Message from the Dean: Wildfires in Hawai’i

Wildfires in Hawai’i
August 16, 2023

Dear SBE Community

As we begin a new academic year, which brings promises of change as well as new discovery, it is important for us to acknowledge the impact of the recent wildfires in Hawai’i.  In particular, the effects of the wildfires on the West Maui town of Lāhainā and surrounding communities have been devastating.  As of this writing, there are at least 106 people confirmed killed by this fire, and this number is almost certain to rise as crews begin their initial searches of the more than 2,200 burned structures.  The West Maui community is only just beginning the phases of recovery and emotion that come with this devastation.  This is an experience that many of us know too well, our own communities having had unfortunately similar experiences with the effects that massive wildfires can have.  

Hawai’i is a remote archipelago paradise with limited island resources, delicate ecosystems, dramatic landscapes and geology, and rich cultural heritage.  I have had the privilege of visiting a number of times, including the island of Maui and the town of Lahaina.  I am not a resident of Hawai’i, but over the course of these visits, I have learned some things about the spirit of Aloha.  The word is used as a greeting, a farewell, a declaration of tranquility and of good feelings.  It is also much more than that.   Whether Native Hawaiian, resident, or visitor, everyone who spends time in Hawai’i is part of a community of Aloha.  It is an understanding of interconnectedness, and a desire to be a positive participant in the community.  

Some of our students, faculty, and staff may be from Hawai’i, and those of us who have visited feel connected in various ways.  Now is the time for us to lean into the spirit of Aloha, and acknowledge the role that we could play in supporting those affected by these devastating wildfires.  Please be generous and kind to each other, and consider how we might exhibit the spirit of Aloha as the West Maui community begins its long path to recovery, and as we begin this new academic year.  

Aloha and mahalo

Michael S. Visser, PhD
Interim Dean and Professor of Economics
School of Business and Economics
Sonoma State University