UH-Hilo launches ‘sticky’ retention initiative

  • Students study Friday at tables outside the Edwin H. Mookini Library at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

The University of Hawaii at Hilo kicked off a new effort this semester designed to help manage student enrollment and boost retention.

The effort is called “Opihi,” named after a limpet “famous for its tenacity” and known to remain “stuck to rocks despite crashing waves and rising tides,” according to a recent campus newsletter. In the same way, the ‘Opihi effort encourages students and faculty to “stick with it.”

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“It’s more or less a branding initiative,” said Kainoa Ariola, interim associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs, on Thursday. “We have a lot of retention-type initiatives happening on campus and there’s a lot going on, so ‘Opihi brings it all under one umbrella or shell. It’s not costing us anything just to reconceptualize these different attempts in terms of how we are trying to increase retention. It’s just rebranding it so that students and faculty are more aware.”

Under ‘Opihi, the campus is rolling out a new system called MySuccess that allows instructors to flag or raise kudos to students who are either performing poorly or doing well.

Campus leaders also began pairing new students and transfer students with existing students to “make sure they’re connecting and talking to someone who has gone through what they’re going through,” Ariola said.

The campus also is actively working to better communicate to students and faculty important deadlines and explain various processes via social media, fliers and emails.

“For example, last semester we tried out, ‘What does a withdrawal with a W mean?’” Ariola said. “Or, ‘What does an incomplete grade mean?’ And then explaining what that means to students and faculty. And we also try to get information out about things like internships and other opportunities for getting involved.”

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Enrollment campuswide was 3,539 this fall, down 3.5 percent from fall 2016. Under its newly adjusted enrollment target, UH-Hilo is aiming to have 3,645 students enrolled in fall 2018. Enrollment as of Friday was 3,291, according to the UH website.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.