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UH Maui Anatomy and Physiology Instructor Honored for Excellence in Teaching

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Trenton Niemi, anatomy and physiology instructor, UH Maui College

An anatomy and physiology instructor at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College STEM department was awarded the Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching. The award recognizes faculty who exhibit an extraordinary level of subject mastery and scholarship, teaching effectiveness and creativity, and personal values beneficial to students.

Trenton Niemi was born in Minnesota, but says he has always been called to the ocean.

University representatives say his commitment and dedication to his students has been recognized by his colleagues and students. “Students laud his ability to make difficult concepts understandable, which is commendable considering the challenging nature of the material (i.e., anatomy, physiology).


Students also reported that he was an inspiring teacher. “[He] explains in multiple ways so that we truly understand the information and he is the best instructor I have ever had,” a student wrote.

Niemi moved to Hawaiʻi more than 15 years ago and has taught with UH Maui College for 11 years, teaching PHYS 141 and 142 lectures and labs as well as for Kapiʻolani CC’s Emergency Medical Services Training program.

In addition to his passion for teaching, Niemi’s interests include bodyboarding, weight lifting and photography. Some of his photography can be seen on the UH Maui College channel.


He was among a list of 15 UH faculty members from across the state who were awarded the Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching. Three additional instructors received the Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research. In addition, six UH teachers have been recognized with the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching; and a Kaua‘i Community College student and taro farmer has won the Masaki and Momoe Kunimoto Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions to Vocational Education.

“Our extraordinary, innovative, caring University of Hawai‘i faculty are second to none,” said UH President David Lassner. “Especially in these challenging times, their dedication and commitment elevates and inspires our students even as their scholarship and engagement helps address pressing global issues and improve lives across our islands.”

The complete list of recipients of the Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching, include:

  • Bradley Ashburn, assistant professor of chemistry, UH West O‘ahu
  • Mark Branner, assistant professor of theatre, UH Mānoa
  • Paul Briggs, professor of economics, Windward Community College
  • Terrence Bruns, assistant professor of biological sciences, Kaua‘i Community College
  • Jane Jaeeun Chung-Do, associate professor, Office of Public Health Studies, UH Mānoa
  • Tanya Dean, assistant professor of English, Hawai‘i Community College–Pālamanui 
  • Derrick Higginbotham, associate professor of English, UH Mānoa
  • Kimberly Koide Iwao, legal education instructor, Kapi‘olani Community College
  • Karen Kamahele, fashion technology instructor, Honolulu Community College
  • Justina Taft Mattos, assistant professor of drama and performing arts, UH Hilo
  • Wendy Meguro, assistant professor, School of Architecture, UH Mānoa
  • Mary Mostafanezhad, assistant professor of geography, UH Mānoa
  • Trenton Niemi, anatomy and physiology instructor, UH Maui College
  • Wayde Oshiro, associate professor and interim learning commons and library coordinator, Leeward Community College
  • Scott Rowland, specialist, Department of Earth Sciences, UH Mānoa

The Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research, which recognizes a faculty member’s scholarly contributions that expand the boundaries of knowledge and enrich the lives of all in the community, nation and the world, was awarded to:

  • Bruce Houghton, Gordon A. Macdonald Professor of volcanology,, UH Mānoa
  • Fei-Fei Jin, professor of atmospheric sciences, UH Mānoa
  • Angelicque E. White, associate professor of oceanography, UH Mānoa

The Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching recognizes dedication and demonstrated excellence as teachers of undergraduate students. It was established as a memorial to the late Frances Davis, who taught mathematics at Leeward Community College and UH Mānoa for 19 years. This year’s awardees are:

  • Laurie James, assistant professor of math, UH West O‘ahu
  • Tiffany Kawaguchi, program director and academic fieldwork coordinator, Occupational Therapy Assistant Program, Kapi‘olani Community College
  • Heewon Kwon, social and cultural psychology PhD student, College of Social Sciences, UH Mānoa
  • Ruria Namba, biology instructor, Hawai‘i Community College–Pālamanui 
  • A. Zachary Trimble, associate professor of mechanical engineering, College of Engineering, UH Mānoa
  • Lissa Tsutsumi, assistant professor of applied agricultural science and biotechnology, UH Hilo

The Masaki and Momoe Kunimoto Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions to Vocational Education rewards outstanding achievement and significant contribution to vocational and technical education by a community college faculty member or student. The award was established by family members to honor the namesakes’ role in development of the food industry in Hawai‘i. This year’s winner is:

  • Sierra-Lynn Harada-Stone, business student, Kaua‘i Community College

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