UH Hilo Receives STEM Grant to Benefit Native Hawaiian Students

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Dr. Sonia Juvik, (808) 974-7300
Professor of Geography
Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642
Media Relations Director
Posted: Oct 30, 2002

University of Hawai'i at Hilo Professor of Geography Dr. Sonia Juvik has received a five-year, $2.5 million STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics) grant from the National Science Foundation to assist Native Hawaiian students interested in the STEM disciplines.

Administered through the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP), Juvik is the principal investigator of the project which will reach out both at the University level and in grades K-12 to recruit, train and retain Native Hawaiian students interested in studying the STEM fields. Dr. David Sing, director of Na Pua No'eau, UH Hilo's Center for Gifted and Talented Native Hawaiian Students, is assisting Juvik in this endeavor, which includes faculty from all the STEM-related disciplines as well as the UH Hilo Education Department and Ka Haka 'Ula O Ke'elikolani College of Hawaiian Language.

"Hawaiians have a depth in history in disciplines such as star-gazing, the ocean and the land," Sing said. "Over the years, our educational curriculum and our way of teaching at the University and schools have not allowed that kind of history and background to be a part of it. So we're hoping that this particular grant will provide us with information so the faculty can better prepare the environment at the University to attract Hawaiian students with that kind of history and background."

The initial step in implementing the program at the university level is to set up a freshman course that will utilize multidisciplinary learning communities designed for Hawaiian students interested in the designated disciplines. The proposed course would be designated STEM 101.

"I think we can make STEM 101 attractive to Native Hawaiians if we can make it conducive to the way that Hawaiians learn," Sing said. "This will be a starting point, so to expect Hawaiian college students to automatically want to participate when they haven't had that experience in the past is unrealistic.

"The real work will be with students in grades from K to 12," he added.

Juvik plans on using programs such as Na Pua No'eau and Upward Bound as starting points to stimulate young Hawaiians interested in the STEM disciplines and then, perhaps, those programs can become outreach feeders for the STEM program.

"Why reinvent the wheel when we have the existing infrastructure already?" Juvik said. "I believe really strongly in the mission here and because success of this program will benefit the entire student body."