large group of people holding awards
From left, Debbie Zimmerman, ʻElele Program director, Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority; Ron Riggs, interim dean, UH Mānoa College of Engineering; David Lassner, president, University of Hawaiʻi; Wayne Shiroma, professor, College of Engineering; Magdy Iskander, professor, UH Mānoa College of Engineering; Kalani Kaʻanaʻana, director of Hawaiian cultural affairs, Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (Photo: Keith Uehara Photography)

Since the Hawaiʻi Convention Center opened in 1998, the College of Engineering at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has helped secure meetings and conventions business worth more than $170 million in visitor spending. In March, in recognition of these accomplishments, the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority and Meet Hawaiʻi (a collaboration of the Hawaiʻi Visitors and Convention Bureau and the Hawaiʻi Convention Center) named the college the ʻElele Organization of the Year.

College of Engineering Interim Dean Ron Riggs said, “The College of Engineering is grateful to be recognized for the contributions we make to Hawaiʻi’s economy via the visitor industry. Engineering is, of course, critical to our technology-based economy, and it has been recognized by the governor as a driver of innovation, but this award shows the importance of a side benefit of the work we do to bring international researchers to Hawaiʻi for technical meetings.”

Through the ʻElele program, Meet Hawaiʻi brings together kamaʻaina (locals) who have ties to national and international organizations in order to attract mutually beneficial meetings and conventions for the Hawaiʻi Convention Center. Since the opening of the center, UH’s 10-campus system has helped to attract meetings and conventions business worth more than $500 million.

Significant contributors within the College of Engineering include Professors Wayne Shiroma and Magdy Iskander, who have organized international meetings generating $75.5 million and $65 million in visitor spending, respectively.

“One of my proudest and most satisfying accomplishments ever was leading a team that organized Hawaiʻi’s largest conference and exhibition in 2007, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Microwave Symposium or IMS 2007,” Shiroma said.

IMS 2007 attracted more than 7,000 attendees and nearly 300 exhibiting companies from 25 different countries. It also generated $34 million in visitor spending. Shiroma’s students also gained valuable experience by helping to work on IMS 2007. The governing body of the IMS was so impressed by a subsequent bid presented by former College of Engineering students that it approved the conference’s return to Hawaiʻi in 2017.

“Working with our ʻElele colleagues is truly a pleasure, as it is a win-win situation, all around and for all involved,” noted Iskander. “Sure it helps support the hospitality industry and the economy in Hawaiʻi through hotel occupancy and visitor spending, but it also helps bring discussions of new technologies and research innovations to Hawaiʻi.”

More UH contributions

large group of people holding awards
School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Assistant Dean Chris Ostrander, second from left, and School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Dean Brian Taylor, third from left. (Photo: Keith Uehara Photography)
large group of people holding awards
UH Sea Grant’s Darren Lerner, third from the right, Darren Okimoto, fourth from the right, and Andre Seale, third from left. (Photo: Keith Uehara Photography)

Other UH individuals who were recognized for their significant contributions to the ʻElele Program included:

  • Chris Ostrander, assistant dean of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology for the Ocean Observation Conference, scheduled in September 2019. The meeting is expected to draw up to 3,000 participants and have an economic impact of at least $5.6 million.
  • Professor of Geology and Geophysics Kenneth Rubin for the Geochemical Society: Goldschmidt Conference in June 2020. This meeting is expected to draw 3,500 participants and have an economic impact of $16.5 million.
  • UH Sea Grant’s Darren Lerner and Darren Okimoto and Andre Seale were part of a group that secured the World Aquaculture Society meeting in February 2020. That meeting is expected to draw more than 1,500 and generate business worth $7 million.