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Senator Hirono Announces Nearly $2.5 Million in Funding to the UH West Oahu

Grants from the National Science Foundation to be used towards summer programming

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) announced that University of Hawaii West Oahu (UHWO) will receive nearly $2.5 million in support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve college readiness and success for Native Hawaiian high school and college students, and provide them with STEM learning opportunities through UHWO’s summer bridge programs.

“This NSF grant funding is a step in the right direction in providing our keiki with opportunities to participate in high-quality STEM programs and in removing barriers that frequently discourage students from entering these fields to begin with. Through UHWO’s innovative programs, our students will receive the support they need to get into and stay in the STEM pipeline, earn their degree, and go on to fill existing STEM jobs or create new innovative businesses in Hawaii,” Senator Hirono said.

“Pukoa Kani Aina, led by Dr. Kamuela Yong and Dr. Megan Ross, will strengthen our STEM programs offered at UH West Oahu and establish STEM pathways from our K-12 public schools to university as well as transfer opportunities from our community colleges to a 4-year B.A. degree. We believe that our efforts will have a positive impact on Native Hawaiian student success,” Maenette Benham, Chancellor at the University of Hawaii West Oahu, said.

The $2,499,799 award will be funded through NSF’s Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP), which works to support Native-serving institutions of higher education as they build their STEM instructional and research capacities. With the award, students will have access to summer bridge programs that prepare them for college and help them succeed while supporting the development of innovative academic programs at UHWO.

The award will also provide UHWO with funding to increase the number of students enrolled in STEM programming and remove barriers students may face to pursuing STEM degrees, while streamlining pipelines from K-12 schools and community colleges into UHWO’s STEM and graduate studies programs. Additionally, the award will aid UHWO in developing a five-year plan to enhance the STEM degrees, concentrations, and certificates to be offered at the school.

Senator Hirono has continued to advocate for federal programs that broaden participation for women and minorities in STEM. Earlier this year, Senator Hirono led a letter with 11 of her colleagues requesting strong funding for NSF’s broadening participation programs, which include TCUP. Last Congress (2017-2018) she also introduced a legislative plan to address the lack of women and minorities in STEM professions and careers, which included two bills –  S. 1270, the STEM Opportunities Act, and S. 1246, the Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act – to provide more resources to address barriers that limit the inclusion of women and minorities in STEM.

In 2016, Senator Hirono also convened a U.S. Senate Small Business Committee field hearing at Maui High School to discuss the importance of federal programs that broaden participation in STEM, including those at NSF.