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Trina Nahm-Mijo, fifth from left, and other Hawai'i CC Kauhale members honored during the 50th anniversary of the University of Hawai'i Community College system.

Trina Nahm-Mijo retiring after 43 years of holistic education, innovation and service

Trina Nahm-Mijo, professor and department chair of social sciences, is retiring this spring after 43 years at Hawai‘i Community College. Though she’s ready to close the book on her Hawai‘i CC career, she said teaching never got tiresome or repetitive even after more than four decades.

“The students inspire me,” she said. “It was always new every semester even if it was the same classes, because the people are different and my style is to teach to the students’ individual strengths and characteristics, so it was always new for me.”

One of her legacies is the Human Services certificate program, which is celebrating its 33rd year with a virtual conference on April 14-16. Nahm-Mijo started the program, writing the curriculum and tweaking some existing classes to create a new credential.

“A lot of local students are really into service,” she said. “It’s something I picked up early on in Hawai‘i and especially on neighbor islands. There’s really a helping attitude, and it comes from the culture. It’s kind of a natural attitude and value in the way people are raised locally, and that’s why it was always a popular certificate.”

      >>>Register for the Human Services Conference.

Nahm-Mijo’s career has included accolades such as the Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching award and three Hawai‘i CC Innovation Awards, among other accomplishments.

After growing up on Oahu, Nahm-Mijo moved to Hawai‘i Island at the invitation of the late Earnest Morgan, who established the dance program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, and she is known by many in the community for the dance classes she has taught and her involvement in performances such as the Great Leaps series.

Nahm-Mijo began lecturing at Hawai‘i CC in 1978. She earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from University of California, Berkeley in 1979 and was hired that same year as the first full-time psychology professor at Hawai‘i CC.

Nahm-Mijo fondly recalls some of the bigger milestones of her teaching career, including the Learning Communities that began in 1986 and involved a team of instructors teaching with a cross-disciplinary approach and mentored by exchange faculty from the Washington Center for the Improvement of Undergraduate Education, located in Washington state.

“It was really complex and so rich,” she said. “We planned a ‘Town Meeting on the Future of the Big Island,’ which the students ran. It brought together 300 community leaders, like the mayor, County Council members, and heads of the Departments, faculty/staff, and students, and we did problem solving around the most pressing issues on the Big Island. This was very important at that time, because 9/11 had just occurred, and we took a proactive approach to dealing with the large socio-economic impacts.”

She also cites as major experiences the co-founding of the Women’s Center at UH Hilo (before Hawai‘i CC and UH Hilo split); creating Middle College, which was a precursor to today’s Early College; and the establishment of the Kea'au Youth Business Center, a state-of-the-art skill building program in music and sound recording, culinary arts, and digital arts integrated with academics in which at-risk high school students earned 12 Hawai‘i CC college credits in their senior year of high school. 

What perhaps unites the various strands of her career is the belief in a hands-on, real-world, holistic approach that doesn’t put learning, teaching or people into compartments.

“I like things that are not one dimensional,” she said. “Education is holistic, it’s human. If you reach people, you’re going to be successful.”