All posts by Campus Talk

“Warriors To Asia”

The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team plans a goodwill tour to Asia this summer.

The 15-day “Warriors To Asia” tour will include stops in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing in China and Tokyo and Osaka in Japan. The team will leave on August 6 and will return to Honolulu on August 21. During that time the team will play five international exhibition games and partake in numerous cultural activities, all the while building a valuable bridge between Asia and the University of Hawai’i.

For more information, visit

The Parvin Fellowship Program in Journalism Studies

University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw and Phyllis Parvin, president of the Albert Parvin Foundation.

The Parvin Fellowship Program in Journalism Studies builds international understanding through journalism training, advanced studies and U.S. cultural contacts for journalists from the People’s Republic of China.

University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw recently traveled to China with Phyllis Parvin to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Parvin Fellowship Program in Journalism Studies. Parvin is president of the Albert Parvin Foundation, which is the principal financial sponsor of the program at UH Mānoa.

Over the years, this pioneering program has yielded more than 200 Chinese journalists and hosts the largest number of journalists the PRC sends abroad as a group for training. A majority of Parvin Fellows have come from China Daily and the Xinhua News Agency.

For more information, visit

Top photo: University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw and Phyllis Parvin, president of the Albert Parvin Foundation, at China Daily.

Hawai’i Natural Energy Institute

The Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) was established to undertake and coordinate research and development of the island’s renewable energy resources. HNEI has an exceptional record of achievement, including spearheading the discovery and use of geothermal power in Hawai‘i, developing the technology to use biomass for energy, charcoal (photo at left) and high-value chemicals, and establishing the most comprehensive hydrogen program of any university in the nation.

In keeping with its mandate to develop alternatives to imported fossil fuels, HNEI has established a major fuel cell research and development program. This effort builds on HNEI’s highly successful research on hydrogen production from renewable resources and bolsters the State of Hawai‘i’s goals of reducing its heavy dependence on imported fossil fuels for electricity and transportation. Major research activities are conducted at the Hawai‘i Fuel Cell Test Facility, a state-of-the-art research facility to characterize fuel cell performance and reliability.

HNEI is also exploring technologies to harness wave and ocean thermal energy. Ocean thermal energy conversion, or OTEC, generates energy by harnessing the flow of heat from a reservoir of warm surface ocean water to a reservoir of cold water pumped from the deep ocean. HNEI studies show Hawai‘i’s leeward waters provide ideal conditions for OTEC energy production.

For more information, visit


Asian Theatre Program

The UH Mānoa Department of Theatre and Dance is home to the largest university-based Asian theatre program in the world and is renowned for its training programs.  With roots that reach back to 1923, the Asian Theatre Program today offers rigorous and exciting training and instruction in three areas—Japanese, Chinese, and South and Southeast Asian theatre.

The faculty experts in these fields are widely recognized and honored for their scholarship, creative work, and diligent service in designing and directing programs and productions which bring master artists from around the world into the department to train student performers, designers and musicians.  From these programs have resulted some of the most outstanding Asian theatre productions to be seen outside of their respective countries of origin.

Elizabeth Wichmann-Walczak, professor and director of the Asian Theatre program, was the first non-Chinese to perform Jingju in the People’s Republic of China and is the first honorary (and first non-Chinese) member of the National Xiqu (“Chinese opera”) Institute. She is also the recipient of Jingju’s Golden Chrysanthemum Award, the equivalent of America’s lifetime-achievement Tony Award, for outstanding achievements in promoting and developing Jingju.

For more information, visit

The Confucius Institute

“The verdant Hawai‘i Islands in their mid-Pacific location have for over two centuries played a siren song to travelers from the greatest land mass in East Asia. The earliest Chinese emigrants landed on Hawai‘i’s shores beginning in 1789, and built the first wooden structures around Honolulu harbor that are the forerunners of the business district of modern Honolulu. In 1879, a 13-year old Chinese boy landed on these same shores, and absorbed enough modern Western (Christian) education in Honolulu’s schools to topple the religious altars in his own home, and decades later, as Sun Yatsen, helped overthrow an empire to establish a democracy in his homeland.”

Given the prominence of these early connections between Hawai‘i and the Chinese, and the composition of Hawai‘i’s population, it is not surprising that by 1930 UH ranked third among U.S.colleges and universities in the number of Asia-related courses it offered.  Today, the university’s Center for Chinese Studies housed within the School of Pacific and Asian Studies, is the largest such research and training center outside of Asia.

The Confucius Institute at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa is a part of the university’s Center for Chinese Studies.  Funded by the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, it is operated jointly by UH Mānoa and the Beijing Foreign Studies University.  It was established on November 6, 2006, and tasked with responding to local and national needs in promoting education about Chinese language and culture,

For more information, visit

Feature: The piano and the professor

Mari Yoshihara

According to her piano teacher, the magnitude of what Mari Yoshihara did this spring is a feat akin to a novice runner who has never before run a 10k—who goes on to finish a marathon.  What did the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Professor of American Studies accomplish?   In May 2011, she entered, was accepted and competed in the Sixth Annual Van Cliburn International Competition for Outstanding Amateurs in Fort Worth, Texas, after not seriously studying piano since she was a teenager in Japan.

Now a 43-year-old scholar of U.S. cultural history in Honolulu, Yoshihara’s journey to the Cliburn contest dates back to her youth.  Born in New York City, Yoshihara grew up in Tokyo and began taking piano lessons at the tender age of three.  A self-proclaimed piano “nerd,” Yoshihara’s childhood memories were consumed by Hanon scales, Czerny etudes, Bach inventions, and Beethoven and Mozart sonatas.

When Yoshihara turned eleven, her father’s job at an import-export company transplanted her for three years in California, where she returned to the piano as a familiar source of support.  During this traverse of cultures and languages, she mulled entering a conservatory to seriously pursue music.  However, on her return to Japan as a young teen, Yoshihara’s self-identity transformed from “the girl who plays piano well” to “the girl who speaks English like an American.” 

As her intellectual prowess and political consciousness emerged, she veered off the musical path and enrolled at the elite University of Tokyo to earn a bachelor’s degree in American Studies.  Yoshihara pursued graduate studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, before garnering a teaching post at UH Mānoa in 1997. It was during graduate school that Yoshihara got a spinet, a small upright piano, and started playing occasionally. “By light of day, I was a liberal intellectual critiquing cultural imperialism,” she mused, “and in the dark of night, I would commune with dead white European men like Chopin and Rachmaninoff.”

Her professorial duties left little time for tickling the ivories until 2003, when Yoshihara integrated her previously separated proclivities for music and academia.  When not in the classroom, she wrote books on classical music, and again took up piano lessons under the tutelage of UH Mānoa Music Professor Thomas Yee.   

Then she learned about the Van Cliburn International Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, a prestigious annual contest open to 72 amateur pianists who were ages 35 or older.  Yoshihara decided to enter the 2011 event, believing such a lofty goal would push her to practice more systematically and aspire to a higher level of musicianship.  “For the several months leading up to the audition recording, I practiced about two or three hours a day.  Between the time that I learned I was accepted in late March 2011 and the May 23-29 competition itself, I averaged four hours a day.”

On taking the stage at Texas Christian University, Yoshihara recalls early nervousness, a brief memory lapse in the first of three pieces, and then a blissful blur.  “The instrument—a Hamburg Steinway D—was so wonderful that it was a sheer pleasure just experiencing the sound that came from touching it.” While hers may not have been a performance on par with other competitors, some of whom had degrees from Juilliard and the New England Conservatory, Yoshihara notes, “Alas, that is life! But just meeting and playing alongside all those people who were dedicated to music while living very full lives was truly a precious experience.  Everyone at Cliburn played with such love and character in addition to amazing technical proficiency.”

Yoshihara may not have won the race that day, but she certainly crossed the finish line on a marathon runner’s high. To view a video of her performance, see the website at  Contact Yoshihara at

Feature: Big news about microrobots

Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor Aaron Ohta

When the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa fielded its first team ever to compete in the annual National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Microrobotics Challenge—held in May 2011 in Shanghai, China—the Honolulu contingent made quite an impression among competitors from the mainland U.S., France, Italy and Canada.

Electrical engineering graduate students Wenqi Hu and Kelly Ishii finished second among seven teams in the challenge of building mobile robots smaller than 1 millimeter in size. Plus, they were members of the only team besides the winning one, University of Waterloo, that was able to assemble more than a single triangle in the micro-assembly challenge. “We were pleasantly surprised to do so well, because we didn’t have much time to work on this project,” said team advisor and Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor Aaron Ohta.

The stellar showing under Ohta’s tutelage was not surprising. The 1999 Kalani High graduate displayed youthful promise when, while enrolled at UH Mānoa in the early 2000s, Ohta was recognized by the national honor society Eta Kappa Nu as the top electrical engineering undergraduate in the U.S. The first UH engineering student to receive the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Ohta went on to earn his master’s from UCLA in 2004 and PhD from UC Berkeley in 2008, before returning to his alma mater to teach in 2009.

It was easy for Ohta to impart his enthusiasm for the world of microrobotics to Hu, Ishii and engineering student Michelle Zhang, who assisted in earlier stages of the project with Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor David Garmire. They were all fascinated by microrobots that are less than 0.6 millimeters in their largest dimension, which is no larger than the width of six strands of hair. UH Mānoa’s microrobot consisted of a very tiny air bubble inside a microchamber, whose surface was heated by a computer projector. The generated force propelled the microrobot, which in turn could move objects smaller than a millimeter in size.

At the Microrobotics Challenge in Shanghai, the tiny robots competed in miniature arenas under a microscope. The competition consisted of two events: a mobility challenge, in which the robots were timed as they moved around a figure-8 track; and a micro-assembly challenge, in which the robots assembled tiny triangles in a designated area. In a show of school spirit, the UH Mānoa team also assembled tiny glass beads into a “U” and a “H.” Go Warriors!

Ohta said the next steps for the campus, after securing a provisional patent, is to publish academic papers, apply for more research funding and, of course, to get ready for next year’s competition in St. Paul, Minnesota. He shared that future applications could include assembling small electrical components in circuit boards, positioning cells in in vitro laboratory dishes to study how cells interact, and building artificial organs. Now wouldn’t that be big news in microrobots! For more information, contact Ohta at (808) 956-8196 or

Top photo: UH Mānoa’s microrobot assembled tiny glass beads into a “U” and a “H.”

Electrical engineering graduate students Kelly Ishii, left, and Wenqi Hu placed second in the 2011 Microrobotics Challenge held in Shanghai, China.

Feature: A Korean-American’s quest

Christopher Bae during a visit to Hokkaido, Japan, where he was invited to give a presentation about his paleoanthropological research.

“So tell me, what’s your five-year plan?” It’s a question that occasionally stumps people when asked in job interviews, on college applications, and during beauty pageants. But for Dr. Christopher J. Bae, an assistant professor in the UH Mānoa Department of Anthropology and member of the Center for Korean Studies, the answer is easy—to use a $1.2 million research grant to conduct paleoanthropological (human evolution) research in Korea through the year 2015.

Awarded the prestigious grant by the Academy of Korean Studies in South Korea in 2010, Bae recently departed for Korea on his quest to reconstruct the past. The award is one of only six proposals in the world funded by the Academy’s Korean Studies Promotion Service (KSPS) division.

It was his unique life story that led to an interest in Anthropology. Born in Korea to Korean parents, Bae was orphaned at the age of one in Seoul. After living in an orphanage for six months, he was adopted by an American family. Thus, his awareness and interest in topics such as race and human variation stemmed from an early age growing up in a Caucasian-American household and neighborhood. In order to discover and understand his ethnic “roots,” Bae’s curiosity took him back to Seoul during his undergraduate studies at Yonsei University on an exchange program.

While his main objective in visiting Korea was initially to reconstruct his own past, Bae has since expanded his focus to address a variety of questions about East Asian paleoanthropology. Besides Korea, Bae has been conducting paleoanthropological field and laboratory research in Japan and China as well. A man of diversity, he has been carrying out collaborative research on a diversity of projects (e.g., hominin fossils, vertebrate taphonomy, lithics) in all three countries.

Bae attributes having spent a good part of his time living and becoming acclimated with each country’s particular culture as facilitating the development of his strong network of collaborators and collaborations. “From the accumulated experience, I believe that the best way to develop a firm understanding of the human evolutionary record in East Asia is to link the hominin morphological and behavioral records,” noted Bae. “As such, my current research interests crosscut different subdisciplines in anthropology and other scientific fields.”

Titled “The Earliest Peopling of the Korean Peninsula: Current Multidisciplinary Perspectives,” Bae’s $1.2 million project will develop an active long-term research program in Korea to facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of eastern Asian human evolution during prehistory. “In particular, this project will integrate datasets from different social and natural science fields to reconstruct a synthetic view of human evolution in the region,” explained Dr. Bae, a resident of Mānoa Valley.

The research project is multidisciplinary in nature, and involves close collaboration with scientists from various institutions in Korea, England and the United States. The proposal was strongly supported by the UH Mānoa’s Department of Anthropology, College of Social Sciences, and the Center for Korean Studies. And though Bae’s project in Korea may end in five years, his journey of self-discovery remains infinite.

For more information, contact Dr. Bae at

Top photo: Christopher Bae looks for hominin fossil sites during a survey in Guangxi Province, China, in 2008.

Feature: A study in peace

“Hiroshima and Peace” students engage in a group discussion at Hiroshima City University.

Summer usually signifies the start of fun, sun and a break from school.  But, for a group of select university students from over a dozen countries, a sliver of their “time off” is devoted to studying one of the most horrific memories in modern-day history.  Every summer, on the ten days leading up to the annual commemoration of the August 6, 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, 25 college students from Japan and 25 counterparts from around the world meet at Hiroshima City University for an intensive two-week course.

Titled “Hiroshima and Peace,” the course has hosted dozens of University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa students who, since 2004, enroll for class credit in Japan but end up reliving history.  They participate through the Hiroshima and Peace Summer Study Program offered by the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution.  This summer, four UH Mānoa students—with majors ranging from Asian Studies to Dance & Peace Studies to Secondary Education—will travel to Hiroshima, and totally immerse themselves in the Japanese culture by living with host families.

The goal of the brief but intense stay is to provide enrollees with a general understanding of the nature and attributes of war and peace, by illuminating aspects of wartime experiences, including the historic atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  At the same time, they explore contemporary issues related to world peace in an era of globalization.  Supplementing the class lectures and activities will be outings including a visit to the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, which has been studying the effects of radiation on the hibakusha (the survivors) since 1945; a trip to the Peace Museum, where belongings left by the victims, photos, and other materials that convey the horror of the bombing on Hiroshima can be viewed; and attendance at a Peace Park ceremony on the morning of August 6.  Considered the emotional highlight is hearing testimony from one of the hibakusha, who go back in time when recounting their experiences from that fateful day.  “The calmness of the hibakusha’s voice retelling their personal story of that August day makes atomic bombings both more real and less real at the same time,” recalls Brien Hallett, associate professor and academic advisor at the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution.

“‘Hiroshima and Peace’ is a course unlike any other,” said Hallett.  “Each summer, it brings together students from all over the world from different backgrounds to confront the great tragedy of the atomic bombings and a selection of other security and social justice issues.”  Added Jase Chun of Kaua‘i, who participated in the program in August 2008 and graduated this past semester, “I’ve taken many courses during my five years at UH Mānoa, but the one that will always stand out is ‘Hiroshima and Peace.’  It was life-changing, to say the least, and placed you at the site of the greatest tragedy ever to befall mankind.”

For more information on “Hiroshima and Peace,” and the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution, contact Brien Hallett at (808) 956-4236 or

Top photo: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Dome located at Peace Park.

Lantern Floating Hawaii
A Lantern Floating ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park every Memorial Day in May honors those who gave their lives in conflict, allows for reflection on the memories of loved ones and dedicates prayers for a peaceful and harmonious future. Photo courtesy of Lantern Floating Hawaii, officiated by Shinnyo-en Buddhist Order.

Feature: Building on the Hawai‘i-China connection

A group of UH Mānoa School of Architecture students, under the direction of Assistant Professor Kris Palagi, participate in a design charrette.

The worldwide allure of studying architectural design and theory in foreign countries has cajoled many aspiring architects to toil in classrooms while yearning to travel and study abroad.  Now University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa students need only go as far as the front steps of the School of Architecture Building.  Drafted plans to offer a dual graduate degree in Architecture—in partnership with Tongji University’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning in Shanghai, China—will become reality in Fall 2012.

Not only may Mānoa students with a pre-professional degree in Architecture elect to participate in the three-year global track/China focus, but those successfully completing it can obtain a National Board of Architectural Education (NBAE of China) Master of Architecture degree from Tongji University, and NAAB (National Architectural Accrediting Board) Doctor of Architecture degree at Mānoa as well.

No other institutional partnership in the world offers accredited professional architectural degrees in the world’s two largest construction economies—the U.S. and China.  Said an excited Spencer Leineweber, FAIA, chair of the Architecture graduate program at Mānoa, “This innovative, timely, and empowering dual-degree track, for American students and their Chinese classmates, builds upon this School’s proud 35-year history. Also, this dual-track derives directly from the 2010 Vision Statement and Strategic Plan that identifies aspirations to pre-eminence in the Asia and Pacific Region, with a corresponding curricular focus.”

The international partnership builds yet another bridge between the Far East and the most western part of the U.S., where Hawai‘i’s pre-statehood history includes Chinese immigrant plantation workers.  UH Mānoa is the only American school of architecture in the Pacific region, and the sole in the nation where a majority of the student body consists of Asian and Pacific Islander minority groups.  Likewise, almost 5,000 miles away, Tongji University is one of the leading universities directly under the State Ministry of Education in China. Among its peer colleges, Tongji’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning boasts a comprehensive range of programs, including an architecture and urban planning post-doctoral mobile station that is the first of its kind in China.

Together, both schools are on the fast track to graduating architects who are appreciative of pioneering design and function from a global point-of-view.  The dual graduate Architecture degrees will become the newest connection linking Hawai‘i and China—both historically and now into the future.

For more information, visit or contact Spencer Leineweber at (808) 956-8724 or

 Top photo:  The School of Architecture Building on the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa campus.