Home Trending More Native Hawaiians are launching careers in science at Chaminade University

More Native Hawaiians are launching careers in science at Chaminade University



Nainoa Norman Ing worked Thursday with assistant professor Claire Kendal-Wright at Chaminade University. Ing is a recipient of the Ho‘oulu Scholarship, which aims to launch more Native Hawaiians into science careers.

The number of Native Hawaiian students at Chaminade University has shot up 40 percent since 2015, and many more of them are choosing careers in the sciences under a partnership with Kamehameha Schools.

This semester, 248 of Chaminade’s 1,100 registered day students, or more than 22 percent, are Native Hawaiian, up from 14 percent three years earlier. And 75 percent of incoming Hawaiian students chose science and technology majors this year, compared with 44 percent in 2015.

A factor propelling the growth is the Ho‘oulu Scholarship, which began in 2016, funded equally by Kamehameha Schools and Chaminade. The tuition-­free program aims to remove financial and other barriers, raise college graduation rates and launch more Native Hawaiians into careers in science and technology.

“What we’re seeing as a result of the Ho‘oulu Scholarship program and the intensive wraparound supports is really phenomenal,” said Stacy Ferreira, executive strategy consultant for Kamehameha Schools, citing persistence rates of close to 100 percent, year over year, for Ho‘oulu scholars at Chaminade.

The program includes mentoring, counseling, Hawaiian cultural grounding, tutoring by professionals in science fields and paid research opportunities. Students from rural areas or the neighbor islands also get a housing stipend.

The scholarship is part of a concerted effort by Kamehameha to improve college completion rates for its graduates and other Native Hawaiians.

Boosting retention

Despite Kamehameha Schools’ selectivity and an $11.5 billion endowment, many of its graduates don’t make it through college on time. The latest data show that 60 percent of the Class of 2011 across Kamehameha Schools’ three campuses received a certificate or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree within six years of graduating from high school.

“It’s much lower than what we would have liked,” Ferreira said. “It’s important for us to not only get our haumana (students) to the university door or through the university in a timely way, but also into that next step, whether a postgraduate program or into a career.”

Nationally, 59 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduates complete a bachelor’s degree, which is a higher bar, within six years at the same institution where they started.

Altogether, 89 students have received the Ho‘oulu scholarships at Chaminade, mostly as freshmen. So far, every freshman Ho‘oulu scholar has returned as a sophomore, and all returned for their third year except for three who are on medical leave.

“They are still eligible for scholarship support when they return,” said Helen Turner, Chaminade’s dean of natural sciences. “If we take into account the three students on leave, the retention rate is 97 percent.”

By comparison, among the overall student body, 77 percent of freshmen at Chaminade return as sophomores to the Catholic university in Kaimuki.

About a quarter of the Ho‘oulu scholars are Kamehameha graduates. Nainoa Norman Ing, a math team member at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama who excelled academically, came to Chaminade specifically because of the Ho‘oulu scholarship.

“If I didn’t receive such a good scholarship, I don’t know if I would have even gone to college,” he said. “My family’s situation at home isn’t the best financially. If I was going to be in debt, I probably wouldn’t have done it just because there’s too much already on our plates.”

Ing praised the program for connecting students with professionals in their fields. The summer after his freshman year, Ing landed a research internship at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, where he worked on chemical synthesis of a natural product used in Asian herbal remedies.

This year, as a sophomore, he has a research position at Chaminade with assistant professor of biology Claire Kendal-Wright. Ing had wanted to major in math or physics and pursue an engineering career, but because those majors aren’t offered at Chaminade, he is majoring in biochemistry.

“I’m trying to minor in math,” he said. “I’m still insanely passionate about it.”

The Ho‘oulu scholarship is for students of Hawaiian ancestry pursuing degrees at Chaminade in biology, biochemistry, environmental studies, forensic sciences, nursing and the newest major that starts next fall, data science, analytics and visualization.

Science with values

“The world is drowning in data,” said Chaminade President Lynn Babington. “We need more people who can convert data into meaning, into knowledge that will guide our decisions.”

“Why place this program at Chaminade?” she added. “It’s because we link science with values. Our new program places a strong emphasis on data integrity and ethics because that’s the kind of data scientist our world needs right now.”

Jolene Cogbill, an assistant professor of biology, serves as one of the academic “navigators” who help keep Ho‘oulu scholars on track. The navigators check in with students through weekly surveys, following up with texts or calls, connecting with instructors and offering help as needed.

Cogbill said many of the scholars face substantial stress in their daily lives, even without the worry of tuition. Many are first-generation college students, hold down part-time jobs and have personal hurdles to overcome.

“The goal of this program is not just to provide them money, but to support them mentally, emotionally, culturally so that they can be successful,” said Cogbill, who is a role model as a Native Hawaiian, handling her Ho‘oulu duties on top of a full teaching load.

“We do it because we truly believe in the mission and outcome of this program, which is ultimately to have a network of Native Hawaiian professionals to reach back down into the school system and pull others up and also to support each other,” she said.

The program is recruiting its next cohort of 36 freshmen to start next fall. Ferreira said she looks forward to growing and replicating Kamehameha’s partnership with Chaminade.

“It’s actually helping to inform Kamehameha on a blueprint for potential future partnerships with other post-high colleges and universities. We’re committed to seeing the success of the program and having it grow. … What we’d like to do is find additional partners to help sustain it.”


Native Hawaiian enrollment at Chaminade University has increased since 2015.


2015 / 176 / 14.3% / 1,231

2018 / 248 / 22.5% / 1,100

To learn more about the Ho‘oulu Scholarship at Chaminade, visit finaid.chaminade.edu/scholarships/hooulu-stem-scholarship.

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