Nā Haumāna O Hawai‘i (NHOH), Pacific University’s Students of Hawai‘i Club, began in the fall 1959. Over the last half century Pacific’s Hawaiian student body has grown to represent about 15 to 20 percent of all student enrollment.
Developing consistent recruiting in the late 80’s, the university has held onto many island connections ever since. While it may seem obvious for west coast universities to recruit students from Hawai’i, Pacific was one of the first schools to readily welcome and build connections with the state and its students. Though in the last few years other colleges, specifically in the northwest region, have picked up on the great opportunity for recruits.
With a rich culture and vibrant student population Director of Admissions Jeff Grundon, affectionately referred to as “Uncle Jeff” by students on campus, understands why schools are becoming more competitive while recruiting.
“It definitely presents a challenge,” Grundon said. “Many of these other school are beginning to spend serious money and send recruiting staff to the island much more frequently now.”
But, Pacific being a small liberal arts school sets it apart from the crowd it two ways. One being that it does not have the financial backing to dedicate exorbitant amounts of money on recruiting. The other being that it presents a whole different type of incentive, a sense of family that would otherwise come from the island here on the mainland.
President Lesley Hallick also understands other schools may be recruiting in Hawai’i, but does not see them as direct hindrances on the university because of this unique connection.
“It’s such a small community in a lot of ways,” Hallick said. “Referrals and legacy are really important, all of the long standing connections we hold in Hawaii help us with things like recruiting.”
This concept is what Grundon kindly refers to as the, “Coconut wireless,” with which Hawaiian students, alumni and family pass along recommendations to the university.
Beyond just familial and emotional connections though, Pacific is also currently the only university with a permanent office, open year round, located on the island. Other schools like Oregon State University are beginning to implement permanent recruiters in Hawai’i, but have not yet established a base as solid as Pacific’s.
However, like Grundon, Hallick views Hawai’i recruiting as less of a numbers game and more of a relationship to keep up.
“Part of it is very personal and focused on initiating those connections,” Hallick said. “The other part is taking care of those Hawaiian students once they actually arrive at Pacific and ensuring they are having a positive experience like any other student.”
With recruiting numbers remaining on par with years past, Pacific continues to rely on connections made possible by many departments on campus who continue to care for Hawaiian students. This includes the work of “Aunty Edna” Gehring MS ‘70, 72’ who served the university for over 35 years before retiring last year. Gehring was succeeded by Janalei Chun, MAT, ʻ89, ʻ97 the current director of Hawai‘i Outreach and Programming.