University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle

Embracing hope

Once starved for money and inspiration,
a renewed University of Hawaii is ready
to nourish the state's economy and
the dreams of an island people

I am immensely proud that with the help of thousands of colleagues and citizens of Hawaii during the past two years, we have changed the course and direction of the University of Hawaii 180 degrees. This enormous organization of 88,000 degree and non-degree students with 11,000 employees at 10 campuses spread throughout our islands, and a budget approaching $1 billion, was in desperate need of direction and leadership.

There are many reasons to be proud of the University of Hawaii. We are educating our citizens and providing a work force that will meet the needs of a growing economy. This process, so important to our future, requires a university dedicated to meeting the needs of students in our rapidly changing world.

The challenge is to provide a system that is efficient, yet flexible. Change is complicated. Many claim to desire it, but the reality that change for the common good disrupts existing routines for individuals often causes resistance. As someone who has devoted his career to change, it is a reality that I have often witnessed.

If education is the business of creating opportunity, the currency of educational leadership is hope. The poverty experienced throughout the UH system before I became president two years ago was not only financial. Years of declining state support and a highly emotional strike by our faculty had left many feeling hopeless about UH's future. There was little hope of possibility, little hope of inspiration, little hope of exploration.

Job 1: Raising expectations

When I assumed my role at UH, I asserted that I would be instantly accessible, and I outlined a list of priorities that I believed would begin to take us to the next level -- to make the University of Hawaii a local and a global university of which the people of Hawaii could be proud.

It was clear to me from the outset that the most important single thing I could do in the first year would be to change the culture of expectation at the university. Because hope is the precondition for success.

And as far as that first, fundamental, intangible but indispensable goal is concerned, I am proud to report success. Hope, possibility and potential have returned to the University of Hawaii -- where they belong.

I have asked our leaders throughout the system to be imaginative and to "think big." And they have responded. I have asked our students to trust in the administration and dream their own great dreams. They have responded.

I began by encouraging faculty, students, alumni and community members, as well as administrators, in a strategic planning process at each campus. The comprehensive Strategic Plans that resulted were unanimously approved by the Board of Regents last fall.

These plans required a strong organizational structure to ensure that they would be acted upon, and not become merely more studies on a shelf. A long-term financial plan was developed to ensure that future budgets will reflect the stated goals. I encourage every interested citizen to review these documents online at the university Web site or request a copy from our public affairs office.

A study was undertaken of other states' systems of higher education to offer guidance in our process of reorganization. We sought local counsel through the establishment of listening projects on all 10 of our campuses and with a variety of constituencies. The result is a structure thoughtfully designed to promote open communication and coordinated planning with all the campuses.

Passed by the Board of Regents in December 2002, and reviewed by accrediting boards of both the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, this reorganization establishes a senior administrative structure of the university dedicated to facilitation and coordination efforts across the system.

The community colleges now are independent campuses, each led by a chancellor, and each able to offer one bachelor's degree that can, for instance, help Hawaii's teacher shortage. I meet monthly with the new Council of Chancellors, representing each of our 10 campuses. We discuss issues that affect the entire system, such as budgetary items, tuition and fees, and articulation and transfer.

I also will meet monthly with the All Campus Council of Faculty Senate chairmen and the UH Student Caucus during the academic year, bringing me into direct contact with faculty and students.

All campuses have two coordinating offices: the vice president for academic affairs for academic matters and the chief of staff for non-instructional areas. Further, there are now senior executives in the critical areas of research and international education. It should be noted that the process of reorganization of the administrative structure has involved a reduction in the number of mid-level administrative positions. Fewer administrators -- some with higher pay -- less bureaucracy and more productivity.

Gallery of successes

The Hawaii P-20 Initiative unites the University of Hawaii with public schools and the early education system to integrate learning from preschool through college. Seated are UH's Evan Dobelle, Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto and Elisabeth Chun of Good Beginnings Alliance.

A student gives Evan Dobelle a welcoming poster after a question-and-answer session with the new president in 2001.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano, left, UH president Evan Dobelle and Gov. Linda Lingle presided over the launch of a new phase of construction in June at the site of the future John A. Burns School of Medicine in Kakaako.

Lean and local management

I'm proud that we have maintained the No. 1 ratio of full-time faculty to executive managers in our peer group, as determined by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems in Boulder, Colo. At UH-Manoa, the ratio is 19.5 full-time faculty to 1 executive manager and at a representative community college such as Kapiolani, the ratio is 29.57 to 1. This is put in context when you see ratios at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill of 2.68 to 1 or Kansas City Community College of 3.20 to 1. Our senior administrators are being paid at the 60th percentile on average of their mainland university peers. Money for these salaries has come from a rearrangement of administrative salaries, and does not reflect an increase in administrative costs. Competitive, not excessive.

I'm also proud that more than 276 members of our faculty now earn more than $100,000 a year, with more than a dozen who receive outside funding in addition to state dollars in the medical sciences earning more than $300,000 per year.

For me, however, it is the greatest source of pride that the vast majority of my senior system staff (all the individuals hired after the first six months) are local residents. It is my firm belief that for change to truly take hold, it must reflect the deeply felt needs of a community and come from that community. That is why I started with the strategic planning process, and have based all succeeding steps on the issues that were brought forward by individual campuses.

Building faculty trust

Becoming president so soon after a major strike by the faculty, I have, from the beginning, been especially concerned with meeting the challenge of building a renewed trust between the faculty and administration. I am proud to report that our administration has been successful in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the faculty union, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

Negotiations began in the fall of 2002. In 21 of 22 issues that we had direct control over, we came to an interest-based agreement that will serve as a model for other colleges and universities throughout the nation. Describing the negotiations, UHPA Executive Director J.N. Musto, said: "The tenor of these talks has been extraordinarily different from past communications. I am so pleased that President Dobelle has brought an attitude of problem-solving to the table. The people Dr. Dobelle selected to represent him did an excellent job. The conversations were wide open and there was a free exchange of thoughts and ideas. We produced significant results."

Many of these negotiated issues have been on the table for as long as 10 years; I am proud our approach to these negotiations provides the faculty with significant improvements in their working environments. Unfortunately, given the current financial circumstances, the state was unable to offer the faculty an increase in salary, which was issue No. 22. Yet, I expect to exceed the special salary adjustments for our teachers as negotiated by contract during the strike settlement. This will include merit and equity pay increases totaling $3.61 million over the past two years, which was astonishingly overdue.

The wide range of efforts not only to increase the awareness of the programs on individual campuses, but also to ensure that we are working to meet the changing needs of students, has resulted in growing enrollment figures. Following a 6.6 percent increase from spring 2002, UH enrollment increased nearly 2,300 students in fall 2002, a growth of nearly 5 percent over the same term the previous year. Overall enrollment in the system now stands at 48,477 for credit students. Close to an additional 40,000 students take noncredit programs statewide during the course of the year. Fall 2002 enrollment system-wide is up 4.9 percent with Manoa's increase at 6.3 percent, UH-Hilo up 5.4 percent, UH-West Oahu up 13.8 percent, and the community colleges overall up 3.7 percent. With no increase in the tuition rates adopted before my presidency!

Fund-raising success

Research at the University of Hawaii is a major economic engine for the state. We now project a total of more than $300 million in research and training grants to be awarded this year. This would compare with $250 million for the previous year.

UH raised more than $22 million last fiscal year through the University of Hawaii Foundation. Since I became president, more than $36 million in new gifts has been raised, a record for non-capital campaign years and in the face of an economic bear market. Great success also has been made in securing commitments from a wide range of major foundations that are serious about investing resources in our efforts, including Ford, Kellogg, Atlantic Philanthropies, Hearst and Osher.

A major step was the approval by the regents to transfer the responsibility for alumni relations to the UH Foundation to allow a united and coordinated effort to maximize the continued involvement of alumni with the university. Meeting with a range of alumni groups throughout the state, nation and world, sometimes in coordination with the East-West Center, has been a priority for me. This is an area that has great potential for encouraging tens of thousands who have lost touch with the university to renew their interest.

Working closely with the UH Foundation and other offices in the university, we have hosted many diverse events, primarily at College Hill. The house has served as a major attraction for occasions honoring individuals and organizations from the university and the community, as well as many distinguished visitors from the mainland and abroad. This year we have hosted more than 150 events, with more than 2,000 guests. This year marked the 100th anniversary of College Hill. We are pleased that College Hill was presented a Preservation Honor Award by the Historic Hawaii Foundation at its annual meeting.

Medical miracles

This too, has been a period of reorganization for the UH Foundation, as plans are being developed for a comprehensive multi-year capital campaign to celebrate our centennial in 2007. Our largest priority continues to be the completion of the $300 million fund-raising effort for the biomedical complex in Kakaako. A fund-raising plan for the remaining $150 million has been developed with anticipated resources coming from public and private sources. As Sen. Daniel Inouye has stated, "I have no higher priority for Hawaii than the biomedical complex and I will act accordingly." Since I arrived, the medical school and cancer research center have raised $4.91 million through the UH Foundation.

This past fall, the University of Hawaii broke ground on the first phase of the project -- its most ambitious capital project in decades, the John A. Burns School of Medicine, the first part of our Biomedical Research Center. This project is on schedule and within budget. Further, this project has spearheaded the investment projections of an additional $200 million for the area. In an unprecedented effort to revive Kakaako, UH is working with Honolulu Community Development Authority and both Kamehameha Schools and General Growth, the two largest private landowners in Kakaako, with advice and counsel from Bruce Coppa.

Critics said it would never happen, or it might happen in 10 years at best. They were wrong. This $300 million complex is projected to support 1,100 permanent jobs, create a mini-boom in the construction industry and generate millions of dollars in new tax revenues and purchasing power by Hawaii's consumers -- millions of dollars brought to Hawaii by the construction of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, Bio-Technology and Cancer Research Center. It can happen; it will happen. The walls are up; the foundation in place. It will be fully operational in fall 2005.

I deeply appreciate those who provided leadership when we needed it -- Senate President Robert Bunda, Speaker of the House Calvin Say, the legislative educational leadership led by Sen. Norman Sakamoto and Reps. Dwight Takamine and Roy Takumi, and through them to all their colleagues. Most important, every success I have had is due to those who brought me to Hawaii, supported my initiatives and gave me the strength and capacity to succeed.

Defying the doubters

I believed in our ability to determine our own future, regardless of what was perceived as possible or what the great negative naysayers told us.

They said the university was ill-advised to attempt a bond rating independent from the state's to pay for the new Health and Wellness Center project in Kakaako. It is an exercise in the will of the people of Hawaii in granting UH autonomy. They said a triple B rating was all that was possible. You can audit life or you can take it for credit -- and UH got an A+.

They said the well had run dry at the state level, that our legislators would not or could not commit to rebuilding the infrastructure of higher education. Yet in one year -- during one regular legislative session and one special session -- more than a half-billion dollars of investment was allotted to the university -- as much as the nine previous years combined at Manoa and Hilo, on Maui and Kauai, on Lanai and Molokai, at Leeward, Windward, Honolulu, Kapiolani and West Oahu.

And talking about West Oahu -- and that's all there has been since 1967 -- they said that in this economic and educational climate, it was unrealistic to attempt to build opportunities for four-year education for West Oahu, despite the fact that Hawaii's two biggest school districts are west of Aloha Stadium ... despite the fact that at this moment there are 70,000 youngsters in those public schools and every one of them deserves a chance. Thanks to the first validation of the West Oahu campus in history -- $8 million allocated for planning and design -- a concept is to be presented to the Board of Regents in September for its review.

It was those same folks who said that the university was on a railway course of faculty attrition, that we could neither keep our best nor attract the world's finest. We welcomed our new Manoa chancellor, Peter Englert, from the pro-vice chancellorship of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. Three deans at UH-Manoa will bring new leadership to the schools of law, nursing and dental hygiene, and travel industry management: Aviam Soifer, professor and former dean of the Boston College Law School; Walter Jamieson, former vice chairman of the World Tourism Education and Research Centre at the University of Calgary in Canada; and Julie Johnson from the Orvis School of Nursing at the University of Nevada, Reno.

They said that Hawaii did not have the "pull" to bring on board the global athletic director needed to propel Manoa athletics forward -- particularly in Asia -- and we got one, Olympic gold-medal winner and present U.S. Olympic Committee chairman of the delegation for the 2004 games, the great Herman Frazier. And we kept our terrific coaches like June Jones, Riley Wallace and Mike Wilton on long-term contracts.

They said it would take years to develop a film school. This fall we will offer initial enrollment to the core program in the Academy of Creative Media led by the distinguished native of Hawaii and Hollywood icon Chris Lee.

They said the walls between our community colleges were too high and the missions too specific to accommodate growth or connection, yet the first baccalaureate degrees at our community colleges are on track to be offered as early as this fall and no later than fall 2004, with Maui in particular under Clyde Sakamoto's and flo wiger's leadership on its way to be a full four-year institution. The dream to "home grow" our own teachers and social workers and nurses to meet the needs of the state on neighbor islands is almost a reality.

They said the budget was too tight and the priority not great enough to fully support Hawaiian studies. They had been saying that for the better part of 100 years. Today our programs are approaching being fully funded and may I remind you, "full funding" is not an end -- it is just the beginning. We will not walk away from the stain of history but cleanse ourselves by addressing it honestly and openly.

We'll begin to see our College Town at Manoa take shape with the beginning of Group 70's and Francis Oda's dream for Moiliili, for a university that statistically had been in steep decline for a decade, but lately has recorded a 23 percent increase in applications. You can't wish these things, you have to work at it, and we have.

"They" are all those who speak with the voice of cynicism, that most insidious form of insecurity. "They" are all those who doubt our own abilities to succeed, who spend their time talking about problems and not solutions. It is the duty of leadership to make the voices of faith drown out the voices of doubt. Leadership without limits.

As many people know, I work from a list of "things to accomplish". This list is more than a checklist -- it is a touchstone, a reminder of why I am here. I go to work early each day with a clear sense of what needs to be done, and why. This has been my road map, with many milestones along the way.

>> Complete a new audit of the university's finances.
>> Develop a plan for international education.
>> Review research infrastructure and create a development plan.
>> Reach out to community partners for Stage One of the development for that College Town in Manoa with 6,000-8,000 new dorm beds, including $30 million for a new Frear Hall.
>> Develop a new system-wide student information service to facilitate easier transfers of credit and financial aid between our campuses.
>> Initiate a new relationship between the university and state Department of Education -- an early childhood through college system.
>> Successfully achieve accreditation.
>> Develop a system-wide program for technology and distance learning.
>> Begin creation of an honors college within Manoa that will start brain drains in Berkeley, Seattle and Palo Alto, instead of vice versa.

All done.

Road to excellence

Yet one cannot mistake the map for the territory. Tasks such as these are never really finished -- they are markers on the road to excellence.

We defined the vision during the past two years. Now it's simply a matter of doing it. Projects are under way, the team is in place and a system was created out of a collection of parts.

The first breakthrough now will be to secure for the University of Hawaii a stable, accountable, community-engaged revenue base that will provide for the aspirations of our scholars and the health of the state.

This responsibility is not the state's alone. There is a new model for funding education, and that is partnership. And so during the next year, you will see an enhanced University of Hawaii Foundation.

You will see greater attention paid to the community of our alumni, half of whom report that they have never been contacted by the university to ask for their support. How many of you are UH alumni? The university is our common ground, and so it is the place where our common ambitions must begin.

The second breakthrough area will be the creation of a true global presence for the university. We will bring the world to Hawaii, and we will bring Hawaii to the world. I participated in an East-West Center conference in Asia and learned that I was the first UH president in history to do so. Not simply to participate in Asia -- I was the first to participate there with the East-West Center -- one of our constellation's brightest stars.

We now stand ready to be a strong and full partner to international universities of the first rank, significant partnerships that will signal to every student from the Ivy League to the PAC-10: If you want to understand where the world will be in your lifetime, come to Hawaii for at least a year -- if not your whole college education.

The university's first responsibility always will be to the people of this state, even those who are not yet our students. In partnership with state schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto, the DOE and Good Beginnings, we are creating a pre-K-through-20 integrated system of learning. We will engage educators from around Hawaii who are committed to best practices, we will build the bridges of cooperation that will connect every classroom in this state regardless of how high the desks are.

We are together. We are united under a common purpose. When we are united as such, there is no limit to our capacity to effect change and affect lives.

United in purpose

Approximately two months after I arrived, on an ordinary morning early in the fall semester, four jetliners were flown into the heart of America -- 9/11. We all remember how the smoke and confusion of that day lingered among us, in our homes and communities. From thousands of miles away, our eyes were burning.

Did Hawaii collapse?

No. We acted quickly and with vision.

We have withstood a storm of terrible proportions. And despite the blight that threatened business, and the perpetual political season, we have withstood it because we stood together. Any force that threatens that spirit is a force that can pull our communities apart. And any force that works in service of unity, of common interest and enlightened purpose is a force that moves us forward -- together.

At the University of Hawaii, transformation is under way and we have done it together.

Education is public policy's final frontier. It is the final frontier not because all other problems have been solved, but because it is fundamental to our exploration.

This past year, we all suffered the loss of one of the great women of Hawaii, Gladys Kamakakuokalani 'Ainoa Brandt. I will particularly remember "Auntie Gladys" for her guidance, humor, patience and perseverance. I am grateful to the Board of Regents for joining with me to name UH-Manoa's Center for Hawaiian Studies in her honor during her lifetime. I am fortunate to have known her and listened and learned well.

I am very proud that the efforts of so many have come together to provide significant advancements in the university these past two years. My most important role is to listen to all the often competing and sometimes conflicting voices. Then to work tirelessly with many dedicated people to provide the resources for a university that strives to meet the wide range of higher education needs of the state.

I am particularly energized when I meet with students and faculty on each of our 10 campuses in the various communities. This gives me a first-hand understanding of the real-life educational needs that we strive to meet. Regularly speaking to community groups also gives me a clear sense of the ideas and concerns that are of interest to various groups, and how the university can meet evolving needs.

This is a time of high energy and rising morale throughout UH on all our islands. I am enthusiastic that we can accomplish our goals because we are 180 degrees from where we started in terms of morale, momentum and enthusiasm. We have the vision. We now have the organization. Implementation of the plans we have established for UH will be the priority during the coming year.

I was asked to come to Hawaii to make change. We've done that in the name of every citizen of Hawaii. We have done it with resolve, humility and a grateful acceptance of "constructive" critique and comments by our constituent stakeholders.

The status quo has ended at UH and to those for whom the status quo works, change is unsettling; but to have remained where we were was to be derelict to the future of our state.


About this essay:

Last Sunday the Star- Bulletin published a stinging analysis of Evan Dobelle's first two years as president of the University of Hawaii. Written by four prominent community leaders and educators, the essay charged that Dobelle has excelled only at spending money and making empty promises.

They questioned his hiring of highly paid senior administrators and support staff while tuition has been raised, faculty pay raises delayed and academic programs left wanting. The authors said Dobelle has failed to live up to his commitments, including promises to raise funds for cost overruns on renovations to his home at College Hill and the ambitious plan to build a medical and research center in Kakaako.

Before coming to UH, Dobelle was president of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. Described as a vigorous and dynamic leader whose style pleases some and alienates others, he honed political skills during two terms as mayor of Pittsfield, Mass., and, at age 31, served on President Jimmy Carter's White House staff.

This essay -- a response to his critics -- is Dobelle's assessment of the university's progress during his two years leading the state's largest and most important educational institution.

-- Star-Bulletin


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