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Funds For UHWO Health Labs, LCC Native Center

Sen. Michelle Kidani

The University of Hawaii-West Oahu campus is in a period of transition over the summer. At last month’s commencement ceremonies, the campus community said farewell to chancellor Gene Awa-kuni, who led UHWO for the past seven years during unparalleled growth, culminating in the development of a brand new permanent campus. Awakuni noted that he felt a great sense of accomplishment with the opening of the new facility, and he anticipated a bright future in the years ahead.

New chancellor Rockne Freitas will lead the campus as it matures to serve the West Oahu, Leeward and Central Oahu student base that makes up the majority of its enrollment. Freitas brings with him a wealth of experience not only within the UH system administration, but also from several years as chancellor at Hawaii Community College on Hawaii island, where he initiated and championed the development of the new Palamanui campus on the Kona side.

Congratulations and a warm mahalo to chancellor Awakuni for his leadership, and welcome chancellor Freitas to the exciting years ahead for the University of Hawaii’s newest campus!

The Legislature is investing in the future academic needs of UHWO, this year approving a construction budget of $11.8 million for a new building and labs to educate students in the allied health professions.

There is a growing need for these important specialists who support physicians, nurses, dentists and community health clinics. It’s estimated that these highly trained individuals make up 60 percent of the total health care work-force.

We also were pleased to support the request from Leeward Community College for planning funds in the amount of $2 million to create a Native Hawaiian Center for Learning and Excellence.

Chancellor Manny Cabral noted in testimony that continued growth in the area brings with it the prospect of higher enrollment, and diversifying LCC’s higher education offerings will offer future students additional options for learning. We already are looking forward to the dedication of LCC’s new Education Building later this year, housing the very successful Associate of Arts in Teaching Program.

Continued growth at LCC and UHWO brings an exciting new focus to our communities where population growth on Oahu has been concentrated during the last several years. That growth has added pressure on our elementary, middle and secondary schools as well, and the budget we approved also includes $18.4 million for a new classroom wing at Ewa Makai Middle School.

Aside from the end goal of improving our public education system at all levels, projects such as these are a tremendous boon to our construction industry. The May analysis of Hawaii’s economy from the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization states that by the end of this year, Oahu will have recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession as a result of increased state-funded projects that we approved last year, and a tremendous increase in private construction industry activity.

I look forward to hearing from you about how the state can best serve the needs of our communities. Contact me by email at senkidani@capi-