Friday, September 7, 2001


UH-Manoa hits
‘rock bottom’
in rankings

Evan Dobelle sees room to
improve on a U.S. News rating

Dobelle eyes revival in research

By Treena Shapiro

A national ranking of colleges places the University of Hawaii-Manoa where it has been for the past two years: far below the best, but nowhere near the worst. Still, for new UH President Evan Dobelle, the ranking indicates the school has hit "rock bottom."

In the latest U.S. News & World Report college rankings, released yesterday, UH-Manoa remained in the third of four tiers of national doctorate-granting universities, dropping only one-tenth of a point from last year to a 2.6 rating out of 5 this year in academic reputation. Of 249 institutions in this category, UH-Manoa fell to somewhere between 131 and 187 on an unranked list.

"We're at rock bottom," Dobelle said yesterday. "It's obvious our reputation has suffered, and we will do everything we can to improve wherever we can for the benefit of our faculty and students."

The magazine only ranked the top 50 institutions, with Princeton University holding the top spot for the second year, followed by Harvard and Yale.


Five years ago, the Manoa campus was among the top 25 national public universities, but since 1999, in the magazine's ranking of private and public institutions, UH has been in the third tier.

UH-Manoa ranked 16th among colleges whose alumni carry the least amount of debt on graduation. According to the survey, only 33 percent of Manoa students borrow to finance their education.

The Manoa business school also was listed as among the 150 best business programs and departments. The school was one of 20 with an academic reputation of 2.5 out of a possible 5 points.

U.S. News ranks colleges and universities annually in "America's Best Colleges." The institutions, which fall into 10 categories, are evaluated by academic reputation, retention of students, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, alumni giving and graduation rate performance.

Trinity College, the Hartford, Conn., institution Dobelle left in July to come to UH, ranked 24th among national liberal arts schools focusing on undergraduate education.

For the first time, UH-Hilo was ranked nationally among Liberal Arts Colleges-Bachelor's and placed in the bottom tier among 218 other institutions. Last year, UH-Hilo was ranked only regionally and was the third-best liberal arts institution in the western United States.

Rose Tseng, chancellor of UH-Hilo, said the move from a regional to national ranking accounted for the poorer showing. "Once you're in a new group, of course you can't be in the top tier," she said.

Tseng said, compared with many private colleges, UH-Hilo is far behind in terms of alumni giving and endowments, one of the categories used for the rankings. The school's retention rate, another ranking category, also is low because many students leave to go to UH-Manoa or mainland schools after two years to pursue degrees they cannot get at the small Hilo campus.

"In terms of quality, class size and admission standards, we're very good," Tseng said. "The other things, like alumni giving and retention rate, we're going to work on."

Academic reputation, the most heavily weighted category, comes from a survey of campus executives asked to rate rival institutions.

Brigham Young University-Hawaii climbed to fourth among best comprehensive colleges offering bachelor's degrees in the Western region. At a 3.7 rating, its academic reputation was the highest in the category.

"I think it confirms what we believe about the quality of education at BYUH," said university President Eric B. Shumway. "There is also a lot to be said about the spiritual and moral environment of our university."

Among universities offering a full range of bachelor's and master's programs in the Western region, Hawaii Pacific University placed in the third tier. Chaminade University placed in the fourth tier.

Dobelle eyes revival in research

By Helen Altonn

Evan Dobelle, who transformed Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., before taking the University of Hawaii presidency, hopes to do the same thing for the Manoa campus.

At Trinity he got the community working together to turn a blighted urban area across from the campus into a "Learning Corridor" with a complex of schools and a Boys & Girls Club.

At UH-Manoa he envisions creating "a different kind of research university, more in keeping with Berkeley or Boston, where they have institutions in a college town, with opportunities for residences for graduate students and faculty."

He said he is looking to C. Barry Raleigh and Harold Masumoto to guide the university's research future. Raleigh, dean of the School of Ocean & Earth Sciences & Technology, heads a task force for Dobelle on research infrastructure. Masumoto directs the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii. A search for a successor has been rescinded, with Masumoto agreeing to stay on for a while, Dobelle said.

In an interview with Dobelle and Raleigh, the president noted, "This is a very powerful research institution."

UH compiled a record $216 million in research grants and awards last year, leaping from $179 million the previous year. It is now the 36th-largest research institution in the country, Dobelle said.

He said he would like to have a stronger pool of applicants for graduate work. He also wants to recruit students from states in the Western Undergraduate Exchange, which offers enrollment in designated colleges at 150 percent of the resident tuition.

That is impossible now, he said, because "parents want their 17-year-old in a dorm for one year," and most of Manoa's 3,000 dorm beds are reserved for neighbor island students.

"We need a master physical plan that will capture a college town," Dobelle said. "It's a couple blocks away, but I see huge potential in the King (Street) and University (Avenue) area."

Private partners could get tax shelters for projects developed and leased to the university, he suggested.

Dobelle received national attention for integrating the campus in Hartford with a depressed urban community. Business, government and community groups joined Trinity College in a $250 million revitalization.

He said Alex Cooper, senior urban planner of Cooper Robertson in New York and a former colleague, will come here later this month to review faculty work to develop Manoa as a college town.

Cooper, whose design career includes the Battery Park City project in New York, the City of Celebration near Disney World in Florida and college campuses, is said to have "the best understanding of the interaction of the campus with the city."

Dobelle sees the Manoa campus as "a little gray," without a signature, enough flowers or proper signage, with "too many permanent nonpermanent buildings, deferred maintenance and disrespect for the landscape in the sense that we haven't figured out how to put parking at the outskirts and have a true sense of place on the campus itself."

He said Cooper also will look at five or six sites under scrutiny by the university's Urban Regional Planning Department for the John A. Burns School of Medicine and related biotechnical research enterprises. He expects to have a site decision by the October Board of Regents meeting.

Despite Hawaii's allure, Dobelle said housing is a critical factor in trying to attract researchers. "We have the best product in the world to sell, but we can't call an order in because we can't deliver on it.

"We have to try to make significant symbolic differences, too," he said, suggesting offering incentives to private developers to resolve the faculty housing dilemma.

In restructuring research programs, Raleigh said the university is abandoning paper for an electronic system because the federal government will be fully electronic in five years. It will not accept paper proposals or reports, and all billings will be electronic. "It requires a major shift in the way a university does business," he said.

He said the faculty has complained for years that every research proposal or grant award is slowed by the large volume of paperwork and signatures.

"I sign 200 papers a day and don't even know what I'm signing," he said. "That's true of everybody. There's this perception that you're somehow controlling transactions so you don't do something offensive to the federal government. That's an illusion."

Other research issues involve intellectual property, transfer of technology for commercial use and licensing of intellectual property to industry.

"How do we go to individual scientists and turn what they're doing into something commercial?" Raleigh said. "Most scientists don't think about that. It's not on their radar screen."

Describing a family background of research and inventions, Dobelle said: "I understand that world where somebody can spend 10 years of their life without daylight, in a basement with green waves on machinery, and discover something extraordinary.

"You have to have an infinite sense about these things. You never know what will happen, like the man on the moon. ... You have to give rise to man's incentive to find out what hasn't been discovered."

Ka Leo O Hawaii
University of Hawaii

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