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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 4, 2010

Greenwood seeks improved grad rates, facilities for UH

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

UH President M.R.C. Greenwood warned lawmakers yesterday that the 10-campus system continues to decay.

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The new president of the University of Hawai'i yesterday pledged to increase graduation rates, especially for low-income and Native Hawaiian students, and increase businesses' use of UH technology.

UH President M.R.C. Greenwood, in the first address to a joint session of the state Legislature by a UH president, also told legislators that the 10-campus system continues to decay.

"Make no mistake that we will need additional funding in the future to achieve the growth and support the faculty and staff who make all this possible will need," Greenwood said, speaking in the Senate chambers. "Our immediate goals are to improve our campus environment for students, enhance our volume of federal and private support, and spur the job creation to help stimulate the local economy."

Greenwood said UH "is part of the solution to our current economic problem."

She told the stories of several current, former and incoming UH students and underscored UH's reach throughout the Islands.

All four of Hawai'i's congressional representatives are UH graduates, Greenwood said, emphasizing her point by asking all legislators who graduated from UH — some 70 percent — to stand.

State Sen. Jill Tokuda, D-24th, (Kailua, Käne'ohe), chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, said Greenwood's lunch-time address "reminded people that we all are touched by the university in some shape or form."

Tokuda's husband, Kyle Michibata, graduated from UH in 1999, along with "doctors, children and business members throughout the community," Tokuda said. "The university touches all of our lives in some way."

Greenwood said she will create a " Hawai'i graduation initiative to increase the number of college graduates by 25 percent by the year 2015," a pledge that received loud applause.

"Simply put, we want more local students to attend and graduate from the University of Hawai'i particularly Native Hawaiian, lower-income students, and those from underserved regions," Greenwood said.

Greenwood also told lawmakers that "decades of inadequate investment in our facilities are hindering the University of Hawai'i."

Greenwood said that within the next two months she will appoint a "presidential advisory group of experts to study our successes, our challenges and our opportunities, with an eye toward understanding how the best universities achieve their impact. I will ask the group to advise us on the steps the university should take to create a 21st century capability for innovation and technology transfer, to support a multibillion dollar industry for Hawai'i in research, spin-offs and related services."

Greenwood also announced the creation of what she called "project renovate to innovate," which will focus on rebuilding UH facilities and increasing the number of small businesses based on UH technological developments.

"The university has achieved truly extraordinary growth in extramural funding, earning over $400 million in contracts and grants for research and training last fiscal year and over $270 million in the first half of this year alone," Greenwood said. "If the current rate of growth can be sustained for the remainder of the decade, it would yield the state a billion dollars a year in 2020 — a billion."

Greenwood did not, however, address how UH will absorb the cost of restoring recent pay cuts for UH faculty.

Last week, UH faculty ratified a new contract that calls for an 18-month, 6.7 percent pay cut that will be restored with lump-sum payments in 2012 — along with 3 percent pay raises in 2013 and 2014.

Tokuda called Greenwood's speech "very uplifting."

"There were definitely no price tags" for the cost of Greenwood's ideas, Tokuda said. "And there was definitely an acknowledgement that the university and the state are facing some tough economic times. But there was a feeling that we're going to get through this and we're going to get through this together."

After Greenwood's speech, House Speaker Calvin Say addressed the joint session, calling the challenges to UH "formidable."

He encouraged Greenwood to "look beyond how to do the same with less and instead look at how to do more with less and do it better. We know that you are up to the challenge, so aloha."