HPU Taps Social Media Savvy Students for Scholarship


Hawaii Pacific University, the state’s largest private university, has launched a scholarship program aimed at local high school students. Interested seniors need only share and later pitch an idea to improve life in Hawaii to be eligible for up to ten full, four-year scholarships.

The #HPUBiz4Good scholarship challenge is now underway, looking to inspire students to work toward making positive social, environmental, or economic impact in Hawaii. And to get started, there are no long application forms, essays, or transcripts required.

“It’s actually really simple, and with the December Christmas break coming up, it’s a perfect opportunity for the parents and the students to take part,” explained HPU’s Steven Hanneman on tonight’s Bytemarks Cafe. “To enter, they take their smartphones, take a picture that somehow represents the idea or concept they want to work on, put a one or two sentence description of the concept, and post it to any social media using the hashtag #HPUBiz4Good.”

Branding the challenge with a hashtag was a deliberate decision.

“Part of our design for this whole campaign was to reach high school students, and we all all know they don’t email that much, they don’t call that much, but they click the thumbs a lot,”  “So hashtagging is a great way to reach out to students and share the message.”

HPU is known for its internationally diverse student body, representing more than 80 different countries around the world. But school administrators know that their institution is not top of mind for many prospective students in its home state.

“Dr. [Geoffrey] Bannister, our president, and our dean at the College of Business, Dr. [Deborah] Crown, they got together along with the other deans and said, ‘We are not connecting with our Hawaii students like we should,'” Hanneman said. “This is a community university, it’s a non-profit university, [so] the school is reaching out to Hawaii students.”

And with full-time tuition topping $22,000 per year — a flat rate, same for in-state, out-of-state and overseas students — a four-year scholarship is not an insignificant prize. But it’s an investment HPU is making in the local community, an investment Hanneman linked to the school’s acquisition and conversion of Aloha Tower Marketplace.

“That is now part of the HPU campus, and that is designed to be a community center, a meeting and learning place, for the whole community,” he said. “Tying in with that we wanted to bring in more high school students so we came up with the challenge as a way to do that.”


The scholarship challenge has been online for over a month, and there have already been a number of submissions: educational advancement for homeless children, helping local farmers survive and succeed in the increasingly global marketplace, financial education to combat spiraling debt, an anti-bullying campaign,and fighting human trafficking.

“We are just amazed at the number of ideas that are starting to come from the Hawaii students,” Hanneman said.

While the College of Business is spearheading the #HPUBiz4Good campaign, participation is not limited to students interested in a business degree.

“This challenge is open to high school students wo are interested in pursuing any of the 59 majors that we have in the undergraduate program, and that can be everything from international business to nursing to marine biology to computer science,” Hanneman said.

And winning students do not have to shape their HPU education around their proposed project.

“What we’re looking for is the potential in students who are thinking about ways to improve the community,” he added. “We would love to show them the tools and give them courses and curriculum to guide them towards doing that specific idea… but what we want them to do is to do what they’re good at, what they want to do.”

hpubiz4good-02The hashtagged social media photo post is the first requirement to enter the scholarship challenge, but there are a few more steps. Once the photo is posted, interested students will need to sign up for and attend a free, half-day weekend workshop in January.

“We will go over with the students basic tools and teach them how to develop and sell and pitch their idea,” Hanneman explained. “It’s similar to a business startup workshop, but we go a little bit beyond that and tell them how to start thinking about getting community support, how to market, and how to talk.”

Participants will then put together a short three- to five-page paper on their project, a short video, and finally develop a stage presentation for the final event on Feb. 18. The pitch can use any tools or formats the student is comfortable with, from a science fair-style poster board to a set of projected slides. And the students will be presenting to a panel of judges as well as local business and community leaders and the public.

“That night, we’ll be awarding the scholarships,” Hanneman said.

Students can participate in the scholarship challenge without separately applying to attend HPU, he added. Winning the contest is a completely separate path to enrollment, with registration fees waived to boot.

“So many of our high school seniors have amazing ideas about how to positively impact Hawaii… starting with something as simple as a tweet, we want to help them take their ideas, grow them, and develop themselves as leaders,” said Crown in a press release. “That’s why we’re holding a contest with an opportunity for up to ten students to receive a fully-paid college education right at home.”

For more information, visit the #PHUBiz4Good web page. You can also scan for #HPUBiz4Good posts on Twitter, on Instagram, or on Facebook. And you can listen to our full interview with Hanneman here:

1 Response

  1. Ciana says:

    Better get that 4-year scholarship in writing…just ask current upperclassmen who came in with 4-year scholarships.

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