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Aloha Kākou! Message From Christian Fern, Executive Director

Aloha Kākou!

It is an honor and privilege to be serving as Executive Director of the University of Hawai‘i Professional Assembly (UHPA). I appreciate the Board of Directors’ vote of confidence by selecting me to succeed Kris Hanselman to build upon the solid foundation she, and her predecessor J.N. Musto, have established. I owe a debt of gratitude to Kris for providing me the opportunity to work with her over the past five years. My appreciation for the role and work of UHPA and my commitment to serving the faculty have grown exponentially over the years. We are fortunate that Kris will continue to be available to provide support to me and UHPA through the end of January 2020 to help ensure a smooth transition.

Looking to the future

Ashley Maynard, President of UHPA’s Board of Directors, told me it was important to have someone who can successfully lead UHPA into the future. I am up to that challenge. The University of Hawai‘i – Mānoa is my alma mater, and I am a proud graduate. Across our state, the University of Hawai‘i System and UHPA have so much to offer the community, and we have only begun to scratch the surface.

Our University of Hawai‘i campuses statewide are places of transformation

I can speak from my own experience. When I was a student, it was my political science professor, Phyllis Turnbull, who set me on an exciting path. When there was an internship opportunity at the legislature, she said, “Why don’t you apply and see if you like it?” She spoke just the right words at the right time. She must have seen something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Her words gave me a newfound confidence. It turned out to be a rewarding, memorable experience. I was hooked on the political process and public policy as a result of that internship.

Faculty cultivates our future workforce

I’ve often wondered how many other students have been touched and transformed by conversations like these with their professors throughout our University system. Business, government and community leaders are where they are today because of these types of interactions and connections with their professors. It is a powerful realization. We need to take care of our faculty, so that they can continue to nurture and cultivate homegrown talent who will become the workforce of the future. UHPA supports faculty so they can in turn continue to inspire the next generation to take their rightful place and help them realize their full potential.

The University of Hawai‘i and its faculty are the cornerstones for economic growth and vitality in our state.

They are intricately connected to our quality of life. As a state, when we do not invest in these assets, we pay the consequences. When we try to cut corners, and hire part-time faculty instead of full-time faculty who are willing to go above and beyond to help their students succeed, we see enrollment drop and students choosing mainland institutions over the vast opportunities we have here at our home institutions.

Our University of Hawai‘i campuses are not viewed as a first choice for colleges among many Hawai‘i residents because many have been conditioned to think these campuses are inferior, which is often reflected in our state’s decisions and actions. We have become our own worst enemy and have created self-fulfilling prophecies. Even I have faced this challenge. My decision to return home from a mainland college to finish at the University of Hawai‘i to save my family money on tuition was met with mixed reactions from my own family. Yet, it was a decision I will never regret.

We will do more as allies

As a state, we have bigger challenges ahead of us and need to start defining and shaping the future we want for Hawai‘i. Instead of expending energy attacking each other and believing the worst about each other, it’s time to work together to find solutions. Instead of being adversaries, we need to see each other as allies. We can accomplish so much more when we collaborate together.

Workforce development for our future here in Hawai‘i is right at our fingertips, through the University of Hawai‘i campuses, by our faculty.

Faculty are already addressing many of the issues raised by legislative and community leaders. Faculty are helping to address the teacher shortage through the College of Education at Mānoa, and all other campuses statewide. Faculty are helping achieve our food sustainability initiatives through our tropical agricultural and culinary programs. Faculty on our campuses are training our future physicians, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics, dental hygienists and technicians, and other healthcare professions. Community college faculty are helping our brothers and sisters in the building trades by training and developing a sustainable workforce for the future. All faculty are helping address the 55 by 25 statewide initiative to have 55% of Hawai‘i adults earn a college degree by 2025.

We all have the potential for positive future impact

These are just a few examples. Thanks to our faculty, all areas at the University of Hawai‘i campuses have the potential to prepare the next generation to fill important needs in communities across our state and to address the state’s real concerns. This requires a change in mindset, and it requires support. Faculty cannot fulfill their responsibilities without adequate resources. Just trying to make do and get by with what they have and compromising their standards should no longer be acceptable if we want to raise our community to a new level.

It’s time to forge new connections and get serious about job creation

But we cannot stop there. We can make sure faculty are treated respectfully and students graduate with all of the right skill sets, but to what end if there are no jobs available for them to stay in Hawai‘i? UHPA can play a pivotal role in bringing the community together to start serious conversations about job creation. It will mean forging new connections and sitting down together, face-to-face, with those who we typically have not been in the room with before. Imagine what Hawaii would be like if UHPA leaders and faculty got together with leaders from government, business and the community. We would roll up our sleeves and work elbow-to-elbow to collectively chart our course for Hawai‘i’s future. No more silos, no more fiefdoms, but everyone looking at the greater good of Hawai‘i.

Collective Bargaining and our contract are foundational priorities

You may have noticed that not once have I mentioned collective bargaining rights and contract maintenance and enforcement. This was intentional. Of course, those concerns will always be priorities and UHPA will always stand by faculty. However, as we begin to move forward together with others, my hope is that there will be a healthier respect for faculty and that the thoughts and input from UHPA and our faculty members will always be considered in making major decisions. I believe we will get to that place and would like to invite you to join me in being a catalyst for positive change.

Mahalo for allowing me to serve as your Executive Director. I look forward to working closely with our members and bringing the community closer together.

Me ke aloha,

Christian Fern