Chaminade University is celebrating the first outcomes of a transformative partnership that supports Native Hawaiian students in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines.

This scholarship is funded by The Kamehameha Schools and Chaminade University. The vision of this scholarship is to train a new generation of Hawaiian scientists, health practitioners, forensic specialists, environmental professionals and business leaders who are equally grounded in science and culture. Ho'oulu is designed to empower promising young scientists who are ready to lead the charge for a healthy, prosperous, just, and sustainable lāhui (nation) of the future. Native-Hawaiian students are talented, motivated and come from a culture of inquiry and exploration of the natural world. However, they also face barriers to higher education and STEM careers resulting from socioeconomic hardship, bias and trauma.

Ho'oulu seeks to support the brightest and the best. We match student’s commitment to community and Hawai'i with our commitment to transformative levels of financial, academic and personal support. The scholarship offers full tuition assistance for four-years, and a partial housing subsidy to attract neighbor island or rural O'ahu students. The program embeds Native-Hawaiian cultural practices, culturally sustaining curriculum, intensive academic support and life coaching at every level. In addition to the co-funding of the program by Kamahameha Schools, it has attracted support from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute "Inclusive Excellence" program and a number of private foundations. It has also bred further scholarship support in the form of two $1M grants from the Alaka'ina Foundation and the National Science Foundation. The Ho'oulu program applies a preference for Native-Hawaiian students to the extent allowable by law, and these leveraged awards let us extend the Ho'oulu model to a wider student population.

The program admitted its first cohort in fall 2016, and the outcomes are transformative. National benchmarks for comparison of the success rates of these students include NSF statistics showing that only around 36% of students in the US, across all level of privileges and all schools, complete a STEM degree in 6 years. A benchmark for Native Hawaiian students’ challenges in Hawaii is a 33% 4-year graduation rate from the State’s single public university. How do Ho'oulu scholars compare?

  • 123 students in the program (with 25 entering in fall 2020)
  • 97% retention rate
  • 94% first-time class pass rate
  • 100% graduation rate
  • Ho'oulu scholars have a mean GPA at graduation of 3.38
  • Ho'oulu scholars’ overall mean GPA is 3.28
  • 43 rural and 21 neighbor island students
  • 85/123 students are classed as low or very low income
  • 100% participation in 73 separate community enrichment programs
  • As of May 2020, 29 will have graduated on time, in 4-years or less, with 32 majors and 7 minors
  • 77/123 students have participated in national or international scientific conferences to present their own research

The Ho'oulu team at Chaminade includes exceptional commitment and support from faculty, staff and administration: Project founder Dr. Helen Turner, and her team of faculty (Dr. Jolene Cogbll, Dr. Chrystie Naeole, Dr. Jonathan Baker), our STEM cultural engagement specialist (Kahoali'i Keahi-Wood), the collaborating STEM faculty at Chaminade, all faculty who teach Ho'oulu Scholars outside of STEM, our departments of Admissions and Academic Affairs, and the entire Chaminade community.

Story by Helen Turner, CUH VP for Strategy and Innovation, Professor of Biology