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20 for the Next 20: People to Watch 2013

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Wei Fang

Photo: Olivier Koning

Co-Founder, Interisland Terminal
Age: 36

It was at the prestigious Catlin Gabel School in Portland, Ore., that Wei Fang’s Hawaii connection began.

Fang was a student under headmaster Jim Scott, a Punahou School graduate who would later become Punahou’s president.

“Jim helped me get into a program called Summer Bridge and there used to be a site in Honolulu,” recalls Fang. “They hired young people to teach enrichment courses to middle school students, so, in the summers of my junior and senior years, I worked for Summer Bridge. My parents were working abroad, so Hawaii became my home base.”

With a dual interest in the arts and education, Fang went off to college, studying art at Brown and business at Columbia University. After graduation, she took a job in London as a business manager for an auction company, traveling to Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Then the market crashed, the company was sold and everything changed.

“I took a break and went back to New York to try to figure out what to do with my life,” says Fang. “Hawaii kept pulling me back.”

Fang returned to the Islands and connected with a group of like-minded creative people committed to the community and founded the nonprofit Interisland Terminal, which presents community programs and exhibits around contemporary art, design and film. One of its programs, R&D in Kakaako, has been IT’s main focus, offering a creative work space for collaboration.

“Her vision for R&D has transcended itself from a creative inspirational incubation center to that of a resonating symbol for the advancement and evolution of Kakaako as a vibrant, gentrifying, metropolitan epicenter,” says Peter Shaindlin, Halekulani Corp.’s COO.

Last summer, Fang and Kilikina Mahi co-founded an online business called Makana. The company offers monthly care-package subscriptions of Hawaii-made products, keeping the focus on advancing homegrown businesses, developing communities and supporting Hawaii’s creative artists.

“Working in the arts is difficult anywhere, but especially hard in Hawaii,” says Fang, who has a passion for art but does not consider herself an artist. “I would like to make some big marks in our ability as a community and to recognize the value of good design and what really good art is. I want to work to make art less of a luxury or a second thought.”

Susan Hippensteele

Photo: David Croxford

Professor and Strategic Planning Coordinator,UH-Manoa
Age: 50

Susan Hippensteele has lost track of the number of years she has been a part of the UH-Manoa campus, but she thinks it has been about 27. One thing she does know is that she is in love with the place.

“There’s a way in which students are grounded here that is very special. Often, faculty members can become quite frustrated by quiet classes or classes where students are sort of reticent or hesitant to challenge, so they fill the pauses,” she says. “But because I’ve been a student here, I know that those pauses are indications of reflection. There’s skepticism of the person lecturing in front of them. But there’s a potential for richness and interaction because of this.”

Hippensteele earned her law degree and Ph.D. in psychology at UH. She was hired as the university’s first victims’ advocate, later joined the Women’s Studies faculty and co-founded the Hawaii Women’s Law Center in Chinatown.

While serving as chair of the Manoa Faculty Senate, she coordinated development of UH’s strategic plan. Now as a strategic planning coordinator in the chancellor’s office, she oversaw the writing of accreditation reports that, in 2011, resulted in 10 years of accreditation, the most possible, by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

UH-Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple says she has tackled some of the most important issues at the campus. “I’m surprised at the speed with which she has been able to build consensus on major initiatives,” he says. “Her work is having a big, positive impact on our students and faculty.”

Hippensteele wants more faculty to develop connections with individuals, groups and neighborhoods to link professors’ scholarly knowledge with community needs and resources.  She says it will make the university even better.

“For many years, I’ve had a sense that there is a lack of understanding about UH. It’s our fault at Manoa,” she admits. “There’s a lack of understanding of how really wonderful an education students can obtain here, but we can’t say that for every department. I would like to see every single department at UH be stellar and for the entire state to know it.”

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