Recognizing the dedication and service of UH Mānoa faculty, staff, and students committed to enhancing the University’s mission of excellence.
The 2023 UH Mānoa Awards Ceremony honored our award winners on May 1st at Kennedy Theatre.
You can also see photos of the honorees on our Flickr page.
- Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching
- Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research
- Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
- Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for a Graduate Assistant
- Robert W. Clopton Award for Distinguished Community Service
- Presidential Citation for Meritorious Teaching
- Presidential Award for Outstanding Service
- Dr. Amefil “Amy” Agbayani Faculty Diversity Enhancement Award
- Peter V. Garrod Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award
- Outstanding Academic Advisor / Advising Unit Award
- Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research & Creative Work
- Student Excellence in Research Award
- Student Employee of the Year Award
Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching
The Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching is awarded by the Board of Regents as tribute to faculty members who exhibit an extraordinary level of subject mastery and scholarship, teaching effectiveness and creativity, and personal values that benefit students.
Rosanna Alegado is an associate professor of oceanography in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). Her work involves meaningful academic collaborations and partnerships with Indigenous communities. She led SOEST’s significant curriculum revision toward a required immersive course to ground all incoming graduate students in an understanding of working as marine biologists within Hawaiian culture. Its success has been recognized by the National Science Foundation with multi-year funding to foreground Indigenous knowledge, practices and values, and to transform and Indigenize higher education in STEM. Alegado is regarded as an influential educator for other teaching faculty, as well as her students. She stated, “By challenging my students to integrate multiple didactic frameworks, one can achieve the most comprehensive understanding of a subject.” Her colleagues say that “Rosie is not popular by being easy,” and that “her efforts are the epitome of teaching exceptionalism.”
Tammy Hailiʻōpua Baker
Tammy Haili’ōpua Baker is an associate professor of theatre and dance in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters. A steward of Indigenous knowledge, she fulfilled that kuleana (responsibility) by building the Hawaiian Theatre Program, the only one of its kind focused primarily on performance. A colleague who’s also been her student in Hawaiian language views the experience of acting in her productions as a master class in pedagogy. “Professor Baker is continually supporting students and others in the production of 40 performers in speaking and singing lines individually and collectively. [She was] clearly the director throughout, nevertheless each actor (students) and production staff (teachers) were all made to feel their work was necessary and appreciated.” Baker is internationally recognized, the first from Hawaiʻi to receive the Kennedy Center’s Medallion of Excellence. A reviewer of her plays describes them as “guides to restoring language and reclaiming the stories of generations of Indigenous populations; gifts to a culture whose language and history have been suppressed. Her transformative work shines through the passion, voice and aloha spirit of her students.”
Richard C. Chen
Richard Chen is an associate professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law. He brings patience and empathy to all his interactions with students, never assuming the problem is with the students. This tenet is a teaching practice that extends into a way of modeling for the students as they enter the profession of law, as lawyers who seek to listen, learn and improve throughout their careers. A cohort of 19 evening students for four straight semesters signed an enthusiastic letter of support for Chen, stating they “collectively hope that our endorsement can begin to illuminate our appreciation of his talents as an educator and the positive impact he made during the formative stages of our legal education.” A colleague stated, “Who wouldn’t want to be in his classes? He is a professor whose empathy, kindness, brilliance and skill shine through in everything he does and it is elevating, inspirational and contagious.”
Monica LaBriola is an assistant professor of history in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters. Her work focuses on engaging, yet challenging approaches to the area of Pacific studies, at the forefront of instructional excellence at UH Mānoa, while touching lives beyond the academic community. At public forums and conferences, LaBriola draws diverse cultural workers passionate about the Pacific region as well as academics. Her guidance and vision on the development of resources in this area is praised by a colleague, who said that LaBriola’s editorship of Teaching Oceania has impacted education across Hawaiʻi, the Pacific, nationally and internationally. She initiated and led two cohorts of Women in Pacific Studies, and is lauded by colleagues and students for successfully supporting the education of the student community experiencing the least educational equity at UH Mānoa and across the UH System. A cohort member wrote, “Professor LaBriola acknowledges the complexity of the university and encourages us to continue in academia while also dreaming of alternatives to knowledge production and dissemination.”
Summer Maunakea is an assistant professor in curriculum studies in the College of Education. She grounds her teaching practices in academic rigor, agency and aloha. A colleague described observing her as “expertly weaving place-based teaching and learning, ‘āina (land)-based education and stewardship and Indigenous epistemology and practice.” She holds herself to high expectations as a teacher, knowing her instruction must have a positive intergenerational impact for students to grow holistically into healthy individuals capable of making pono (righteous) decisions and contributing to their communities. A graduate student reflected, “For me, this is what love looks like in education. The love and community that Professor Maunakea cultivates in the classroom supports immense intellectual experimentation and risk taking. I am immensely grateful for her teaching.” To a senior colleague, her teaching, research and service are considered to be “visionary, meaningfully advocating for Indigenous education, sustainability, eco-justice, inclusive outdoor education and school-community partnerships.”
Alexander Stokes is an assistant professor of cell and molecular biology at the John A. Burns School of Medicine. They developed practices to create inclusive, rigorous classroom settings with each student fully engaged. One method, Problem-Based Learning, values students directing their own learning, developing team-learning skills and assuming very active roles in their education. Stokes developed a tool kit for inclusive pedagogy reflecting under-represented, predominantly female, low-income, first-generation students in undergraduate classes. A student said, “Professor Stokes utilizes a cutting-edge hybrid teaching style that unlocks students’ intellectual potential by acting as a conductor of a symphony in a collaborative learning orchestra. I was imbued with a passion and was inspired to further academic pursuits.” A colleague said, “Alex is that professor, the one who transports students to a new view of themselves. Stokes is a leader in pedagogical innovation at the interface between biology, biomedicine and data science education in Hawaiʻi.”
Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research
The Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research is awarded by the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents in recognition of scholarly contributions that expand the boundaries of knowledge and enrich the lives of students and the community.
Kenneth C. Chambers
Kenneth C. Chambers is an astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy and principal investigator and founding director of the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) located on Haleakalā. He and the Pan-STARRS team have had a huge impact on astronomy with discoveries from the solar system to cosmology. These include thousands of near-Earth asteroids, hundreds of Kuiper belt objects, dozens of comets and ʻOumuamua—the first interstellar object scientists have tracked. By surveying the sky repeatedly, they discovered new classes of super-luminous and under-luminous supernovae, and the first convincing case of a tidally disrupted star spiraling into a supermassive black hole. They discovered billions of new galaxies providing clues to the large-scale structure of the universe. Chambers and his team made crucial measurements of the first binary neutron star merger found with gravity waves, contributing proof that these events are the origin of the heavy elements. He has authored 250 publications with 28,000 citations. Chambers is a 1999 recipient of the Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching.
Jeffrey Drazen is a professor in the Department of Oceanography in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. He joined the UH Mānoa faculty in 2004. Drazen is recognized internationally for his research on food-webs and communities of the open ocean and deep sea, particularly fishes. His work and that of his students and postdocs has helped elucidate the energetic strategies of deep-sea fishes, identified important pathways in deep-sea food webs and explored the ecology of hadal trenches, the deepest ecosystem on earth. His research has helped evaluate the environmental risks of deep-sea mining, a topic of critical interest as companies and countries look to the ocean to supply battery metals needed for the “green transition.” He has authored and co-authored more than 130 scientific articles and book chapters, received more than $20 million in research grants and has participated in more than 60 research cruises with more than 1,000 days at sea, often as chief scientist.
Shadia Rifai Habbal
Shadia Rifai Habbal is a professor of astronomy at the Institute for Astronomy. She joined the UH Mānoa faculty in 2005 and is best known for her seminal contributions to the field of solar and heliospheric physics, which encompasses the outer atmosphere of the Sun, the solar corona and its expansion as the solar wind into interplanetary space. Habbal is recognized for her scientific insight to capitalize on the unique observing opportunities available during total solar eclipses. She established the Solar Wind Sherpas, the largest international team to carry out eclipse observations. She and her team have made game changing discoveries by unraveling the solar wind originates throughout the corona from sources at 1.2 million degrees. The processes that control that temperature remain unknown. These observations are enabling the identification of processes responsible for the corona reaching temperatures at least three orders of magnitude larger than that of the solar surface, and for exploring the origin of the frequent explosions in the corona which travel into interplanetary space with detrimental consequences for Earth’s satellites and power grids.
Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
The Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for a faculty and a graduate assistant recognizes dedication and demonstrated excellence as teachers of undergraduate students. It was established as a memorial to the late Frances Davis, who taught mathematics at Leeward Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa for 19 years.
Kalikoaloha Martin is an instructor in the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language at the Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge. He encourages students, including undergraduate and graduate students and faculty colleagues pursuing Hawaiian language proficiency, to get uncomfortable with trying out their ‘ōlelo, until they get comfortable. Through this practice, he realized that “unbeknownst to me, collectively stepping outside of their comfort zone, students depend on one another, deepen their friendships with their classmates, and foster rapport that is unbreakable.” A student wrote, “as a leader, Kumu Kalikoaloha’s great strength is his ability to empower others to lead.” A colleague who teaches the next level Hawaiian language shares first-hand knowledge that Kalikoaloha’s students consistently excel, leaving his class with a well-grounded grasp of the language and culture and a spark of energy to continue further. Another colleague who studies with him reflects, “this course is difficult, and it is also very clear. What makes it rise above the rest is Kalikoaloha himself.”
Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for Graduate Teaching Assistants
Manca Sustarsic is a PhD candidate in education with a concentration in educational foundations in the College of Education. She is a passionate educator with a commitment to cultivating critically minded, culturally sensitive and empathetic members of society. Sustarsic has teaching experience at the K–12 and college levels. In 2022, she taught an advanced undergraduate course, Education in American Society, in which students explored the historical, political and sociocultural contexts of education. She ensured that her curriculum and lessons drew connections to education history, culture-based learning and current issues in education in Hawaiʻi. Sustarsic’s teaching philosophy centers around fostering learners’ critical consciousness, collaboration and respect for diversity. She strives to create a classroom environment inclusive of a diverse group of learners who each contribute to our intellectual growth and cultural sensitivity with their unique experiences and perspectives. After taking Sustarsic’s class, students expressed they felt one step closer to becoming the teachers they wanted to be. They appreciated her passion for education, and her ability to make complex topics engaging.
Robert W. Clopton Award for Distinguished Community Service
The Robert W. Clopton Award for Distinguished Community Service recognizes a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa faculty member for playing a socially significant role by applying intellectual leadership and academic expertise to the improvement of the community. The award was established as a memorial to longtime UH Mānoa College of Education Professor Robert Clopton and first awarded in 1977.
Chet-Yeng Loong is a professor of music in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters. While sustaining exemplary academic scholarship and teaching, she leaves a legacy to Hawaiʻi as a creative force in music education, expression and experience. Her career as a professor has been a focused endeavor to educate and inspire generations of young students and music educators through teaching and mentoring, as well as through spearheading of multiple initiatives. Loong’s creation of innovative resources on multicultural music education with an emphasis on Asian and Pan Pacific materials contributes to the promotion of culturally responsive teaching and learning, and exemplifies the value of servant leadership in a way that extends her influence beyond the classrooms of the university, as former students attest. Many local music educators speak of the national and international demands on Loong as a music education clinician. One of them said, “We are grateful for Professor Chet-Yeng Loong’s contributions to the music community, and to be able to call her one of our own.”
Presidential Citation for Meritorious Teaching
The Presidential Citation for Meritorious Teaching recognizes University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa faculty members who have made significant contributions to teaching and student learning.
Mary Shin Kim
Mary Shin Kim is an associate professor of East Asian languages and literatures in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters. She designs courses to fulfill students’ intellectual interests and passions and provides professional training for future employment and careers. A colleague reported that “because her research and teaching are so intimately and effectively integrated, she must be one of the most prolific researchers in the department, possibly in the college.” One practice in Kim’s classes is to examine programming for multilingual subtitling practices, their discursive functions and motivations and analyze linguistic and cultural ideologies embedded in them. A colleague wrote that “student evaluations of Dr. Kim’s courses are eloquent testimonials to her excellence in teaching, care for her students and encouragement of their academic as well as personal growth.” A student noted, “Professor Kim treats her own learning as a lifelong process—an extremely admirable quality that I yearn to possess as I work toward becoming a professor myself.”
Hannah-Hanh Nguyen is an associate professor of management and industrial relations in the Shidler College of Business. She holds two concepts at the heart of her teaching: transference of learning outcomes to real-life settings, and collaboration and team citizenship. Her team-based classroom environment allows undergraduate students to learn from both her and their peers through formal and informal class exchanges—team presentations, debates, discussions, study groups—and ensures students have the opportunity to take ownership of their knowledge acquisition and application. A student employed in the field of human resources said that “despite the challenging nature of my current role, what propels me to persevere is my constant reference to my experience in Dr. Nguyen’s classes.” Impacts of her teaching extend from local to international realms. A colleague wrote, “Whether it be undergraduates at Shidler College of Business or top Vietnam executives in our VEMBA program, Dr. Nguyen’s breadth of knowledge, commanding personality and established teaching record indicates she could teach to any student audience.”
Kevin Nute is a professor in the School of Architecture. He is described as embodying an encyclopedic knowledge of architectural history combined with having a relaxed demeanor, guiding students toward a quest for knowledge. A colleague observed his classroom responses as open-ended and informal, creating a sense that he is speaking with students, rather than to, or at them. Nute’s expansive work on the migration of forms across cultures steers students in differentiating between benign creative inspiration and potentially damaging cultural appropriation. He has a passion for natural architecture, primarily through natural resources, and believes there is a direct correlation between the resonance of buildings with the public and the extent to which their designers have understood something about humanity in general. He encourages students to develop an approach to design inclusive of related disciplines through collaborative teaching. A colleague said that “it is obvious architecture holds an incomparable place in his heart which shines through everything he does.”
Jayson Parba is an instructor of Indo-Pacific languages and literature in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters. He takes a critical stance in teaching Filipino language and culture. Aware of existing criticisms of the curriculum and teaching practices in many heritage and world language programs, he strives to build students’ critical language awareness. Through reflective practices, Parba has discovered that students find learning more meaningful through greater interaction with teachers and amongst their peers. A former student praised him as a true language teacher, one who not only knows the language but is trained in the theories and methodologies of language acquisition: “Under his tutelage, I felt the pace of my progress increasing rapidly.” Parba is described as a sophisticated thinker and a serious scholar with immense patience in the classroom where learning is a collaborative process. A colleague wrote, “His ideas not only promote a just society; they open students’ minds and motivate them to envision a better world. His generosity of spirit is a breath of fresh air in the department.”
Tyler Ray is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering. He reflects on the immense challenges faced by students in his field—including clean water, energy production and healthcare—and the necessity to devise transformative solutions through the integration of diverse and interdisciplinary concepts and perspectives. His training in Design Thinking has informed the teaching practice of “failing fast,” encouraging creative problem-solving through “safe” failure followed by rapidly iterating on ideas and ultimately achieving success. His colleagues view him as a true innovator in developing engaging courses to empower and equip students for future career success. A student commented, “We were pushed to make an idea reality, building our collective ability in a team rather than solo,” and “while it was a lot of work, Professor Ray made all work and learning feel ever more important.” A colleague expressed, “Dr. Ray is in no uncertain terms, one of the most talented, passionate and dedicated educators we have had in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.”
Jamie Simpson Steele
Jamie Simpson Steele is a professor in the Institute for Teacher Education in the College of Education. She teaches through engagement in aesthetic experiences by creating, performing and responding to the arts. Her students—teacher candidates in field courses in classroom settings—are guided in K-6 pedagogy while exploring their own teaching practices. A colleague wrote that Steele “infuses her courses with a level of creativity that makes learning enjoyable for the teacher candidates as they learn the high-leverage effective teaching strategies that we model.” One student reflected, “A field supervisor that gives so much support makes me feel I’m not alone through my journey to become a teacher, and hope that one day I’ll be able to do the same for future generations.” Other students expressed, “Not only does she make learning engaging, she knows exactly how to challenge her students,” and “Jamie Simpson Steele has already earned the Teacher Excellence Award in my heart.”
Presidential Award for Outstanding Service
The Presidential Award for Outstanding Service honors a UH Mānoa staff member who demonstrates outstanding work performance, service and leadership.
Administrative, Professional, and Technical
Megan “Maggie” McGehee
Megan “Maggie” McGehee is the campus scheduler with the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Excellence. McGehee works with the 80+ UH Mānoa departments to build the 3,000+ course sections each semester, coordinating with faculty and staff to assign classrooms and build the schedule based on a myriad of criteria and changing needs. Since 2019, she has set in motion and facilitated initiatives needed during and post pandemic. Described as a superhero or called “Maggie the Magnificent,” McGehee had the unprecedented challenge of creating course schedules for faculty and students during the pandemic, dealing with evolving CDC recommendations and UH policy updates. In addition, she implemented a new scheduling platform, Coursedog, and has provided expertise to consultants and facilities to better understand class use patterns to leverage and maximize student learning. She has steadfastly advocated for what is best for students and faculty. Her grace, professionalism and a “killer” sense of humor makes even the most difficult situations bearable.
Buildings and Grounds Management
Siausage “Sonny” Ugaitafa
Siausage “Sonny” Ugaitafa is an equipment operator with Campus Operations. Ugaitafa has 35 years of service and is recognized for his exceptional efforts in making the campus 100% sustainable by processing all green waste into mulch. His expertise on the forestry tub grinder has allowed the campus to go from 30% of green waste in 2010, to 70% in 2017, to now 100% reusable mulch. Mulch provides nutrients back into landscape and provides water retention material, supporting a healthy landscape including during water reduction periods. Such efforts in reusable mulch operations over the years have resulted in millions of gallons and financial savings of $500,000 a year, to support the larger landscaping department goals. Ugaitafa’s efforts to have centralized areas for pick up and removal of green waste piles, have helped teams to remove debris and clear areas in a safe and timely manner. He is attentive and thoughtful in his operations and a delightful team member. Ugaitafa remains vigilant to safety and supports the aesthetic standards, accessibility and plant health and biosecurity.
Elaine Nakahashi is a secretary in the Anthropology Department with 40 years of service. Her loyalty, cheerful personality and encyclopedic knowledge has built a continuity of excellence and allowed the department to navigate change. Nakahashi has created an efficient, well-organized online archive of resources essential for her department by utilizing the digital revolution, yet graciously helping those who have challenges with technology, assisting faculty to navigate the change with both professionalism and heart. Former chairs have described her as the pillar of the department and critical for their success in their position. Nakahashi has been described as the “emotional support system” for chairs and departmental teams, making a huge difference in the workplace culture by her sincerity and genuine approach to work and personal matters. She was nominated by the numerous chairs and faculty she has served over the decades, all recognizing the significant impact she has had on their department and in their professional and personal lives.
Thomas Tsutsumoto is a junior specialist with the Mānoa Career Center. The center partners with both on-campus and off-campus employers to empower UH Mānoa students to engage in career life planning through awareness, exploration, experience and reflection. His assistance to students over the years includes teaching them how to develop resumes and cover letters, assisting with CVs or personal statements, guiding them through internship and job searches, preparing them for interviews, and helping them plan for graduate school. His nominator described him as going “above and beyond” to help students and recent alumni in the transition to careers and jobs. Tsutsumoto has impacted the lives of the students and alumni in a lasting and meaningful way. He has especially assisted students from Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities to successfully pursue higher education and embark on their career paths. He is able to “meet people where they’re at” with an affable, easygoing demeanor and warmth that makes you feel as though he’s an old friend.
Dr. Amefil “Amy” Agbayani Faculty Diversity Enhancement Award
The Dr. Amefil “Amy” Agbayani Faculty Diversity Enhancement Award from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Commission on Inclusion and Diversity recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to enhancing diversity. The award was established to recognize Agbayani’s lifetime commitment to diversity and social justice in Hawaiʻi. For more than 40 years, she served as the founder and director of the Office of Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity.
Winona K. Lee
Winona K. Lee is an associate professor and director of the ʻImi Hoʻōla Post-Baccalaureate Program at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM). Her journey as a first-generation Native Hawaiian and Filipino college student to becoming a primary care pediatrician, teacher and mentor fuels her passion to expand and sustain diverse and inclusive programs that offer high quality education, disseminate critical research, and provide mentoring for underrepresented and disadvantaged student populations. Lee has co-authored 19 journal articles in medical education research with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusive practices for underrepresented and Indigenous students and first editor and chapter author of Hoʻi Hou Ka Mauli Ola: Pathways to Native Hawaiian Health. As director of the ʻImi Hoʻōla Post-Baccalaureate Program and principal investigator of the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence within the Medical Education Division of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health, she has garnered $16 million in extramural funding to support diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at JABSOM.
Peter V. Garrod Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award
Established by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Graduate Division in 2005, the Peter V. Garrod Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award allows graduate students to nominate faculty for excellent mentoring, one of the foundations of outstanding graduate education.
Kathryn L. Braun
Kathryn L. Braun is a professor in the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health, where she is the Barbara Cox Anthony Endowed Chair of Aging. She has mentored more than 100 doctoral students across campus since joining the graduate faculty in the 1990s, and has served as the graduate chair of the PhD in public health program since 2008. Braun has a long history of mentoring students and faculty through federally funded center grants, including ‘Imi Hale Native Hawaiian Cancer Network, the National Research Mentoring Network, UH’s PIKO Center for Translational Research and Ola HAWAII, UH’s Research Center in Minority Institutions. She also serves as principal investigator of Hā Kūpuna National Resource Center for Native Hawaiian Elders, documenting elders’ personal stories of struggle, resilience, success and meaning. She loves teaching and is a past winner of a UH Board of Regents Medal for Excellence in Teaching.
Pakela Award for Outstanding Academic Advisor of the Year
The Council of Academic Advisors recognizes an individual or unit who, over the past two years, has demonstrated excellence and/or innovation in advising, and/or has made a significant contribution to the advising community.
Siobhán Ní Dhonacha
Siobhán Ní Dhonacha is a faculty specialist/academic advisor in the UH Mānoa Honors Program. A first-generation student from Dublin, Ireland, Ní Dhonacha wears a number of hats. She advises, teaches, mentors, is a journal editor, engages with curriculum and program development and recruitment. Student-centered advising/teaching pedagogy, ethics of care, LGBTQIA+ advocacy, active commitment to a Native Hawaiian Place of Learning and faculty collaboration with colleagues locally, nationally and internationally are key signatures of Ní Dhonacha’s work. She has served on the Mānoa Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Policy and Planning for four years, was chair of the Council of Academic Advisors, chair of the Excellence in Academic Advising Institutional Commitment Committee and EAA 2019 Conference. Ní Dhonacha serves on the UH Mānoa Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center Design Team. She conceived of and worked to implement (with kōkua of partner stakeholders) important structural changes such as Early Invitation, STAR Honors Pathway/Course Program of Study and Regents and Presidential Scholars academic integration into Honors to build belonging and pilina (relationships) in an academic hui.
Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research & Creative Work
The Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research and Creative Work was created in 2020 by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Scholarship. The award recognizes up to two tenured/tenure-track faculty mentors each academic year (one from a STEM discipline, and one from a non-STEM discipline) who have shown dedicated and sustained excellence in faculty mentoring of undergraduate students in their research and creative work endeavors.
Wendy Kawabata is a professor of art and the associate chair and undergraduate advisor for the Department of Art & Art History. She teaches courses in drawing, painting and color theory. Her research is influenced by and responds to multiple materials and disciplines, such as feminism, literature and social justice. Kawabata brings this interdisciplinary involvement with her into the classroom. Along with her own experiences, she brings a desire to offer each student the appropriate practical and theoretical tools they will need in order to continue their education beyond their time as a member of a learning institution. One student wrote, “Wendy has high standards that are not beyond the reach of the students. I appreciated the support and challenge. Under her guidance, I have grown as an artist and a person.”
Craig Nelson is an associate researcher in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, jointly appointed to the Department of Oceanography and UH Sea Grant College. His laboratory group in the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education is focused on aquatic ecosystem ecology specializing in the structure and function of natural bacterial communities in diverse habitats such as coral reefs, lakes, streams and the open ocean. His students train in culture-independent metagenomic characterization of natural microbial communities and measurement of biogeochemical processes regulated by these microbes. He is actively involved in promoting undergraduate research programs at UH Mānoa, including mentoring diverse student projects and serving on the steering committees of the Global Environmental Science program and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Council. His students work on many projects serving the state, including coastal wastewater pollution and the emerging Red Hill crisis.
Student Excellence in Research Award
The Student Excellence in Research Award is given by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research in recognition of outstanding scholarly research endeavors by students while they pursue a degree at the doctoral, master’s or bachelor’s level.
Jason Hinkle is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Astronomy. Since joining the graduate program in 2019, Hinkle’s research has covered a range of topics studying the various ways that supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies feed and grow. He has 10 first-author publications submitted or published, including a single-author paper. These papers cover topics in active galactic nuclei (steadily accreting supermassive black holes), tidal disruption events (when a star is ripped apart by a supermassive black hole), and flares from the centers of galaxies that do not neatly fall into either class. His research earned him an ARCS Scholar award in 2022. Hinkle has co-mentored four students in the Research Experience for Undergraduates program over the past three summers on topics ranging from studying flares on low-mass stars to identifying new active galactic nucleus through variability, resulting in two papers. He actively participates in numerous public outreach programs throughout Hawaiʻi, including a focus on engaging high school students in STEM research in the Hawaiʻi Student/Teacher Astronomy Research and Maunakea Scholars programs.
Xiaojie (Sherry) Xu
Xiaojie (Sherry) Xu is a PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering. Xu joined her PhD program and the Laboratory of Biocolloids and Biointerfaces in 2018. Her research focuses on a highly interdisciplinary area where engineering, physics, chemistry and ophthalmology meet. The objective of her dissertation research is to develop novel experimental methods for studying the biophysical mechanisms responsible for the stability of tear film. Disturbance of the tear film leads to dry eye disease, a ubiquitous condition that affects 10–30% of the world’s population. To date, Xu has published 12 peer-reviewed journal papers. She is the leading author for six of these publications, including papers in Biophysical Journal and Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. In addition, she has contributed one book chapter and has given 10 oral and poster presentations at international conferences. The College of Engineering recognized Xu’s research with its Outstanding PhD Student Award in 2022.
Student Employee of the Year Award
The Student Employee of the Year Program was created in 1986 by the Mānoa Career Center to recognize and highlight the achievements and contributions of student employees on the UH Mānoa campus.
Binierose Cacho is a special programs coordinator in Enrollment Management. A senior double majoring in economics and psychology, she will be graduating this spring. Cacho has worked in the Office of Enrollment Management for just over a year, but in that time has made significant improvements to admissions services for potential students and their families, a publicly available chatbot and Veterans benefits. Her work on these projects, data analysis and making recommendations for improvement, has greatly impacted the entire university community.