Skip to content

Recognizing the dedication and service of UH Mānoa faculty, staff, and students committed to enhancing the University’s mission of excellence.

The 2024 UH Mānoa Awards Ceremony was held on May 8th at Kennedy Theatre.

You can also see photos of the honorees on our Flickr page.

Congratulations to all our winners!

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.

Sothy Eng

Sothy EngSothy Eng is an associate professor of human development and family studies in the College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources. Eng observed from his required office visits with students how their education fits into their complex lives. From that, he enhanced his course requirements, and gained a heightened sense of empathy toward students and the families and communities from which they came. The insights of educator Paulo Freire resonate with Eng: “The teacher is no longer merely the one-who-teaches but who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught, also teach…jointly responsible for a process in which we all grow.” A student expressed, “Professor Eng and the students made it such an amazing class, a welcoming space” and “Little did I know his class would spark my future career goals of increasing the community’s access to food security and sovereignty.” Colleagues praise him for inspiring students to be collaborative, creative and respectful, and consider him “a role model among his peers, ceaselessly energetic, professionally dynamic, and abundant in his aloha.”

Kristiana Kahakauwila

Kristiana KahakauwilaKristiana Kahakauwila is an associate professor of English in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters. For Kahakauwila, a teaching philosophy rooted in choice is one rooted in kuleana—in responsibility, privilege and a sense of ownership. Her teaching leans into analysis of how a work is shaped, and from where it takes its inspiration in the context of race, gender, sexuality, ability, Indigeneity and other lived experiences. Her students express an experience of being treated not “only as students but as writers and readers. She gives us a chance to grow and progress, first and foremost, as artists.” Her innovative pedagogical technique includes asking students to take up the mantle of instructor at least once each term. A former graduate student describes Kahakauwila as a “devoted, kind and brilliant teacher who challenged students in a way that was joyful and meaningful.”

Martina Kamaka

Martina KamakaMartina Kamaka is an associate professor in the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence. Colleagues credit her with being at the forefront of training medical students in patient-centered care and cultural competency well before these were goals of health care. A colleague speaks of her “dreaming, developing and delivering culturally relevant and sensitive education” for 23 years. Kamaka recognizes learning as experiential and occurring in diverse settings and unexpected contexts. In her experience, learning is balanced between mind, body and spirit at the micro level, and between communities/families, environment and spiritual sources of strength at the macro level. She expresses that the “most important point is for students who are future physicians to be able to communicate with patients with our hearts and our naʻau (intuition).” A student said, Kamaka has been “a big part of my journey in influencing the way I see myself, my relationship to the community and to my profession.”

Nicole Reyes

Nicole ReyesNicole Reyes is an associate professor of educational administration in the College of Education. She shares the vision of UH Mānoa’s strategic plan: “the education of students is the core mission of the University; it is the reason we exist.” To be a faculty at home on Oʻahu means she is serving those who represent the potential and future of what our institutions of higher education could be. Her students respect that her teaching is grounded in social justice, saying that “her deep passion for education has shaped my future research.” A graduate student reflects on Reyes as not only an “expert on qualitative research, but genuinely invested in fostering a collective and communal learning environment.” Students speak to her mentoring practices of inviting them into co-presenting and co-authoring with her, providing an experience of “what it means to be a serious faculty mentor and researcher” inspiring students “to emulate the radical care with their own future students.” A student stated, “She turned my PhD experience from black and white into color.”

Stephanie Nohelani Teves

Stephanie Nohelani TevesStephanie Nohelani Teves is an associate professor in the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies in the College of Social Sciences. Teves connects with local students through a shared sense of place and welcomes students new to Hawaiʻi by applauding their sense of adventure. She encourages them all to learn from one another and explore who they are in a global sense. Her teaching has included the development of an undergraduate certificate in Queer Studies. One student said, “All of her students were treated with utmost respect and given the space to learn enthusiastically, while being sensitive to the differences that exist among us.” Another expressed, “Under her guidance, I became a haumāna who did not simply complete coursework but became enthralled with researching and received a scholarship for a project with Dr. Teves as my project mentor.” A colleague stated, “A beloved teacher, mentor and kumu, a visionary thinker, Lani has pursued undertakings that have transformed the educational landscape of the university.”

Richard Wallsgrove

Richard WallsgroveRichard Wallsgrove is an associate professor in the William S. Richardson School of Law. An alumnus of the school, he attributes his approaches to teaching to those from whom he learned. He is described by colleagues as being on the cutting edge of clean energy law. He believes in and aligns his teaching with the mission of UH Mānoa as a Native Hawaiian Place of Learning, with respect for ʻāina and engaging students in understanding how atmospheric dynamics is explained and rationalized in Hawaiian and other Indigenous cultures. Students describe him as embodying principles of empathy, rigor, passion and respect, saying “he makes us better.” Colleagues speak to how “In these polarized times where schools, colleges, and law school campuses alike are struggling with polarization, Rich’s thoughtful brilliance stands out.” As a teacher, mentor and colleague, he is, “a teacher’s teacher in every sense,” and respectful and sensitive to the needs of students from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

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.

Benjamin Shappee

Benjamin ShappeeBenjamin Shappee is an astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy. He specializes in transients and time-domain astronomy. Shappee is a founding member of one of the most successful time-domain projects, the All-Sky Automated Survey for Super-Novae (ASAS-SN), which uses telescopes around the globe to survey the entire sky daily. The ASAS-SN survey paper (Shappee et al. 2014) is the 50th most-cited paper in astronomy in the past decade. Shappee is PI of the Spectroscopic Classification of Astronomical Transients (SCAT) Survey using the UH88″ telescope, and is co-PI of the largest near-infrared supenova survey to date, the Hawaiʻi Supernova Flows, using the UKIRT telescope on Maunakea. He and his group have made important contributions to our understanding of the origins of supernovae (exploding stars), stellar flares with potential impact on the habitability of nearby planets, and outbursts from supermassive black holes. ASAS-SN has made numerous ground-breaking discoveries including the most luminous supernova yet discovered (ASASSN-15lh). Shappee was also part of the team that discovered the first and only counterpart to gravitational wave source (ripples in Space time) from the merger of two neutron stars. He has authored 275 publications and has 20,000 citations.

Malte Stuecker

Malte StueckerMalte Stuecker is an assistant professor in oceanography at the International Pacific Research Center in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. Stuecker’s research is on climate variability and climate change in the past, present and future. Much of his work is centered on the Pacific Ocean and phenomena such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Stuecker received a PhD in meteorology from UH Mānoa in 2015. He returned to UH as faculty in 2020, and was previously an assistant project leader/research professor at the IBS Center for Climate Physics in South Korea. Stuecker received the IAPSO Early Career Scientist Medal in Physical Oceanography in 2023, the Kamide Lecture Award from the AOGS Atmospheric Sciences section in 2020, and the Outstanding Young Scientist Award from the EGU Climate: Past, Present & Future division in 2016. In 2018, he was a Future Leaders Program Fellow of the Science and Technology in Society forum in Kyoto (Japan) and in 2022 he received an NSF CAREER Award.

Donald Womack

Donald WomackDonald Reid Womack is a professor of music in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters. A faculty member at UH since 1994, Womack chairs the music department, and is faculty in Japanese and Korean Studies. He is the composer of more than 100 original works, which have been performed and broadcast in 25 countries and recorded on more than a dozen releases in the U.S., Korea and Japan. Ensembles around the globe have performed his works, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, Russia Ulan Ude Symphony, Hawaii Symphony, National Orchestra of Korea, among many others. Womack is the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, two Fulbright Fellowships, two Artist Fellowships from the State of Hawaiʻi, and won numerous other national and international competitions. Widely recognized as a leader in intercultural composition, he integrates East Asian and western instruments. He has lectured on his work in Korea, Taiwan and Japan, and taught as visiting faculty at Seoul National University.

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.

Imelda Gasmen

Imelda GasmenImelda Gasmen is an instructor in the Department of Indo-Pacific Languages & Literatures in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters. Known to her students as Tita Imé, Gasmen introduced the concept of a Filipino tradition called bayanihan—the spirit of helping––and transformed that tradition to cooperative learning as a teaching methodology. She has inspired students to major in Filipino and Philippine literature because of her unique and passionate teaching. They describe her as a “pure soul that is perfect for teaching.” An outstanding characteristic is her ability to build pride and enjoyment of Filipino culture among students, many of whom have a connection through family ties, but have not learned the language. “I could connect with my family in ways I never imagined, calling my mom to practice my Tagalog with so much excitement. Those calls continue to this day and contribute to my parents feeling more connected to their home country.” Tita Imé is considered by students to be a living legend with exemplary knowledge, wisdom and expertise.

Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for Graduate Teaching Assistants

Maximillian Soares Miehlstein

Maximillian Soares MiehlsteinMaximillian Soares Miehlstein is a graduate student in the Department of Psychology. His research focuses on the influence of having a minoritized identity on social cognition. As a graduate assistant for Human Development and Family Studies 380L: Research Methodology Lab, Soares Miehlstein has guided students through semester-long research projects, advising them on topic conceptualization, survey development, data analysis and interpretation of their results. Additionally, he has served as a teaching assistant for PSY 225: Statistical Techniques for the past five semesters, where he is dedicated to helping students grasp foundational statistical concepts. Inspired by seeing students succeed, Soares Miehlstein prioritizes creating engaging and student-centered learning materials. He is committed to incorporating diversity and inclusion into course curriculum whenever possible, ensuring that various perspectives and experiences are represented in the teaching materials and discussions. As he prepares to teach his own courses, Soares Miehlstein is eager to further develop his skills to maximize students’ learning potential while fostering an inclusive learning environment.

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.

C. Manu Kaʻiama

C. Manu KaiamaC. Manu Kaʻiama is an instructor in the School of Accountancy in the Shidler College of Business. Kaʻiama‘s extensive service to the community since becoming a full-time faculty in 1991 has embodied the value of servant leadership and exemplifies the pursuit of growth and learning opportunities for university students that expand beyond them to members of their families and to their communities. In this very significant way, her contributions have been truly transformational and inter-generational in their impact. She has merged her expansive knowledge of financial accounting, tax and audit with Hawaiian culture and education to execute grants that support UH‘s strategic goal of becoming a Hawaiian Place of Learning. She leaves a legacy to Hawaiʻi as a driving creative force in generating substantial external grants—more than $11 million in federal funding—that directly influence Native Hawaiian students and communities. Her contributions to the island communities where she is regarded as a valued member has generated a profound integration between the university as an institution and the community it seeks to serve.

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.

Louis Bousquet

Louis BousquetLouis Bousquet is an associate professor in French in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters. Bousquet understands teaching as “a demanding, evolving art, recruiting every fiber of dedication and intention from one who practices it.” He recognizes the need to demonstrate the relevance of French and its culture in an English and Hawaiian-speaking, Pacific environment. Bousquet connects literature, song and artwork to the time period and historical events in context, inviting students to consider and share their own ideas and perspectives. A student stated, his class was “absolutely amazing, imbued with a delightful sense of humor and wit while requiring hard work and passion.” In the words of Dan Rather, a former student said, “The dream begins most of the time with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you on to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.”

Shelece Easterday

Shelece EasterdayShelece Easterday is an assistant professor of linguistics in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters. Easterday infects her students with the same sense of joy that she finds in research and teaching. She sees that students find phonological phenomena and concepts in global cross linguistic contexts to be highly appealing. A student stated, “Having the final project be creating our own problem set is really interesting and challenging.” Easterday is one of only a handful of specialists in her area as it is both fairly new and requires a deep understanding of all aspects of the sounds of language, including physical articulation, auditory perception and cognitive and social pressures. A graduate student wrote: “Dr. Easterday has been an integral part of my work as a student and as a linguist. My graduate career would be less fulfilling and constructive for me without Dr. Easterday, and I am eternally grateful to have such a kind, honest and intelligent mentor in my life.”

Jonathan Fine

Jonathan FineJonathan Fine is an assistant professor of philosophy in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters. Fine defines his teaching mission as fostering intellectual habits and nurturing independent thinking. Students reflect, “Each session becomes a collectively created product each of us can see our own contributions reflected in, with Jonathan as its ‘editor,’ as it were.” His dedication to teaching, evident in his energy and enthusiasm, earns admiration from both students and colleagues. “I have never seen a professor so happy about watching and helping students learn.” A colleague reflects that, “He turns his classroom into a community of inquiry by structuring around his students’ questions, giving room to their perplexities, thereby elevating them to meaningful reactions to ancient texts.” Colleagues liken his teaching approach to that of Socrates, “As he leads forth of the truth, beauty and wisdom that previously lay dormant in each of his students is awakened.”

Elina Hamilton

Elina HamiltonElina Hamilton is an assistant professor of music in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters. Hamilton has discovered that many of her students relate with narratives from the margins, seeing parallels with their own marginalized identities. In today’s globalized context, she notes that descendants of colonized people often lead in creating profound and impactful music. Thus her teaching includes the traditional music “canon” and what she terms “contra-colonial” music expressions, working alongside Indigenous, Asian American and Pacific Islander colleagues to provide a more inclusive and diverse musical education, expanding students’ exposure beyond mainstream perspectives. Her colleagues view her as “the best of us” and say “she is an enthusiastic educator, thoughtful collaborator and passionate innovator in pedagogy.” A student said, “My respect is incredibly high for Professor Hamilton, I hope to become as enthusiastic and knowledgeable as a teacher.”

Thomas Quattlebaum

Thomas QuattlebaumThomas Quattlebaum is an assistant professor of family medicine and community health at the John A. Burns School of Medicine. Quattlebaum considers himself a teacher first and a physician second. He engages students and residents in continuous clinical teaching, emphasizing real-world applications. His collaborative approach resonates with his students in their Problem-Based Learning tutorial sessions where learners are encouraged to ask questions and achieve their full potential. He recognizes the importance of role modeling in medicine training, embodying values such as humility, openness to learning and cultural sensitivity. Fondly known as “Dr. Q,” his colleagues credit him with creating a positive learning community, serving as a mentor and coach, and helping transform the educational environment to a nurturing space.

Johanna Kapōmaikaʻi Stone

Johanna StoneJohanna Kapōmaikaʻi Stone is an instructor in the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language. Kumu Pōmai, as known to her students and colleagues, teaches with a profound sense of the intimacy of the Hawaiian language. The themes of each of her classes provide solutions to problems through ancestral wisdom. Stone is highly articulate and serious, while infusing humor and hoʻomālō (meditation) exercises which every student will remember for many years. They are grounded in the philosophy that language and the body are inseparable, that each language is ultimately a form of body language. An exchange student wrote, “I couldn’t imagine the transformative effect on my life from being a part of Kumu Pōmai’s class. Being able to see the power to connect to the ancestral lineage, to feel the gratitude for ancestral wisdom, the land, communities, all Earth’s inhabitants and elements.” Her colleagues recognize her as an instructor who consistently names the risky, challenging and uncomfortable feelings that accompany authentic teaching and learning. Stone’s vast cultural-historical knowledge offers students ways to question “what is” and dream of “what could be.”

Presidential Award for Outstanding Service

The Presidential Award for Outstanding Service honors UH Mānoa staff members who demonstrate outstanding work performance, service and leadership.

Buildings and Grounds Management

Cora Chik

Cora ChikCora Chik is a janitor with Campus Operations. She has 23 years of UH service, with 16 years serving the music department complex, which includes Orvis Auditorium and the numerous rooms that hold events and meetings for UH, the community and the general public. Chik is described as the “epitome of professionalism” who beautifies the highly visible music-related facilities with a high level of initiative, pride and work ethic. Her nominators shared that she has “an infectious smile that gives positive energy to those around her,” making “our community a better place.” Chik ensures the complex remains in the best condition, often taking on more responsibility when there is a staff shortage. She is self-motivated, handles unusual situations and “unfailingly tackles them quietly and without complaint.” Her dedication and hard work benefit the department, campus and the larger community. One nominator stated, “Cora is, by all accounts, well-liked and highly respected for the work she does, and her bright, positive attitude is an inspiration to students and faculty in the Music Department.”

Administrative, Professional, and Technical

Matthew Lam

Matthew LamMatthew Lam is an educational specialist in the Department of Chemistry. Lam is described as having a “transformational impact that has directly improved the quality of instruction we deliver to our undergraduate student population.” He ensures the nearly 40 teaching assistants (TAs) and 70 lab sections are ready, including training TAs in lab work, preparing solutions, checking equipment and staying within budget for a high-volume, undergraduate teaching department. Nominators say Lam is also described as “one of the hearts,” “an invaluable asset” and the “foundation” of the department. He has saved thousands of dollars by fixing equipment and carefully managing chemical waste. His contributions led to departmental “social, scientific, technological, and operational progress.” Lam makes himself available to students and faculty, is a problem solver, and engages in department, campus and community initiatives. One nominator stated, “There is immense trust in him to run the entire undergraduate lab program.” Another commented, “he is a huge part of our success,” providing hands-on instruction, contributing to new curriculum elements, and serving as an “incredible mentor.”

Faculty Specialist

Nālani Minton

Nālani MintonNālani Minton is an assistant specialist and director of IKE AO PONO with the Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing (NAWSON). Her social justice program is designed to increase the number of Indigenous nurses in order to advance the healthcare and well-being of Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Native American and Alaskan Native peoples and all peoples in Hawai‘i. Fellow healthcare professionals who benefitted from the program praised Minton for innovative higher education and unwavering support of students and their access to educational opportunities. She has supported the graduation of more than 535 Indigenous nurses for the first time in UH and US history, and improved scholarships, mentoring, advocacy, interdisciplinary collaboration and the advancement and support of Indigenous students, the Native Hawaiian healthcare system and professional community. Her work has fostered the return of Indigenous nurses to their home communities, enhanced partnerships within and external to NAWSON, and ultimately supports Indigenous leadership, empowerment and expansion of culturally underrepresented, underserved, and at-risk and most vulnerable people and communities in both health and healthcare for Hawaiʻi and beyond.

Civil Service

Dana Singer

Dana SingerDana Singer is a secretary in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. Singer has more than 27 years of UH service. She is described as the “backbone,” “pillar” and “anchor” of the department. With her warm smile, welcoming words and remarkable institutional memory, Singer conveys the aloha spirit within and beyond the department. She has gone beyond her outstanding secretarial work to provide kind and thoughtful gestures such as making souvenirs for guests, helping students navigate school or life situations, and providing nourishing support or even home-cooked foods. Also known as “the beating heart of the department” and problem solver, people “flock to her for advice.” Students commented that she cares about them as individuals and as a community, helping to find housing, secure funds for their education, or serve as the “human Craigslist” to help find furniture. A student commented that she is the “soul who always brought cheer, hope and hospitality to the ground floor of Saunders Hall.”

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.

Aaron Pietruszka

Winona K. LeeAaron Pietruszka is an associate professor in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. A nominee wrote, “Aaron is driving the change that we want to see—by building a culture of inclusive excellence. Dr. Pietruszka is actively working to reduce bias, remove barriers to access, and foster an inclusive working environment where differences are valued, intersectionality is recognized and everyone feels welcome and supported.” Pietruszka developed “Out in STEM,” a group which discusses topics related to LGBTQ+ representation in the sciences, navigating through academia while “out,” and strategies to overcome the discrimination and hardships that are encountered. Another great accomplishment by Pietruszka has been the creation of four gender-neutral restrooms in the POST building. These bathrooms have created a safe, welcoming space for everyone, including transgender and gender-nonconforming people. Another nominee stated, “Dr. Pietruszka’s interactions with students and colleagues serve as a model of collaboration rooted in mutual respect, two-way communication, transparency and accountability.”

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.

Jonna Eagle

Jonna EagleJonna Eagle is an associate professor of film/media and former graduate chair in the Department of American Studies. Her research is focused on the role of popular media in the shaping of dominant affects and understandings with a focus on gender, violence and white supremacy. She is the author of War Games, which examines the militarization of American culture through a survey of simulated war experience; and Imperial Affects, which interrogates the melodramatic history of action cinema and the role of the white male victim–hero within it. Eagle has been actively involved in graduate education since her arrival to campus in fall 2011. She has taught graduate seminars, overseeing independent studies, and served on dozens of thesis, dissertation and qualifying examination committees in the American studies department as well as the Departments of History and English. Among her students, she is known for her warmth, accessibility and rigor as a “meticulous and caring” mentor, “intellectually agile, compassionate, incredibly supportive…and extremely generous with her time and ideas.”

Outstanding Academic Advisor and Advising Unit 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.

Pakela Award for Outstanding Academic Advisor of the Year

Eve Millett

Eve MillettEve Millett is an academic advisor/faculty specialist in the Mānoa Advising Center (MAC). Since 2016, Millett has served students who are undecided on a major or who are working toward a major that has prerequisite requirements, and has been the coordinator for the Mānoa Peer Advising program since 2017. She has recruited, trained and placed more than 100 UH Mānoa students to serve as peer advisors in advising units across campus. Millett currently serves as the chair for the Peer Advising and Mentoring Advising Community for the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). She also teaches one of MAC‘s upper division courses which focuses on assisting students with major exploration, academic planning and preparation for post-graduation opportunities. A former student stated, “I have actually found it to be by far the most meaningful course I have taken this semester, and probably even during my two years at UH Mānoa.” Millett is a strong advocate for equity and diversity on campus, which includes her work with the Mānoa Access Initiative and as a member of the Commission on Inclusion & Diversity and the First-Generation Forward Committee. Her advisees praise her as being “extremely helpful, knowledgeable, and easy to communicate with.” Multiple peer advisors have talked about the positive impact she has made on both their personal and professional lives.

ʻOikela Award for Outstanding Advising Unit

Mānoa Advising Center

Manoa Advising Center teamThe Mānoa Advising Center (MAC) was established in 2008 to assist students who are uncertain about their academic majors. MAC‘s advisors— Matt Eng, Eve Millett, Andrew Nguyen, Raezheen Pascua, Megan Terawaki, and Director Megumi Makino-Kanehiro—work with these “exploratory” students to identify their abilities, interests, and goals and to work toward aligning these aspects in the hope that it leads to a major that resonates with them. In addition to advising students one-on-one and via workshops, MAC created multiple courses that are taught by its advisors to better assist students in their quest to find a major. Courses were developed with specific sub-populations in mind to help students at varying stages in their major selection journey, with the broader goal of supporting institutional objectives to increase student persistence, retention, and graduation rates. The courses have been lauded for their innovative design, which includes multimodal teaching methods and strategies such as flipped advising/classrooms, gamification, community engagement, and experiential learning, and students have responded positively.

OVPRS Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research & Creative Work

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship (OVPRS) Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research and Creative Work was created in 2020 by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program in the OVPRS at UH Mānoa. The award recognizes up to two outstanding mentors each academic year (one from a STEM discipline, and one from a non-STEM discipline) who have: (i) shown dedicated and sustained excellence in mentoring of undergraduate students in their research and creative work endeavors; and (ii) significantly and positively impacted their mentee’s academic and/or professional achievements through research or creative work mentorship.

Samir Khanal

Samir KhanalSamir Khanal is professor of environmental engineering in the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. His research work focuses on exploring innovative technologies that interface with the environment and energy toward developing a carbon-neutral society. Khanal’s current research activities include anaerobic digestion, macro-algal cultivation, nanobubble technology, aquaponics and machine learning and artificial intelligence applications in microbial-mediated processes (biological transformations facilitated by microorganisms). He has mentored more than 30 undergraduate students in his Bioenergy and Environment Research Laboratory. Many of them have received their first hands-on research experience in the lab and on the field. Khanal also provides his undergraduate students a chance to work closely with postdocs and graduate students in his lab, and offers opportunities to present their research work in weekly lab group meetings and discussions. He strongly believes such exposure inspires many of them to pursue graduate studies. A student stated, “I’ve learned so much from Dr. Khanal over the years. He is a huge inspiration to all of us.”

Pier-Carlo Tommasi

Pier-Carlo TommasiPier-Carlo Tommasi is an assistant professor of premodern Japanese language and literature in the College of Arts, Languages & Letters. Tommasi’s scholarly interests focus on medieval poetry, life writing, book history and samurai culture. He covers a range of interdisciplinary topics designed to prepare students for future roles as global citizens and cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation of our interconnected world. Tommasi advocates for rethinking contemporary issues through the prism of the past, engaging students with rare book materials, calligraphy workshops, poetry composition and creative multimedia projects. This approach fosters immersion and innovation in the study of East Asian classics. A highlight of his pedagogy is the Archive Project, a collaborative initiative with the Honolulu Museum of Art that offers students the opportunity to conduct research on original artifacts from the Lane Collection, one of Hawaiʻi‘s largest collections of traditional Japanese prints and manuscripts. As one student shared, “These experiences brought our class curriculum to life, emphasizing the practicality of classical Japanese studies, and provided resources and connections available on-island.”

Student Excellence in Research Award

The Student Excellence in Research Award is given by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Scholarship in recognition of outstanding scholarly research endeavors by students while they pursue a degree at the doctoral, master’s or bachelor’s level.

Cara Tan

Cara TanCara Tan is an undergraduate senior with a double major in economics and Chinese, graduating with honors in spring 2024. Tan first began exploring independent research in high school, and since then, she has continued to explore topics in the health sciences while expanding her research pursuits into the field of economics. She has worked on a diverse range of topics, including the financial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for independent diagnostic laboratories, the effect of diet quality on epigenetic measures, lung cancer screening disparities in a multiethnic cohort, and the impact of a conditional cash transfer program in the Philippines on intergenerational mobility. Her research portfolio includes two peer-reviewed publications (one as lead author and the second author for another). In her independent honors thesis, Tan draws on empirical methods from economics to examine the impact of school shootings on fertility decisions in the United States. A nominator stated, “Cara’s research accomplishments would be impressive for a late-stage graduate student— for an undergraduate in her senior year, they are truly outstanding!”

Aldo Sepulveda

Aldo SepulvedaAldo Sepulveda is a graduate student in the UH Institute for Astronomy. His research focuses on the study of directly imaged exoplanets—massive planets orbiting stars outside the solar system—as well as disks of dust and debris around stars, using ground-based observations and data from NASA‘s TESS space telescope. Sepulveda has led four first-author publications to date (two of which constitute the core of his UH master’s thesis), including the discovery that exoplanets on wide orbits appear to be preferentially aligned with their host stars, similar to our solar system. His research has been recognized by the award of a Goldwater Scholarship in 2019, an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 2020, as well as more than 20 research talks and poster presentations. Sepulveda has also been recognized for excellence in undergraduate mentorship in 2023 through the Merit-Based Mentorship Award from the UH Graduate Student Organization. His nominator stated, “Aldo’s thesis results are highly consequential for our understanding of how massive planets form in wide orbits around other stars.”

Louward Zubiri

Louward ZubiriLouward Zubiri is a PhD candidate in the Department of Linguistics. An Indigenous scholar from the Philippines, Zubiri’s research focuses on language documentation, language revitalization and language rights. He has published numerous articles, received various grants and presented at influential venues in the field, including UNESCO. His dissertation focuses on the multilingual Bikol speaking community in the Philippines, and the nature of the language landscape that Bicol children face as they develop. In the course of over two years, he collected data of parents speaking to their children, cataloged this data, transcribed it, coded it, and is currently making it publicly accessible. This almost-200-hour-long corpus is more than 10 times the size of the average publicly available corpus in the field. It will be used to develop pedagogical materials for the community, as well as contribute to our scientific understanding of how children acquire different grammatical systems. His nominator stated, “Louward is a once-in-a-lifetime scholar with a commitment to Indigenous rights and viewpoints. All that he does is exemplary in quality and contribution.”

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.

Liam Felix

Liam FelixLiam Felix is a geographic information system assistant in the Office of Systems Integration (OSI). Felix is a senior majoring in environmental Earth science and has worked with the OSI since September 2022. He is commended for his work on the interactive Campus Map, which allows students, faculty, staff and the general public to locate buildings and other points of interest on the UH Mānoa campus. Felix has also written tutorials, one of which describes in layman’s terms how to use the widgets in our various mapping locations. His supervisor stated, “Liam has been an integral part of the Office of Systems Integration’s GIS (geographic information system) Team and his work has been nothing but exemplary. Maintaining this ease of finding relevant information would not have been possible without Liam’s help.”

Back To Top