Two faculty members who spearheaded out-of-the-box programs aimed at expanding educational opportunities to more members of the community and broadening the university’s positive impact were honored recently with the inaugural President’s Innovation Awards at Chaminade.
The recipients were:
- Dr. Rylan Chong, assistant professor of Data Science, for his student-powered computing program that seeks to put data analytics in the hands of community members. Through a pilot program, his students worked with grassroots groups on the Waianae Coast to develop a community sentiment dashboard aimed at measuring well-being and health metrics.
- Dr. Janet Davidson, vice provost and professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, for overseeing the successful design and launch of a Chaminade associate’s degree program at a Hawaii prison—the only Second Chance Pell Program currently offered in the state.
Chaminade President Dr. Lynn Babington said all of those nominated for the awards, and especially those who won, underscore how innovation is woven into Chaminade’s DNA. “The pandemic has added no shortage of challenges to our work at Chaminade, but it has also shown the power of innovation in helping us to meet our social service mission and expand our important work,” Babington said.
“I am so honored to say our campus is full of innovators—members of our Silversword ‘ohana who understand that today’s new ideas and new approaches are tomorrow’s successes and best practices.”
The Center for Strategy and Innovation created the President’s Innovation Award program and announced a call for nominations in September 2021. Winners were announced at a Spring Kickoff event for faculty and staff members celebrating the beginning of the new term.
Dr. Helen Turner, vice president for strategy and innovation at Chaminade, described the selection process as rigorous and said a five-member committee reviewed nominations and chose the recipients.
Both awardees said they were honored and humbled by the recognition.
“I am truly grateful,” Chong said. “Receiving this award acknowledges how data science can unite communities, break down silos and social stereotypes about STEM disciplines, and be a field to catalyze social good. I want to personally thank the Waianae Coast community for their support.”
Chong added that he was particularly proud of the hands-on experiences students got throughout the course of the project—from interviewing community members to presenting their findings and continuously adding to and revising the dashboard as a “living tool” for stakeholders.
“Students made connections on how and when to use the data science and project management skills and tools they learned in their classes toward a real and relevant project,” Chong said. “They also learned a lot of soft skills, networking and working with a diverse group of people with various backgrounds to get real-world experience. And our shared work on this project continues.”
Davidson said the innovation award is a “rewarding validation” of all the work that’s gone into the Second Chance Pell Program, whose first cohort has 14 students. “This award is a reminder of the team behind this. It reminds me of how thankful I am that there has been university support all around. So many people support the mission of this program and its alignment with Chaminade’s values.”
She noted the COVID pandemic meant that faculty members and staff delivering the program were required to quickly pivot so they could continue to meet student needs and program expectations. “This honor means a lot,” she said. “And I look forward to seeing who is honored next year.”