UH West Oahu Is A New Gem In The UH System

By Sen. Michelle Kidani

It’s been an exciting 10 days for the more than 2,000 students enrolled at the new University of Hawaii West Oahu campus. Not only are they the first occupants of the beautiful new buildings that we have watched rising in the wide open spaces makai of H-1 beyond Waipahu, they also are among the many thousands of students at all 10 campuses of the UH system who look to higher education as a sound investment in their futures.

Supporters of The Little Campus That Could have shared the vision that UHWO will fill a real need for Central and Leeward Oahu families who have longed for opportunities of this kind closer to home. They nurtured that vision from humble beginnings in the mid-1970s, when classes met in borrowed spaces, through the years in portable buildings at the edge of Leeward Community College, to become what the daily paper’s editorial writers now rightly call “a jewel” in the crown.

Touring the campus prior to the opening of classes, and watching the faces of students and faculty on the first day of school, I could feel — and share — their excitement. We were all encouraged by the news that the state this month released more than $5 mil- lion in planning and construction funds for further campus expansion — carrying out the strong support demonstrated by the Legislature over the last few years to get the campus up and running to serve surrounding communities. Throughout its more than 30-year history, UHWO has offered lower tuition and flexible class schedules to meet the needs of non- traditional students. Now this different campus takes on a more traditional student base, and has pledged to educate and train Hawaii’s workforce in high-demand disciplines for the future.

A building to house instruction in the allied health professions — including long-term care professionals to serve the state’s growing older population — is in the works. The Henry Ku‘ualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive of Hawaii already is on cam- pus, and a building to house an Academy for Creative Media program is in the planning stages. Teacher education — especially for early learning programs — will be another priority.

Recent approvals for major housing developments in Central and West Oahu, and the expectation of additional residential and commercial activity that come with the rail transit system now under construction, all point to success for UHWO as a vibrant education center and certainly a point of pride for neighboring communities. It’s important for the university president and top administrators to remember that there are other campuses besides Manoa that need nurturing, and to follow through on their commitment to this exciting new venture. UH West Oahu has been waiting in the wings for so many years, and shows so much potential to play a starring role in the 21st century.

Congratulations to chancellor Gene Awakuni, vice chancellor Donna Kiyosaki and their faculty and staff for their hard work to make this new landmark campus a reality.