College as a National Center of Academic Excellence in cyberdefense education for its four-year applied business and information technology program? And did you know the college’s sustainable science management program is one of only a handful of programs in the world that focus on island sustainability? And are you aware the Kahului campus is home to the Maui Food Innovation Center, a first-in-the-state incubator and resource hub for food entrepreneurs?

And that’s just scratching the surface.

“There are so many amazing things happening right now on this campus,” said Jocelyn Romero Demirbag, who was appointed director of development for UH-Maui College by the University of Hawai’i Foundation last fall. Since then, she’s seen the college continue to rack up its share of impressive accomplishments with the help of University of Hawai’i Foundation donors.

Established in 1955, the University of Hawai’i Foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises private funds to support UH students, programs, faculty and research across the 10 UH campuses. Among many other things, the foundation represents the interests of donors on all 10 campuses; provides donors with meaningful opportunities to engage with UH leadership, faculty and students; manages investments related to planned giving; and distributes more than $10 million in student scholarships every year.

Demirbag knows a thing or two about charitable giving and the power of community: She previously served as Hawai’i Community Foundation’s philanthropic services officer for Maui County and has contributed her time and talent to a number of nonprofits, including Hospice Maui, Hawai’i Association of Independent Schools, Hawai’i Council of Private Schools and the Maui Nonprofit Directors Association. Demirbag is also a PONO Leadership Program Fellow and a recipient of the Gintong Pamana Leadership-Achievement Award from the Filipino Chamber of Commerce. 

Dr. Jocelyn Romero Demirbag helps make students’ college dreams come true as the University of Hawai‘i Foundation’s director of development for UH-Maui College.

She’s also no stranger to the world of education. After graduating from Maui High School, Demirbag went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Loyola Marymount University, followed by a master’s degree in sociology from University of California, Berkeley, and a doctorate in educational professional practice from UH-Manoa. She served as Haleakala Waldorf School’s chair of school for nearly two decades before taking the helm of Honolulu Waldorf School as its head of school.

Today, as director of development for UH-Maui College, Demirbag works with new and existing donors, oversees fundraising efforts and broadens philanthropic support for students and programs at the college. It’s a role she clearly relishes. “It gives me an opportunity to merge my education background with my knowledge of, and love for, the community,” she explained. “And I enjoy connecting people to the causes that matter to them.”

When it comes to UH-Maui College-related causes, there’s plenty to choose from — everything from purchasing equipment for the creative media program to funding sustainable science management research stipends to establishing a student scholarship. And Demirbag says the sky’s the limit. “If there’s something you want to happen on this campus, let’s talk,” she said. “There are so many ways to make a difference in your area of passion.”

The world is taking notice of UH-Maui College and Demirbag says she’s eager to see what the future holds for this crown jewel of the community. “I’m excited to see what happens next.”

For more information or to inquire about donor opportunities, contact Demirbag at jocelyn.romerodemirbag@uhfoundation.org or call 984-3471. To learn more about the University of Hawai’i Foundation, visit www.uhfoundation.org.

* Sarah Ruppenthal is a Maui-based writer. Do you have an interesting neighbor? Tell us about them at missruppenthal@gmail.com. Neighbors and “The State of Aloha,” written by Ben Lowenthal, alternate Fridays.