The University of Hawaii-West Oahu campus is a four-year baccalaureate campus serving central, leeward and west Oahu, that offers programs in liberal arts and professional studies.
The campus was founded in 1976, but has been housed in temporary portables next to the Leeward Community College campus in Pearl City for the past three decades. Plans to build a permanent campus for UH West Oahu have dragged on for decades as school officials have worked to prove student demand and get approval to use state money to fund construction. The university has designed a $150 million campus to be built in Kapolei on part of a 500-acre parcel donated by the Estate of James Campbell, developer of the city of Kapolei.
Plans for a permanent UH-West Oahu campus got a boost in July 2010 with the release of $48 million in bond financing to fund initial construction of the Kapolei site, situated on former sugar farmlands at the intersection of Farrington Highway and the North-South Road.
The money will be used for the first phase of construction: $31.2 million to build three buildings — a two-story classroom building, a two-story laboratory building, and a mechanical and maintenance building — and $16.7 million will be used for infrastructure, including grading, installing a waterline and sewer line, driveways and roads, a parking lot, utilities and landscaping.
The project will be built on 41 acres of the property and is scheduled to be completed by summer 2012, when UH-West Oahu expects to accommodate up to 2,750 students. At full buildout, the campus will be similar in size to the UH Hilo campus and be able to accommodate 7,600 students and 1,000 faculty and staff.
The UH-West Oahu campus is led by Chancellor Gene Awakuni, who was named to the position in 2005 and oversees an annual budget of about $10 million.
Awakuni previously was vice provost for student affairs at Stanford University, where he had joint oversight for a division of 650 staff members. Before that, he was vice president of student services at Columbia University in New York, overseeing eight major departments, including business, financial services, dining and residence halls. He holds a doctorate degree in counseling and consulting psychology from Harvard University.
Under Awakuni’s direction, UH-West Oahu has increased student enrollment and been able to move its plans for a permanent campus forward. Enrollment at the West Oahu campus nearly doubled from 850 students in 2005 to more than 1,350 in 2009. It saw a 16.5 percent increase in students between 2008 and 2009.
The university is projecting enrollment of 3,359 students in 2014.
UH system president M.R.C. Greenwood has said the UH-West Oahu campus is part of the university’s strategic plan to increase college-going rates and graduation rates among local residents. The university launched a research project in 2007 called the Second Decade Project, to survey the 10 regions that its campuses serve with the goal of determining where resources should go first. West Oahu came out on top, according to the report.
The university was established in 1976 as West Oahu College and is the newest campus within the UH system.
UH-West Oahu enrolled its first class of freshman in fall 2007. Before that, it had only been offering upper level courses to community college graduates and transfer students from other four-year universities. In late 2006, the campus received approval from the UH Board of Regents to offer a four-year curriculum.