Welcome to the 6th installment of my series on great American universities and how to navigate our extensive, highly diverse system of higher education. Today I’ll be highlighting the University of Hawai’i campus at Mānoa.
The University of Hawai’i (“UH”) is an excellent example of the American phenomenon known as a “university system,” which is an integrated set of separately accredited tertiary education institutions within a particular geographic jurisdiction that share a name and an overall governing body.
Almost every one of our 50 States established and maintains such a public university system. In addition to UH, other great examples include the University of California (containing UCLA, Berkeley, and 8 other universities) and the State University of New York (the largest in the world, with 66 campuses and more than 468,000 students).
The University of Hawai’i system comprises 3 universities, 4 professional schools, 7 community colleges, and more than two dozen other educational, research, and training centers across the Hawaiian islands, with a total enrollment of more than 60,300 students. The University of Hawaii’s flagship campus is Mānoa (“UH Mānoa”).
Founded in 1907, UH Mānoa is located in the lush Mānoa Valley, a neighborhood at the edge of urban Honolulu only a mile (1.6 km) from the iconic beaches and entertainment of Waikīkī. Equally close is the vibrant Ala Moana shopping district. Downtown Honolulu is about 3 miles (4.8 km) from the school.
The campus covers almost 350 acres (1.4 sq.km) of beautiful open spaces, ornamental gardens, public art, and diverse architecture in modern, Japanese, Korean, Polynesian, and other styles. Located nearby at the top of the Mānoa watershed is the University’s 200-acre Lyon Arboretum, a stunning tropical rainforest used for research and community education purposes.
Populating campus are approximately 14,500 undergraduate students and more than 6,000 graduate and professional students. Reflecting its core multicultural ethos, UH Mānoa has one of the most diverse student populations in the United States (or anywhere).
Almost 20% of students self-identify as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, 20% as Caucasian, 15% as multiracial, 13% as Japanese origin, 8% as Filipino origin, 19% as other Asian, and with meaningful numbers of American Indian, Native Alaskan, Latino, and African American students making up the remaining 5%.
As one would expect, the full-time faculty of 1,300 professors is also very diverse. The student-faculty ratio is approximately 15:1, with an average class size of 25. More than 85% of the faculty has a doctoral degree. Several professors are members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, or National Institute of Medicine.
Founded originally as a land grant college focused on agriculture and mechanical arts, UH Mānoa has grown into a formidable university offering more than 200 specialized degree programs through 19 colleges and schools (including schools of law, business, medicine, nursing, architecture, education, engineering, social work, and travel industry management) . Whatever your academic or professional interest, you will find a program to suit your needs.
Many of the University’s programs are highly rated. For example, U.S. News & World Report has ranked the College of Business in the top 20 in the country, and praised the Medical School’s geriatric and rural medicine programs as well as the Law School’s extraordinarily low student/teacher ratio. The Princeton Review this year ranked the Law School #1 in the United States in terms of environment for minority students, as well as #4 in terms of faculty diversity.
Many would say that UH Mānoa is first and foremost a research institution. Classified by the Carnegie Foundation as having “very high research activity,” the University is internationally recognized for the pioneering work done by faculty and students in fields as varied as oceanography, astronomy, linguistics, tropical agriculture, marine biology, cancer, and genetics.
In the last full year for which I could access statistics, UH Mānoa received more than US$ 330 million in research awards. It ranks in the top 30 public universities in research funding for engineering and science, and is one of only 32 tertiary institutions in the country designated by the U.S. Congress as land-, sea-, and space-grant research colleges.
Because of its location, UH Mānoa is home to several special research centers. The Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at Coconut Island engages in cutting-edge coral reef, tidal pond, and marine ecosystem research. The Institute for Astronomy utilizes several facilities under the clear skies of Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii. The Hawaii Institute of Geophysics & Planetology has specialized laboratories for cosmochemistry, infrared spectroscopy, paleomagnetics, and Raman spectroscopy research.
The School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology receives the largest amount of extramural research funding at UH Mānoa. Students majoring or just taking classes in the School have the opportunity to study oceanography, marine biology, tectonic movement, and a multitude of other geoscientific subjects not only in the classroom but with cutting-edge equipment out in the field.
The original college of agriculture and mechanical arts has been preserved and expanded, and is now called the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. The College is a unique and highly regarded center for agricultural research and development in Pacific island environments.
The research at UH Mānoa is not all focused on the physical sciences. The Center for Pacific Islands Studies, Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence, Center for Hawaiian Studies, Hawai’inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, Center for Oral History, and Center for Hawaiian Language all provide great opportunities for students to study and conduct research on first peoples issues.
The offerings for students interested in regional and international studies are also extensive. There are a large number of relevant courses and degree programs in various schools and departments, as well as separate Centers for Japanese, Philippine, Korean, Chinese, South Asian, and Southeast Asian Studies.
I am a particular fan of the East-West Center. Established in 1960, the Center is dedicated to promoting close relations among the peoples of the United States, the rest of the Pacific, and Asia through collaborative study, multidisciplinary research, training and capacity-building, exchange programs, and seminar series.
Although an independent entity, the Center sits on a 21-acre campus abutting the University and provides educational and networking opportunities for internationally-focused UH Mānoa students. I have been to the Center several times, including on business as Ambassador, and I was impressed with the quality of the programming and the enthusiasm of its staff, alumni, and patrons.
The ranks of University of Hawaii alumni include numerous political leaders, a large number of Olympians and professional athletes, noted oceanographer Robert Ballard, Richard Parsons (Chairman & CEO of Time Warner), Kenneth Moritsugu (former Surgeon General of the U.S.), Jong-wook Lee (former Director-General of the World Health Organization), and both of President Barack Obama’s parents. Astronaut Gordon Cooper and entertainment icon Bette Midler also attended UH.
For current students, UH Mānoa offers more than 200 extracurricular organizations and clubs, a wide range of social and recreational opportunities, and a full array of intramural and varsity sports (competing at the Division I level). Throughout the year there are cultural festivals celebrating the diversity of the University, Native Hawaiian culture, and the various other cultural backgrounds and traditions represented on campus.
Inscribed in both Hawaiian and English on the gates to campus, the UH Mānoa motto is one of the most compelling I’ve seen, reflecting the University’s diversity, central Pacific location, and ecumenical world view: Ma luna a’e o nā lāhui a pau ke ola o ke kanaka, or “Above all nations is humanity.”
Mālamalama, the Hawaiian word on the University’s official seal, means “The Light of Knowledge.” Also on the seal is the State motto of Hawaii, Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina i ka pono, meaning “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”
The school’s official colors are green, white, black, and silver. The color of Lono (the ancient Hawaiian god of agriculture), green represents the lush vegetation and vibrant environment that make Hawaii so beautiful. White is the Hawaiian color of royalty. Black is revered in traditional Hawaiian culture as representing the creation of new life. Silver is for the reflection of the fallen rain which creates life, color, and rainbows.
Men’s sports teams at UH Mānoa are known as the Rainbow Warriors, and women’s teams are known as the Rainbow Wahine. The nicknames had their origins in 1923 when a rainbow appeared above the University football stadium at halftime, spurring a dramatic come-from-behind upset victory over the heavily favored Oregon State football team.
Over subsequent years, more rainbows appeared during various sporting matches, and student lore developed that Hawaii never loses when a rainbow is sighted during a game. The nickname was officially adopted by the University in 1974, reflecting both the iconic rainbow and the great respect that warriors are accorded in Hawaiian history and mythology.
UH Mānoa has a few sports rivalries, including with Fresno State (of California) and Boise State (of Idaho). The most intense rivalry, though, is with Brigham Young University (of Utah), arising largely from the significant number of Polynesian athletes at the two schools and from other similarities between the two student bodies. The Warriors have battled valiantly, but the Cougars of BYU have had a bit more success on the scoreboard.
All in, there’s a great deal to commend UH Mānoa, whatever you might be looking for in a school. If you take a closer look online, you will find many more strengths and opportunities than I can summarize here. For now, I would just emphasize one additional advantage for your consideration … location. Oahu. Hawaii. It’s almost unfair for a school to be so strong academically and to be located in paradise.
Within easy reach of the University by foot, bicycle, car, or public transportation lies Honolulu with its vibrant nightlife, enormous array of entertainment options, clubs, cafés, concerts, varied and innovative restaurants (as you would expect in such a truly multicultural society), spas, world-class shopping …
… extraordinary recreational opportunities, rainforests, beaches, some of the best surfing and diving you’ll find anywhere, historical sites, museums (including the iconic USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor), pan-Polynesian cultural centers, rich native Hawaiian cultural traditions, street festivals, and much more.
A dynamic county of approximately 1 million people, Honolulu also provides significant economic and professional opportunities. It’s a major Pacific financial, legal, commercial, trade, and tourism hub and has served as the capital of the Hawaiian islands since 1845. It’s a sophisticated city with a diversified 21st Century economy. Whatever your career objective, there are likely to be clubs, public events, and even internships in your field of interest.
And it just keeps getting better because beyond Honolulu lies the rest of Oahu and the other islands of Hawaii … Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, the Big Island, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. Globally synonymous with paradise, our 50th State requires no introduction.
Hawaii combines the best of all worlds … pristine environments, enormous biodiversity, exotic habitats, sublime year-round climate, unspoiled land and seascapes bursting with color, remote getaways, and sense of distance from the crush of modern life (fewer than 400,000 of Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents live outside Honolulu county) … coupled with highly developed infrastructure, service-oriented hospitality, safe water, easy transport, and well-established travel and tourism options.
Whether your approach to recreation is more like an adventuresome Indiana Jones, or a luxury-driven Paris Hilton, or an outdoors-loving Duke Kahanamoku, or just a tired aspiring beachcomber looking to decompress, there’s a deeply satisfying Hawaii sojourn waiting for you.
There’s a lot to explore. I’ve been to four of the islands, and each has its own distinct character, environment, and charm. You’ll be surprised, delighted, and invigorated at each turn. As my good friends at the Hawaii Tourism Authority say:
“The fresh, floral air energizes you. The warm, tranquil waters refresh you. The breathtaking, natural beauty renews you. Look around. There’s no place on earth like Hawaii. Whether you’re a new visitor or returning, our unique islands offer distinct experiences that will entice any traveler. We warmly invite you to explore our islands and discover your ideal travel experience.”
For more information about Hawaii, the distinct pleasures of the individual islands, festivals and events calendars, adventure and eco-tourism options, and how to plan a visit, see the State’s official travel website, www.GoHawaii.com.
If you are curious about the tourism industry generally or about doing business in Hawaii, check out the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s website. The HTA assisted with the planning of our Hawaii-themed American Independence Day celebrations in Wellington and Auckland last year, and I know first-hand just how professional and effective the team is.
For more details about UH Mānoa, specific fields of study, and how to apply, check out the University’s website. You can find information about tuition exemptions and scholarships for international students here. And, of course, feel free to email the Embassy’s Educational Adviser, Drew Dumas, at DumasAG@state.gov if you have any further questions.
Stay tuned for my upcoming profile of the University of Texas at Austin, due in about two weeks. If you liked Jessica Rowland’s guest post about the city of Austin, I think you’ll enjoy hearing more about the great institution that helps give Austin its unique culture and character.
As always, I’m receptive to suggestions for future university features and education topics thereafter. Just send me a note.