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JCCIH Newsletter: Hawai'i CC Updates April 2020

This column by Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas was published in the April 2020 edition of the JCCIH's Oshirase.


It’s amazing how our world has been turned upside down in the last several weeks as COVID-19 has thrown our local and global communities for a loop.

Rachel SolemsaasAs we ensure the health and safety of our communities in order to flatten the curve of this pandemic, we are aware that COVID-19 has an impact on our economy and people’s livelihoods. My heart goes out to all the individuals and local businesses feeling the negative economic impacts from this pandemic. The effects have been widespread, sudden and created real hardship for many. My hope is that the public health crisis can be resolved quickly, the federal response can help mitigate the economic pain felt by business owners and workers, and our economy can get back on track.

At Hawai'i Community College, these past several weeks have been a whirlwind as we have moved all classes online and changed how we deliver most services. We are fortunate that we already deliver online classes and therefore have experience in this area. With that said, it’s a different way of learning and teaching, and it’s a challenge to switch to an online format in one week. Kudos to the dedicated and resilient students, faculty and staff who are making it happen.

Even as we move courses online, we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that students are achieving the “course learning outcomes” embedded in each of our courses. In our classes that involve a lot of hands-on learning, this requires extra creativity. Curriculum designers have been assigned to trades instructors, and the college has supported the purchase of simulation-type software, which doesn't replace hands on instruction but is an effective alternative.

We’ve also been working very hard to be mindful of the “digital divide” and those students who have limited access to computers and the internet. That’s one reason we’ve continued to maintain in-person services (while implementing new sanitation and social distancing protocols) at learning centers at our locations in Hilo, Kona and Honoka’a where students can access computers and other resources. We are committed to being a place where all students can succeed, and we don’t want COVID-19 to get in the way of that core principle.

In addition, we are ensuring that prospective students and alumni continue to receive services from us. Within a week, we have moved to virtual services to maintain services. Mahalo again to the “can do” spirit of our Kauhale members.

Hawai'i CC and UH are committed to completing this semester and ensuring that students who are on track to graduate this spring can do so and that other students can make progress toward their goals.

Sadly, our commencement ceremonies have been cancelled. These are such important events for our students, their families and the campus community, and we’ve heard how disappointed some students are, particularly those who are first-generation college graduates.

We are planning to host commencement at the end of the fall 2020 semester to make up the cancelled spring events and will make further announcements in the fall. We also plan to celebrate our students in other ways through announcements, advertisements and social media.

There are many community resources out there right now and many people who need to connect with them. Vibrant Hawaii ( is a hub of information that can hopefully be a useful resource during this tumultuous time.

Stay safe and healthy!

Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas