Categorized | Education

Lawmakers fund College of Hawaiian Language Building


The dream of a permanent home for the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani College of Hawaiian Language is one big step closer to reality, following the State legislature’s recent approval of $28 million in construction funding during the 2010 session.

The approval marked a significant achievement as lawmakers faced the unenviable challenge of funding initiatives in a budget that required significant reductions. Chancellor Rose Tseng said the initiative succeeded because so many voices throughout the State spoke in favor of it.

“The difficult economic climate facing Hawaii and the nation prevented many projects from being funded,” Tseng said. “Yet major figures like UH President MRC Greenwood, Gov. Linda Lingle and key State lawmakers took the position that this initiative was a priority item that should be funded.”

Tseng added that the UH Hilo Student Association and representatives of Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani also spoke eloquently and passionately in favor of the initiative. Sen. Dwight Takamine, who dealt with his share of tight budgets as the former House Finance Committee Chair, believes their message resonated with lawmakers.

“Considering the poor fiscal situation and the limited opportunity for projects this session, it’s remarkable that the UH Hilo ohana managed to get funding for this building,” Takamine said. “I think the students in the red shirts working the halls and visiting legislators repeatedly played a critical role in the success of that effort.”

The building was first identified as a need in 1986 when a statewide University task force recommended building a facility to house UH Hilo’s expanding Hawaiian Studies programs, which ultimately formed the basis for collegiate status in 1998.

From its inception, the College has been one of the University’s academic rock stars. Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani produced UH Hilo’s first masters and Ph.D. recipients, gained national recognition as a leader in language and cultural revitalization, added new programs like linguistics and witnessed a surge in enrollment.

But those developments have produced growing pains for the College, whose operations are spread out over three locations on campus. Faculty and staff have been forced to compete with other disciplines for instructional and support space among accommodations so limited that some offices are occupied or shared by up to 16 people.

The building is the latest in a series of capital improvements obtained to address those growing pains and provide UH Hilo with facilities that comparable universities have had for years. But House Higher Education Committee Chair and UH Hilo graduate Jerry Chang said this addition takes on special meaning.

“This may be the most satisfying capital improvement accomplishment because it reflects our serious commitment to revitalizing our Hawaiian language and culture for generations to come,” Chang said. “We will be the forerunner for others to follow.”

The new two-story structure totals approximately 37,000 square feet and will occupy a three-acre parcel on Nowelo Street next to the Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii in the University Park of Science and Technology. The facility will include six classrooms, including a large Performing Arts Auditorium that can be sub-divided into three spaces. Specialty use rooms will include a library; curriculum and media resource room, tutorial, archive and telecom conference rooms, a computer lab, student and faculty lounges, and 30 offices.

While providing Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani a permanent home, Director Dr. Kalena Silva says the building will also accommodate expansion of undergraduate and graduate programs that will help take the College to the next level.

“As the College’s programs expand in our new home, we’ll be able to more fully address Hawaiian language needs Statewide and beyond,” Silva said. “The new building will also greatly facilitate meetings with the many native peoples from around the world who come to learn about our programs as potential models for language revitalization in their own communities.”

One Response to “Lawmakers fund College of Hawaiian Language Building”

  1. S Martin says:

    What a waste of scarce funding….why spend money on a program that leads so many to so little employment….better to spend this $ on core eduicational goals and not feel good fluff.


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