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Cheryl Kauhane Lupenui joins The Kohala Center as new president and CEO

Updated: 
June 13, 2017 - 1:15am

WAIMEA — The Kohala Center announced last week the appointment of Cheryl Kauhane Lupenui as its new president and chief executive officer, effective July 3.

“Cheryl brings strong leadership skills, depth and breadth of work experience, and impressive team-building experience to The Kohala Center,” said Roberta Chu, chairperson of the center’s board of directors. “It became very clear during the selection process that The Center and its management team would continue to develop and flourish under her leadership. Her thoughtfulness, energy and enthusiasm are inspiring and will propel our efforts to new heights.”

For the past five years, Lupenui has been the founder and principal of The Leader Project, a business that sources from Hawaiian and Western models to develop leadership capacity throughout organizations. Spanning multiple sectors such as transportation, education, health, human services and public safety, her practice is based on building place-based leadership where all group members share the responsibility of leading and following.

She holds a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing, management and finance from Tulane University, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration in international business from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Over the course of her 30-year career, Lupenui has developed a multidisciplinary skill set that includes business and program development, systems-level policy making, capital improvement project planning and management, fund raising, community engagement and strategy and leadership development.

Her career started as a business development associate at one of Hawaii’s largest businesses, but her entrepreneurial spirit soon guided her to open a restaurant that promoted sustainable agriculture by serving healthy meals made with locally grown produce. Lupenui’s restaurant management experience led her to the Young Women’s Christian Association of Oahu, where just four years later she became the organization’s chief executive officer — the youngest in its history and the first of Native Hawaiian descent. During her 10-year tenure as CEO she helped launch a re-branding effort, a $12 million capital campaign to renovate Laniakea, the organization’s historic downtown facility, and an $8 million campaign to expand transitional housing for women and fitness and meeting facilities for the community.

Hawaii Business Magazine named her as one of “25 People Who Will Shape the Next 25 Years” in 2007.

At the same time she started The Leader Project, Lupenui was appointed by the governor to the Hawaii Board of Education for a four-year term. While there she helped develop a new strategic plan and several policies that created the Office of Hawaiian Education, Office of Community Engagement, and Na Hopena Ao, or HA (breath), a set of systemwide learning outcomes for the department grounded in Native Hawaiian culture.

“My work in recent years has focused on seeing place, culture, community and leadership as a whole ecosystem,” Lupenui said. “The Kohala Center is rich with these same elements that can guide our islands in policy and practice. Following a path to Kohala continues my journey emerging from single practitioner to a community of practice. I see a team of bold leaders making a positive impact and transmitting their stories to guide and strengthen each generation that follows.”

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