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A Student-centric Research University serving the State of Hawaiʻi

The new Mānoa Strategic Plan was designed from the start with a pronounced bias towards action: we want to identify the work that needs to get done, get on it, and get it done. This should be perfectly clear from the detailed action plans that have been adopted for the first three initiatives, SPARC, SERG and Ka Ho‘oko Kuleana. While not eschewing big issues and substantial challenges, the focus in each document is on actionable steps. We think that is the right focus but a possible limitation to this approach is that the values and vision undergirding those steps may be somewhat occluded in the process. Hence this document, logically positioned between the one-page matrix which maps to the plan and the detailed action plans on each of the initiatives.

As the flagship campus of the only public university in the State of Hawai‘i, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa serves a diverse community of students and public and private stakeholders, providing a world-class education and performing scholarly work and service in areas of critical importance to our state, the nation and the entire Asia/Pacific region.

Some may view these three components of the university’s mission — education, scholarly work (research), and service — as mutually exclusive pursuits, but this is a misguided view. To be the world-class university Hawaiʻi needs Mānoa to be, it must excel in all of them, as they are strongly integrated and, to a great extent, interdependent. The education of students is the core mission of the University; it is the reason we exist. Research serves to inspire, inform, and support the educational mission, from the recruitment of faculty who are leaders in their profession, to the opportunities for experiential learning in leading- edge laboratories, centers, and studios. Service to the community and to the profession ensures that the work of the University is transferred to our constituents and stakeholders for the promotion of the public good.

Mānoa is a major research university, one of 115 universities (and 81 public universities) in the United States categorized as Highest Research Universities, often referred to as Research 1 or R1 universities. 70th overall and 45th among public US universities in our level of external research funding, we are in the top 250 of all universities in the major international rankings. Our aim is to make this research excellence count for the education of all of our students by creating a student-centric research university.

The perception that an R1 university cannot also provide a world-class education to its undergraduate students is long-lived but, in our view, this model of an R1 university is outdated and ineffective. Today’s learners have grown up in an interconnected, global world, with tools at their fingertips for immediate communication, information-sharing, training and education. Today’s students are energized by problem solving and the challenges of pushing their chosen field to the limits. Many of them are idealistic, with a passion that can only be sustained within an ecosystem that highly values and promotes inquiry, discovery, and application. A faculty that is active in research/scholarly work is the foundation of this ecosystem. It is the inspirational force for learning on campus, committed to remain at the leading edge, and the primary facilitator of the sort of experiential learning that today’s students demand, via research opportunities, internships at sponsoring agencies and industry, and external collaborations with premier domestic and international research partners. In a very real sense, an active research environment opens doors to a world of opportunity for our undergraduate students.

Mānoa is unique in American higher education, as a flagship university which is also the state’s land-grant university, a world-class international research university in an urban setting, an indigenous-serving institution with one of the most diverse student bodies in the world, including a strong and growing Hawaiian student population. Each part of the previous sentence points to a different facet of Mānoa’s role. As the state’s only land-grant, we have a statewide role serving the public good through many different aspects of public engagement and service, including of course a statewide presence in agriculture. As the flagship, we house the state’s key professional schools, medicine, law, architecture, and have programs in engineering, business, education, nursing, social work, and tourism that encompass both graduate education and the state’s largest undergraduate programs in all these fields. Our Asia/Pacific focus means that programs such as Philosophy or Music have an international, comparative dimension that makes these programs unique and distinguished. These aspects of the university and our research mission shape undergraduate education as well, so that while we have the usual complement of undergraduate programs that a comprehensive university should provide, the nature of those programs has in many cases been transformed by their context in Mānoa.

We are part of the statewide University of Hawaiʻi, with two baccalaureate granting campuses along with seven community colleges, and the focus in particular of the other campuses on our island of Oʻahu allows us to focus on what we do best. This is not just research, though we do that well; nor is it just graduate education, though we also do that well. It is the integration of education and research both horizontally through the broad range of programs the state needs us to house and vertically from lower-division general education through advanced doctoral work.

These essential elements can only exist in a world-class research university. We have always understood this. The State of Hawai‘i has always understood this, which is why many of the major research activities at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa are directed at solving problems of vital importance to the State citizens, e.g., in the marine sciences, agriculture, energy and water resources, climate change, and medicine. We are where the future of the state will be forged, through educating its future leaders, through research that addresses key issues, and through an engagement with the state that gives us our home and our name.

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