Building a Pipeline for Native Hawaiian Students

The University of Hawaii-West O’ahu receives $2.5 million for development of STEM programs and student support

The University of Hawaii-West Oahu.

A new $2.5 million award from the National Science Foundation will support college readiness for Native Hawaiian students and strengthen STEM programs at the University of Hawaii-West O’ahu.

Located near Honolulu, the West O’ahu campus has 29 percent Native Hawaiian enrollment and identifies itself as an “indigenous serving institution.” The five-year project, supported by the National Science Foundation’s Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (NSF-TCUP), is expected to increase the number of Native Hawaiian students enrolled in STEM programs and remove barriers they face when pursuing STEM degrees.

Through what it calls a “pipeline approach,” the Pūkoʻa Kani ʻĀina project “enrolls high school students in summer bridge programs that enhance their readiness for college and continues working with them through the use of a student cohort model as they move through college,” according to the award abstract. Additionally, the grant will support development of new STEM courses and degrees.

The goal is to provide “innovative STEM courses designed to more fully engage students and foster knowledge and skills required in today’s STEM workforce.”

Founded in 1976, UH-West O’ahu did not offer a full baccalaureate curriculum until 2007. The NSF grant is part of a larger effort to develop the young institution’s STEM programs and support Native Hawaiian students. Within the past year, West O’ahu was awarded $638,100 to create a program for veterans in STEM, and also formed of a campus chapter of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science.

The NSF-TCUP project will be led by UH-West O’ahu Professors Dr. Kamuela Young and Dr. Megan Ross. The new initiative was praised by UH West Oʻahu Chancellor Maenette Benham. “We believe that our efforts will have a positive impact on Native Hawaiian student success,” she said in a press release announcing the NSF award.

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