New West Oahu Chancellor Freitas Brings Goals, Experience

Rockne Freitas

Newly appointed chancellor Rockne Freitas will begin his three-year term with the University of Hawaii-West Oahu May 1.

Although his start date is still a couple of months away, Freitas already has clear goals for himself and the university.

“My long-term goal and personal vision is to make this university a primary choice of every student who wants to earn a great baccalaureate degree,” he said. “Education is the great equalizer.”

Freitas, who has been with the university system since his appointment as assistant athletics director in 1984, has a long history of involvement in various leadership capacities. In 1986, he was hired as associate athletics director before becoming the vice president for university relations in 1990. After a short break in 1995 to work as vice president at Kamehameha Schools, he returned to the UH system in 2004 as the chancellor at Hawaii Community College in Hilo, and in 2010 became vice president of student affairs and university and community relations.

His new role also marks a personal and cultural milestone. Freitas is the first native Hawaiian to lead a baccalaureate campus.

“I am very thankful and full of pride to serve this community, the faculty, staff and students,” he said. “As a native Hawaiian, I am motivated to work hard and serve our campus and community to my highest ability.

My appointment also sends a strong message to any young person who may not be the outstanding scholastic star or gifted athlete: If I can do it, you can, too!”

Freitas replaces current Gene Awakuni, who will be retiring. The two will work alongside each other through April.

“I need some time to learn even more about the idiosyncrasies, values and needs of our extended West Oahu community, since the community will be part of our goal-setting process,” Freitas explained.

Students attending UH West Oahu can look forward to being under the leadership of a chancellor with strong leadership that is all-inclusive.

“I hire the best people and allow them to do their jobs,” said Freitas. “And I strive for transparency – being honest, ethical and morally correct.

“I will strive to complete the job with excellence,” he added. “I’ve often said that one person may not make a difference, but one person can lead a team to make a difference.”

Freitas has doctoral and master’s degrees in education from UH Manoa, and a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Oregon State University.