TCUP Ecological Ahupuaa Monitoring in Urban Polynesia

Project Summary: Kapiolani Community College (KCC) is the second largest of 10 public universities and colleges in the University of Hawaii (UH) System. A two-year urban institution, we provide high quality liberal arts and 21st century career programs to a diverse population of Native Hawaiian (NH) and multi-ethnic students and communities. KCC bears the name of Queen Julia Kapiolani, whose motto was “Kulia i ka nuu,” — “To Reach for the Highest.” This motto sets the standard for the College’s vision and mission as a learning-centered institution. Likewise, it inspires the proposed TEAM-UP project as we move students progressively to more challenging science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) levels. This new TEAM-UP proposal focuses on Life Sciences that are grounded in the NH ahupuaa (ah-who-poo-ah-ah) at its center. An ahupuaa is a traditional division of land running along the banks of a stream and extending from the mountains to the sea that has been a part of the Hawaiian culture for hundreds of years. It provides an intellectual framework that serves as an excellent touch stone for NH students. This proposal also uses key “building blocks” of NH knowledge, to contextualize the science of Hawaii’s mountain to sea ecosystems. KCC has benefited from previous NSF grants to build a strong STEM infrastructure that integrates the comprehensive, research-based, STEM Student Support and Success System proposed in this TEAM-UP project.

Goals: The project has two goals: Goal 1) To implement a new STEM Learning Continuum that progressively advances NH students, including those with disabilities, in biology, ecology, biotechnology, eco-engineering, and technology; Goal 2) To implement a NH Community of Practice that connects NH students, mentors, and undergraduate researchers with faculty, researchers, and community partners. The project has ten objectives to achieve these goals, detailed in the proposal, and four major outcomes: 1) creation of a comprehensive and sustainable participant support system for 175 NH students; 2) completion of the ASNS degree in Life Sciences and/or transfer to biological science fields at UH Manoa or UH Hilo by 140 NH students; 3) completion of a STEM baccalaureate degree at UHM or UHH by 100 NH students; and 4) new partnerships with the NH community, the private sector and state government, and opportunities for competitive research in the life sciences will provide a strong foundation for future sustainability and growth of the KCC Life and Physical Sciences program.

Intellectual Merit: The proposed project seeks to design and implement comprehensive strategies that integrate research-based best practices in student support, science learning, and academic success for NH students who are underrepresented in STEM. These best practices will be embedded in a rich Hawaiian cultural context and a rigorous two-year associate degree (ASNS) in Life Sciences and Physical Sciences leading to STEM baccalaureate degrees at UH Manoa and UH Hilo. The relationship of these STEM activities to Hawaiian culture is critical to establish relevance for the NH students and will improve their retention rates and enhance their success. Successful strategies will be developed, implemented, evaluated, and improved to transform NH STEM education at other UH campuses and will contribute to the growing set of models for broadening participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM.

Broader Impact: TEAM-UP will continue to drive innovation and improvement institution-wide. TEAM-UP focuses on a local and national problem, low levels of Calculus readiness for NH and other students underrepresented in STEM. The NH STEM Learning Continuum and Community of Practice are rooted in Hawaiian culture and community and lead to baccalaureate degrees and knowledge-intensive careers locally, nationally, and globally. These research-based innovations will be evaluated, improved and disseminated statewide and nationally through the Hawaii and national EPSCoR program, Quality Education for Minorities (QEM), and the TCUP network. KCC participates and provides leadership in four national higher education associations where TEAM-UP results will be shared, and new research-based best practices will be identified for integration into the KCC STEM enterprise.