Categorized | Education

New home for College of Hawaiian Language opens

MEDIA RELEASE

Cultural tradition and modern architectural design were on display this week at the bilingual blessing and official grand opening of Haleolelo, the new home of the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani College of Hawaiian Language.

The ceremony featured a formal Oki Piko ceremony, which symbolized the cutting of the umbilical cord to separate the new building from its birth mother to begin its life. Representatives of Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani’s consortium of Aha Punana Leo, Imiloa Astronomy Center, and Nawahiokalaniopuu School offered tributes in Hawaiian and presented their heahea, or calls of welcome.

The formal program also included remarks from dignitaries, including representatives from the University, UH System and elected officials, mixed in with hula and musical performances. Festivities concluded with gifts and congratulatory presentations and guided tours of the facility.

“The faculty and staff of Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani has worked long and hard to establish the College as a leader in indigenous language and cultural revitalization,” said Chancellor Don Straney. “At long last, they have a permanent home in a facility that is worthy of the quality programs that have earned them international recognition.”

The $21 million complex on Nowelo Street in the University Park of Science and Technology was designed by WCIT Architects of Honolulu, led by Rob Iopa, a graduate of Waiakea High School.

The structure was built by Jacobson Construction of Salt Lake City, Utah. Key features include spectacular landscape, mountain and ocean views and designs that reflect native Hawaiian culture and Hawaii Island’s natural resources that tie together the naming of the College and the building where it resides.

“The high roof design was inspired by the pili grass thatched home of Princess Ruth Keelikolani, for whom the building of the College is named,” said Dr. Larry Kimura, assistant professor, Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani. “Her home, on the grounds of Hulihee Palace in Kailua-Kona, was known as Haleolelo, or House of Language, which now becomes the home for the College of Hawaiian Language.”

In addition to being a cultural and architectural landmark, the two-story complex is also a highly functional facility, spanning 36,760 square feet. Among its key features is a Performing Arts Auditorium that can be sub-divided.

Special-use rooms include a library, curriculum and media resource room, tutorial, archive and telecom conference rooms, a computer lab, student and faculty meeting rooms, and 30 offices.

More importantly, Haleolelo consolidates most of the College’s programs and operations formerly scattered throughout the campus while providing needed infrastructure to address the needs brought about by its growth and development.

Since achieving collegiate status in 1997, it has experienced a surge in enrollment while introducing new degrees that produced UH Hilo’s first Master’s and Ph.D. recipients.

“It’s been a long time coming, but the wait has been worth it,” said Keiki Kawaiaea, director, Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani “This facility addresses many of our growing pains, and will enable expansion of our graduate and undergraduate programs in increasingly impactful ways for our state. We want to thank everyone throughout the community who supported this initiative and made it a reality.”

The College will be looking to build on its existing body of work that
has earned it critical acclaim from indigenous people who look to its programs as potential models for language revitalization in their communities.

Just last November, it received the 2013 William Demmert Cultural Freedom Award from the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) for its work in P-20 Hawaiian language revitalization and its positive impact on native student academic achievement.

Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani and Haleolelo will be front and center on the international stage only days after the grand opening when the College hosts the 2014 Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium (SILS) in mid-January.

The agenda includes visits to language immersion programs from preschool to the doctorate level and post-visitation discussion groups, with special focus on issues such as government testing, developing curricula and parental involvement.

“Events like SILS provide the College a great opportunity to raise its international profile by bringing important players from around the world to UH Hilo to discuss both the challenges that exist and the successes we’ve had in revitalizing indigenous language,” said Hiapo Perreira, associate professor, Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani. “With Haleolelo, we now have an ideal venue to showcase our programs and further advance the position of Hilo as ‘an international go-to destination’ for indigenous language revitalization.”

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