Our Islands, Our Future

Throughout the pandemic, the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center offered a once-a-month Ta-Ke Leadership Series. They asked outstanding leaders in the community to share their insights on current issues and how we can get past today’s obstacles as we begin to resume our daily lives after months of social distancing.

Invited speaker David Lassner, the 15th president of the University of Hawaii (UH),  gave a virtual talk on his current UH agenda. Lassner, who leads the UH 10-campus system and the flagship research university at Manoa, is focused on helping more Hawaii residents earn college credentials, on developing an innovation sector to strengthen the state’s economy, and on creating high-quality jobs. Also, he is advancing UH’s commitments to sustainability and to becoming a model indigenous-serving university.

“My aim is to help take the state to a better place post-pandemic,” said Lassner. “Recently, the salaries of UH employees were reduced as we continue to prepare for the significant budget shortfall caused by COVID-19. The salary reductions follow other cost-saving measures across the system as UH invests in diversification of our revenue sources to enhance opportunities and growth.”

UH provides a transformational environment that brings learning and discovery to life, allowing students to embrace the practical applications of their chosen fields. Lassner wants to further develop economic sectors for a resilient and sustainable economy that includes computer science, engineering, astronomy, climate change, energy, green jobs, sustainable tourism, creative media, agri/aquaculture, and much more. He praised Maui Economic Development Board for decades of innovative services supporting Maui County start-ups, jobs, investments, and STEM programs, as well as for their Kama’aina Come Home Program.

Lassner concluded, “COVID showed us a silver lining that remote work is now possible, which is an extra push towards a technology economy for the state. Like much of the country over the last seven months, UH also emphasized online distance learning. Now, we need to work as a community to diversify and strengthen our economy. Our future must be more sustainable and equitable than the economy shattered by the pandemic. We need to build it together.”

I truly believe that UH is the most important institution to shape a more positive, sustainable and thriving future for our state.

David Lassner, President, University of Hawaii