Fall commencement at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo takes on a different look this year, reflecting the view of higher education through an indigenous lens promoted by the UH System’s Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao initiative. The program will feature a student speaker, a hula presentation about learning and growth, and the awarding of degrees on Saturday, December 17 at 9 a.m. in Vulcan Gym.
A total of 242 students have petitioned for 318 degrees and/or certificates from the colleges of Arts and Sciences (233), Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management (21), Business and Economics (30), Pharmacy (6) and Ka Haka `Ula O Ke`elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language (7), while 21 others are candidates for various post-graduate honors.
Kyle James Davis, an agriculture major, will represent the graduating class as student speaker. Davis, who will receive a BS in tropical horticulture, has maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.48. His academic achievements include being named to the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management Dean’s List in 2013 and 2015. Davis also earned a Semester at Sea Scholarship and spent spring 2014 studying aboard the MV Explorer in nearly a dozen countries.
Davis is an ordained minister, who served five years in the US Army, including over two and a half years in Iraq as a combat medic. His commencement address will draw from his numerous life experiences and will include a call for his fellow graduates to broaden their horizons.
The chant- hula will be performed by UNUKUPUKUPU, Indigenous Leadership through Hula Program under the directorship of Pele Ka`io, Hawaiian Protocols Committee chairperson, and Dr. Taupōuri Tangarō, director of Hawaiian Culture and Protocols Engagement, at UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College.
Organizers anticipate a dynamic performance, with at least 50 individuals representing UH Hilo, HawCC, and Waiākea High School. Gail Makuakāne-Lundin, interim executive assistant to Chancellor Donald Straney, director of Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center, and a member of UNUKUPUKUPU, will introduce the chant-hula, entitled ʻUlei Pahu I Ta Motu, which was composed more than 200 years ago and documents the evolution of world view.
The chant-hula will be preceded and followed by the sounding of 20 pahu (drums) and 20 pū (conch-shell trumpets). The 20 pū will also sound honoring Moana-nui-ākea (large and broad oceans) that connect Hawaiʻi to the world. The performance concludes with the presentation of Paʻakai (sea-salt) to honor the profound intersection where the learner transitions to graduate.
Straney said fall commencement provides a unique opportunity to showcase the UH Hilo – Hawaiʻi Community College Papa O Ke Ao collaboration, which seeks to make the UH campuses leaders in indigenous education.