UH-Hilo horticulture professor tapped as new Performing Arts chair

  • STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald Norman Arancon sits in his office at the University of Hawaii at Hilo recently. An associate professor of horticulture at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, Arancon was recently named the chairman of the school’s Performing Arts Department.

Science and arts are intertwining in new ways for Norman Arancon.

An associate professor of horticulture at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, Arancon was recently named the chairman of the school’s Performing Arts Department.

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Born and raised in the Philippines, Arancon received his master’s and doctorate degrees from The Ohio State University in environmental science.

Prior to his studies at OSU, he finished a post-graduate degree in agricultural studies at the University of Queensland in Queensland, Australia, and received a bachelor’s degree in crop and soil science from Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan, Philippines, where he began his teaching career at 21.

Arancon joined UH-Hilo’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management in 2008.

He will continue to teach horticulture and said he was surprised and excited when he was appointed as chairman.

But coming from a family that loves to sing and dance, music and the arts have always been a part of his life.

Arancon sings and acts, and has performed in community musicals.

“I’m always cast as the bad guy,” he joked.

Arancon said he gets a lot of invitations to sing, as well, and volunteers as choir director at his church, Malia Puka O Kalani Catholic Church in Keaukaha, where he also plays guitar every Saturday and Sunday during services.

When he was teaching in the Philippines, “I started sort of like a revolution of entertainment within the College of Agriculture, because we are perceived as, if you’re an ‘aggie,’ you are dirty, you are dark … you don’t have any talent,” he said. “But I kind of broke that image because then I organized a musical every year that became tradition, where the College of Ag showcased their talents in form of a musical review.”

Arancon said he has always felt a close affinity with UH-Hilo’s Performing Arts Department, “as they have graciously welcomed me as a cast member of many musicals and dance shows.

“I have also been given the opportunity to be part of the department as a ‘contributing faculty’ and I have looked up to so many talents and previous leaders of the department, such as retired drama professor, Jackie Johnson,” he continued. “Being in the agricultural field does not necessarily exclude me in (the) field of arts.”

From his perspective and experience, science and art in agriculture exist.

“For instance, we grow and develop plants and animals not just for their nutritional value, (but) also for how they satisfy our aesthetic needs,” Arancon said. “These fields for me always intertwined and (are) inseparable in more ways than we realize — one supporting and satisfying the other and vice versa with a common factor and recipient as the human being — the society.”

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Arancon said there’s “an enormous potential” for interdisciplinary collaborations between the sciences and arts that could serve students, advance faculty and staff, and benefit the community.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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