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Dr. Geoffrey Bannister

Photo courtesy Hawaii Pacific University

Photo courtesy Hawaii Pacific University

After working for 10 years with one another under an affiliate agreement, Hawaii Pacific University completed a merger with Oceanic Institute Jan. 1.

This and a bevy of other research initiatives the university has undertaken continue to expand its programs.

“One big thing is making sure that our programs draw from and sustain Hawaii,” says HPU president Geoffrey Bannister, Ph.D.

In addition to its recent innovative studies regarding yellow tang, the university also has plans to build a feed mill on Hawaii Island and is working with Asian countries overseas to restore the shrimp industry.

Bannister, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover Jan. 19, 2011, has been the university’s president since July 2011. The former New Zealand cycling champion says his term so far has been a learning experience.

“The whole community is so diverse that (it) changes the nature of the classroom from most places, because we’ve got a high mix of international students, Mainland students, locals and a great deal of diversity,” he says. “Our student body is a real asset for the learning experience.”

On the horizon for the university, which has the largest Master of Business Administration program in the state and is one of the largest providers to the military, is its Aloha Tower Project, estimated to be complete by spring or fall of next year. With a capacity for close to 300 students, the completed project will feature loft spaces and a ground-floor incubator to meet the technological needs of students to prepare business plans and have a meeting space.

Bannister also says it plans to include a Barnes & Noble, a coffee shop and a Hawaii-themed restaurant to fill the space Don Ho’s Island Grill had occupied.

“The objective is to make it somewhere the community would feel really welcomed,” he says. “We really take the more urban, long-term view, and that’s why the Aloha Tower Project makes so much sense to us, ’cause it’s nicely located to the business district.”

In the meantime, Bannister continues to work to provide his students with the practical learning experiences they desire.

“Our students tend to be students who like to get their hands on things,” he says.

HPU will celebrate its 50th birthday in September 2015. Though a relatively young university in comparison to others throughout the world, Bannister likens it to a startup, noting that the state university system itself is very recent.

“A lot of what we’re doing is building for the future,” he says.