Chancellor Solemsaas leaving Hawaiʻi Community College
News Release from Hawaiʻi Community College Apr 28, 2023
Hawai‘i Community College Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas has announced she will be stepping down after the spring 2023 semester. Solemsaas has served as chancellor of Hawai‘i CC since 2016.
“It truly has been an honor to serve Hawai‘i Community College as chancellor, but personal family-related matters have necessitated that I leave this institution that I love and have served for seven years,” said Solemsaas. “Hawai‘i CC has an amazing history in the Hawai‘i Island community and I am incredibly proud of our ‘Kauhale’—the faculty, staff, students and community members—for all that we have accomplished together.”
Solemsaas’ belief in higher education as a pathway to social mobility, especially for many traditionally underserved students, informed the college’s efforts to increase access and equity.
Under her leadership, Hawai‘i CC adopted an “island-wide” approach, assuming administration of the Kō Education Center in Honokaʻa, establishing innovative Career and Technical Education Early College programs at high schools and enhancing the Hawai‘i CC–Pālamanui campus in Kona.
“It was really important to me that we become more accessible for all segments of the Hawai‘i Island community, and we made great strides in this area,” Solemsaas said. “At the Hawai‘i CC–Pālamanui campus, for example, we created a new physics lab, outdoor learning center, apprenticeship program and helped establish a 700-acre dryland forest preserve adjacent to campus.”
Three-year graduation rates for both full-time (36.3%) and part-time (10.4%) first-time freshmen reached all-time highs, and Hawai‘i CC closed success gaps for target student populations, including Native Hawaiians, Filipino and Pell Grant students.
Hawaiʻi CC continued its commitment to Native Hawaiian students through the Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao initiative and was the first UH institution to include a land acknowledgement in campus meetings and public presentations. Hawai‘i CC also adopted the Kaʻao framework for its First-Year Experience programs, for data analytics and for the development of its strategic plan.
Solemsaas joined Hawai‘i CC as the campus faced low financial reserves of less than $1 million, and will leave the college on sound financial footing with more than $10 million in reserves. Hawai‘i CC also increased grant funding, securing $12.5 million in extramural funding, and private philanthropy, with the largest single private donation in the college’s history of $1 million.
In addition, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges reaffirmed accreditation for Hawai‘i CC for seven years in 2018.
“Chancellor Solemsaas has done a remarkable job in her seven years at Hawaiʻi CC and was truly committed to the college and Hawaiʻi Island community,” said UH President David Lassner. “I commend her for expanding the college’s reach on Hawaiʻi Island and its underserved communities and her work guiding the campus through the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Solemsaas’ last day on campus is scheduled for June 30, 2023. Consultation will take place with Hawai‘i CC campus constituents regarding the next steps in campus leadership so that an interim chancellor can be named by May 12, for posting with the public agenda for the May 18 Board of Regents meeting.
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