The community college now known as the College of the Marshall Islands came into official existence when the Board of Regents of the Community College of Micronesia issued its charter on October 10, 1989, designating it as the College of Micronesia- Majuro. Less than two years later, in January 1991, it was given its present name and accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. In April 1993, CMI became an independent entity with its own Board of Regents and was chartered to serve as the post-secondary agency for the RMI.
As an institution, CMI can trace its origins to several earlier programs. The oldest of these was a school of nursing established by the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Begun on Moen Island in Chuuk in 1953, it was later moved to Pohnpei, then to Palau, then to Saipan in the Northern Marianas, and finally, in 1986, to Majuro. This School of Nursing was affiliated with the University of Guam in 1972 to confer the Associate of Science degree in Nursing. In 1975, the Trust Territory Department of Public Health assigned responsibility for the school to the Community College of Micronesia under the Trust Territory Department of Education. Responsibility was then shifted to the Board of Regents of the College of Micronesia in 1978.
The origins elementary education courses at CMI can be traced to the Micronesia Teacher Education Center opened in 1963 on Pohnpei for in-service instruction. This center soon established a branch on Majuro, known as the Marshall Islands Teacher Education Center. In 1970 the High Commissioner of the Trust Territory issued a directive making the educational centers into the Community College of Micronesia (CCM). Majuro’s program then became an extension of CCM, offering pre-service elementary teacher education. Three years later it added a Curriculum, Learning, and Training Center, which awarded graduates a two-year degree in education. The dual focus of this Center was on teacher education and curriculum development. Curriculum development covered most elementary subjects and was tested in Majuro’s Rita Elementary School. In 1990 the program, now called the Continuing Education Center, ceased to be an extension of the Community College of Micronesia and was renamed the CMI Division of Instructional Services.
A third component dates from 1981, when the Community College of Micronesia, based in Pohnpei, now CMI, was awarded U.S. Land Grant status. It began operations on Majuro in 1983, offering noncredit courses in agriculture and home economics, among others, and it continues to do so. By 1987, all three programs — nursing, education, and the Land Grant extension — were housed together in Majuro on the present College campus. In 1988, they were integrated under a single administrator by directive of the College of Micronesia Board of Regents. In 1989, they were combined to constitute the College of Micronesia-Majuro, which became independent in April 1993 as the College of the Marshall Islands. In 2006, the College entered a phase of rapid improvement in facilities, including the opening of new residence hall facilities (2007) and Tolemour Hall -- a new Math, Science and Nursing Building with a state-of-the-art Simulation Nursing Laboratory (2008).
The Physical Plant was completed in late 2008, and Wapepe Hall – a classroom block for liberal arts was opened in 2009.
Renovation work to Rebbelip Hall and deBrum Hall which house classrooms and developmental education and STEM faculty were completed in 2010 and 2011 respectively. The Administration building was completed in 2011 and the College Center in 2012. In 2013, a permanent roof structure was constructed over the basketball court.
In a move toward more renewable energy, the college solar energy system was doubled in size in 2014.
In 2016, improvements were made to the aquaculture facility at Arrak campus and a new Student Center was constructed beside the College Center.
In 2009, Arrak was developed as a residential campus primarily for vocational programs and the Land Grant/Cooperative Extension Research Center. In 2010, CMI submitted a substantive change proposal to designate Arrak as the CMI Vocational Education Campus. WASC/ACCJC approved this proposal the following year. Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) provided $250,000 to CMI to upgrade faculties at Arrak. Eleven trailers were purchased, moved to the Arrak campus and converted into classrooms, residential spaces, and a library.
In 2010, a backup generator with a 4,000 gallon diesel tank was commissioned at the Uliga campus physical plant to ensure that national power outages did not affect the college or its students. A 100kW backup generator was also installed at Arrak Campus.
In 2011, the Board of Regents approved a Dual Enrollment Policy, which provides students enrolled in high school the opportunity to attend the College at the same time. This provides more educational opportunities for high school students. Additionally, the Board also approved a decrease in the fee for the GED programs. This fee decrease was in an effort to help improve access to GED, as there was considerable demand throughout the RMI for a High School Equivalency Program.
In 2012, CMI received approval for the substantive change proposal to offer a one year carpentry certificate at Arrak Campus. In spring 2012, the first class of carpentry students began with an enrollment of 24 students. A Career and Transfer Center opened in February 2012, this center assists students and community members who want information on jobs, careers, scholarships, and transfer opportunities.
CMI worked with the National Training Council (NTC) and the Ministry of Public Works concerning the future of the electrical, plumbing and automotive training programs that had been taking place since 2010 with support from Taiwan. Funding from NTC was obtained to send six people to Taiwan to be certified as trainers. These trainers returned to Majuro in 2013 and conducted their first round of Jitok Kappel vocational training of local Marshallese in 2014.
From 2008-2013, the College increased the number of computers available to the students from 100 to 300 while reducing the ratio of computers to students from 6:1 to 3:1. The College increased the number of its technology classrooms from 6 to 20 in the same period. Wi-Fi access points increased from 3 in 2009 to 27 in 2013. In 2010, computer labs at both Uliga and Arrak sites were changed over to N-Computing (Cloud Computing). These units cost only 40% of traditional computer units and use only 20% of the energy required by a desktop computer.
Distance Education sites were established at Uliga and Arrak campuses as well as Ebeye in 2012. The Jaluit distance education site was established in 2013.
In 2012, the Arrak kitchen facilities underwent a $25,000 renovation replacing the old equipment with state of the art kitchen equipment thanks to the help of AusAID and consultation on kitchen equipment from Kapiolani Community College in Hawaii. At the same time, Arrak campus offered Adult/Continuing Education computer classes for the Laura community.
The University of Maine – Fort Kent (UMFK) and CMI collaborated on a project involving RMI students in the BSN program that combined classroom instruction and distance education. An articulation agreement was entered into between CMI and UMFK wherein UMFK would accept graduates of CMI’s nursing program. An original cohort of 14 students entered the program and12 of the students graduated and returned to the RMI in 2014 with their BSNs. A second cohort of 16 students enrolled in the same program in summer 2014.
Following an energy audit, an energy action plan was developed in 2012. CMI quickly adopted the recommendations of the plan and managed to cut utility costs by $200,000 in 2013 and a further reduction in energy costs by $100,000 in 2014.
In 2013, with MIMRA funding, 2 instructors were sent to the Philippines to be certified as trainers for the Maritime program. A third instructor was sent for the same purpose in 2014. The Maritime Program holds regular training for STCW.
Also in the same year, two instructors were sent for a trainers program lead by Arizona State University in Fiji for Solar Units. Upon return, two solar repair classes were conducted at CMI and 25 participants in total graduated.
In 2011, CMI sought and received approval from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) of the Western Association of Schools to implement third-year (300-level) courses in anticipation of offering a baccalaureate degree in education for the College of the Marshall Islands Elementary Education program on the main Uliga Campus. In 2014, CMI signed a MOU with USP for a 3+1 program whereby students would complete the first three years of their education bachelor’s degree at CMI and their final year at USP. USP agreed to issue the degrees to qualified candidates. In May 2014, ACCJC was notified of this plan.
In fall of 2013, CMI started using the new Student Information System (SIS), and the HR department implemented Peopleadmin Software. In 2014, a maintenance software system, HippoFM, was implemented by the physical plant department, and the College also began implementing TracDat, a software for performance assessment.
The College contingency fund also grew from a low of $111,345 at the end of FY 2011 to $441,174 in December of 2014 and continues to increase with an institutional goal of maintaining the fund at a level above the minimum ACCJC requirement of 5%.
As of 2016, there a number of specialized certificate programs have been approved: Carpentry, Maritime, Accounting Clerkship, Special Education, Teaching, Marshallese Language Arts, Marshallese Social Studies, Public Health. Additionally, innovative teaching practices such as Learning Communities and robust academic support programs were being implemented at the College.
According to a Marshallese proverb Jitdam̗ Kapeel means, “Seeking knowledge guarantees wisdom”
Jitdam̗ means to question. Traditionally it refers to the young people asking their elders about their lineage. The road to knowledge begins with questions that arise within a culture. The beginning of an answer comes from these queries. Questions about our origins are the most basic of all questions. The answer begins to tell our story- who we are, how we fit into the scheme of things, and where we are going. From it, we sense our meaning; know our identity; and shape our values, religion, law, economy, and society.
Kapeel means skillful. It refers not only to manual skills but skills of the intellect and of the heart as well. Educated people are those who have honed the critical skills of analysis and judgment, and who have become proficient and creative in the skills of craft. Their creative expressions, whether in the sciences or the arts, are informed by values which emanate from the story of who they are, where they are from, and where they are going.