EXCLUSIVE: UH West Oahu staff move off campus to ease space crun - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: UH West Oahu staff move off campus to ease space crunch

KAPOLEI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The University of Hawaii's newest campus at West Oahu is hugely popular with students and enrollment has increased by one third since it opened two and a half years ago.

But a decision to save money during the construction process has created a new problem: finding a place for all the professors to work there.

While classrooms at UH West Oahu are busy, they aren't overcrowded. Their average class size is 22. But to keep up with a 46 percent increase in classes on the new campus, the school has had to do a lot of hiring.

Since 50 faculty and staff have been hired in the last two and a half years and another 50 are scheduled to come on board before next fall, the real problem is where to put all the professors and other employees.

"We're getting a little cramped here. Along with the increase in enrollment, we've also seen an increase in faculty and staff on this campus," said Leila Shimokawa, director of communications for UH West Oahu.

Conference rooms have been turned into offices for professors as UH West Oahu tries to squeeze in more faculty.

"So you can see that there's a little bit of a space crunch. And so Chancellor (Rockne Freitas) thought it would be a good idea to look off site to remove administrative staff who don't have regular interaction with students off campus," Shimokawa said.

About 21 administrative workers such as human resources staff will temporarily move out this summer and their offices will be reconfigured to make room for more professors.

Students who've been there since the new campus opened welcome the move.

"With the enrollment, they have to hire new professors. And with new professors come more classes, so that actually helped me out in getting the classes that I need," said Leanne Nagai, a social sciences major.

Ryan Sommer, the student body president who is a public administration major, said, "We're super excited about the new staff, the new faculty coming in. It's just going to make more courses available to students and increase our education. It's wonderful."

For the next three years, the relocated administrative staff will work at the Department of Hawaiian Homelands headquarters in Kapolei, a five-minute drive that's about two and a half miles from campus.

UH West Oahu will spend $201,052 a year renting space, furniture and parking from DHHL, while a new $28.8 million administrative and health classroom building is built at UH West Oahu. Gov. David Ige just released funding for the new facility on Monday.

The administrative building was supposed to be built as part of the original project but was dropped because of cost overruns, so administrative staff moved into offices that were originally planned for faculty, and when enrollment ballooned, the space crunch for employees got worse as more people were added to the payroll.

The new administration building is scheduled to open about three years from now, and that's when the administrative staff will move back on campus at UH West Oahu.

"Our enrollment is growing and that means we're bringing on more faculty and staff to support our student success initiative,” said Shimokawa. “So we do see this as a positive step. It's a temporary move off campus, but we do see it as something really good for our growth."

She said the school has kept classrooms from overcrowding by offering online courses and juggling schedules, even as classes shot up from 234 in the fall of 2012 to 341 this spring.

"We also do a lot of distance education to support our neighbor islands and non-traditional students and we also do some evening and weekend classes, Saturday classes," Shimokawa said.

Founded as West Oahu College in 1976, the school moved off the campus of Leeward Community College to its new location in Kapolei in the summer of 2012. Enrollment at the school increased by 20 percent to 1,997 in 2012, the year UH West Oahu moved to its new campus. Today, the school has about 2,661 students.

Copyright 2015 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved. 

Powered by Frankly