Meet the Team

Judith Fox-Goldstein, Administrative Director

Internationally recognized in the field of Higher Education Administration, Educational Tourism and Event Management, Judith has set the bar extremely high in the field of organizational management and sustainable tourism. A prolific grants writer and public speaker, Judith was also recognized as Hawai‘i’s first CFEE (Certified Festival and Events Executive). The award was presented by the International Festival and Events Association.

Dedicated to outreach and community service, Judith has spent the last year as President of the Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce, a Trustee on the Board of Lyman House Museum, and a dedicated board Member of Destination Hilo in addition to directing the University of Hawai‘i’s award-winning Conference Center.

Selected as one of Hawai‘i’s “Top Ten Business Women” in 2009 (Pacific Business News), Judith is also an Athena Recipient, SBA (Small Business Administration) “Minority Advocate in the State”, and noted public speaker, Judith received her B.A. in Theatre Arts and Communication and continues graduate studies in the fields of Higher Educational Administration, Travel & Tourism and her never-ending passion in the field of gerontology.

Her extensive experience in the Visitor Industry contributed to her vision for developing one of the most compelling travel education programs in the nation…The Hawaiian EDventure Program. The program, (a “Best Practice” awardee) is included in a new book published by the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association entitled, “Best Practices”; Hana Pono (Volume I) – A joyful celebration of Hawaiian culture.

Inspired by the depth of wisdom (mana‘o) and talent present within the Hawaiian culture, and a driving passion for sustainable tourism, Judith developed the Hawaiian EDventure Program over 20 years ago. Excited by the idea of creating educational and learning vacations, group travel, sustainable and experiential education, Judith responded to the call by bringing a team of very talented people together to create Hawai‘i’s premier EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL travel program.

With the Big Island as the backdrop for this unique travel program, every visitor, from elementary school children to life-long learners, can be inspired through hands-on learning experiences bringing them up-close and personal with Hawaiian culture, Hawai‘i’s extraordinary environment (‘aina) and the beauty and warmth shared by the Hawaiian people through their spirit of Aloha!

Through her work as “Minority Advocate” for the state of Hawai‘i, Judith has used her skills and passion to showcase both the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and the grandeur of the diversity of Hawai‘i’s Big Island. “There is no better place on earth for eco and sustainable tourism and we are committed to protecting this very special and sacred place through the perpetuation of our culture and respect for our heritage and our Kūpuna (elders).

Judith likes to use the phrase “Nanā I Ke Kumu” (Going back to our roots) as she explains the foundational precepts of the Hawaiian EDventure Program. It’s a testament to our commitment to providing a “sense of place” and authentic experiences for all of our visitors. There is nothing that can’t be achieved through education, sharing cultural values and developing sustaining collaborations and friendships throughout the world!

Mary Ann Tsuchiyama, Assistant Director

Mary Ann Tsuchiyama, Assistant Director

With a background in accounting and the floral industry, I really never anticipated having a career in event management or imagined being associated with the University of Hawai`i at Hilo’s Conference Center. However, with the diversity of academic research and scientific conferences, I have had the opportunity to meet thousands of people each year, and have found that dedicating my professional life to broadening the horizons of science and hosting people on this beautiful Big Island, has been a very worthwhile career choice.

As the Assistant Director for almost 20 years, I have had the pleasure of showcasing this extraordinary island and sharing its many treasures with elementary, high school and college students and professors.

I have learned so much, myself, about geology, earth science, astronomy, marine science, Hawaiian culture, music, and dance, and it’s an incredible feeling to be able to share the depths of this rich culture with our visitors. The experiences that we create for our conferees and meeting participants are so authentic and they allow our visitors to really immerse themselves, in a very creative and hands-on way, in the beauty and culture of Hawaii and our natural learning laboratories.

So, how does my accounting background fit? Well, you need logic, math, an ability to organize and manage data and be efficient and calculating when you have 500 people visiting at one time and they all want to go to see the beautiful lava streaming into the water in the middle of their symposium!   You need to be a mathematical wizard to organize all of those logistics and I love the challenge.

Robin Kealoha Black, Technology Specialist

Often I have served as a bridge between two different perspectives, seeking to find balance, science and technology, the sacredness of our beautiful island, and the wealth of information it offers as a learning environment, stimulating curiosity and stewardship.

A Hilo native, I grew up on the UHH campus the daughter of faculty academics, so communication and the language of science are familiar themes. Like many local kids, I developed a special bond with the island, a passion to protect the special nature of Hawaii and its treasures. Even as a child this responsibility resonated deep within and I recognized the special nature of this place. Leaving Hawaii for higher education, I completed a BA in Communications in Chicago before heading to Berkeley to study Counseling Psychology.

While there I did an exciting stint coordinating a music video which prompted a career change in the film industry. Returning to Hawaii shortly thereafter, I soon found myself useful in serving our island community further as Big Island Film Commissioner, representing Hawaii County at industry trade shows, industry functions, creating and coordinating off-island marketing and promotion efforts, published the first Big Island Production Resources Directory, and gained entry into the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI). I assisted prospective film productions in all aspects from cultural awareness and sensitivity, location scouting and selection, personnel and equipment resources, travel logistics and assistance with permits. My most notable project was the feature film Waterworld, which also included interfacing with the Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, State Harbors Division, environmental assessment preparation, and negotiation with labor union leaders.

In the private sector, I served the Jason Foundation for Education as Big Island Location Coordinator for expeditions Jason VI, and Jason XII, providing liaison services, coordinating travel, housing, transportation, meals and logistics for media and production teams, two film crews, two sets of student and teacher Argonauts as well as visiting cultural practitioners,. I interfaced onsite with USGS, NPS and security personnel and enjoyed incredible experiences while we shot 60 live broadcast educational programs for kids during each expedition.

Enjoying creating Big Island live events I also helped coordinate several music festivals (9th, 10th, 11th Big Island Slack Key Guitar Festival) a George Winston concert, and assist annually several local events such as Downtown Hilo’s Black & White Night and Hilo Chinese New Year, and the Festival for King Kalakaua at Kalakaua Park.

In expanding my aloha and appreciation for technology, I taught application software at TRI Computer Training Center for six years before joining the conference center staff in 2002 as a Computer Database Specialist. Since then I have assisted with published conference proceedings, abstracts and on-site presentations for numerous conferences. While on-site in our presenters’ “Ready Room” I have the BEST job – a combination of working with incredible minds at the forefront of science, health care, education, planetary health, engineering, and technology. I get to meet the best and the brightest and work side by side with them to ensure their media presentations flow successfully while they are here.

Sharay Uemura, Logistics Manager

Having been born and raised on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, the true aloha spirit is bred into me. It is not something that you just learn, but rather a way of life here in the state of Hawai‘i. Living in a state that allows you to snowboard in the morning and then surfs in the afternoon of the same day is quite special. Not to mention all of the natural treasures of the mountain and the ocean.

Hawaiian studies classes during my elementary school years triggered a specific interest in Hula and the Hawaiian Culture. At age 10 I began dancing the hula for a local hula halau (school) and I developed a passion for the culture. Through the many years of dancing hula, I was able to increase my knowledge and understanding of Hawaiian ancestors and their culture which is a lot of what makes Hawaii such a special state.

A couple of years ago I joined the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Conference Center ‘Ohana (family) as a Conference Support Assistant. Since then I have been involved in many Hawaiian EDventure programs for participants of all ages. The experience and knowledge that I have collected through my passion for the Hawaiian culture has enhanced my ability to provide outstanding educational programs to participants from around the world. Being able to showcase my “backyard”, the Island of Hawai‘i, as the highlight of someone’s educational program is such an honor.

As I continue to grow and expand with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Conference Center and Hawaiian EDventure program, I am fascinated with the hidden benefit of also meeting many people from around the world and their cultures. Like the Aloha Spirit, I am sure the uniqueness that you bring from your culture is just as special.

Connie Larsen, Logistician

After graduating from NMSU with a BBA I moved from the Land of Enchantment to the Rainbow State.

I spent my first 10 years on the Big Island working in the diversified agriculture industry. A produce buyer I worked with introduced and encouraged me to try some of the more exotic options available from an amazing variety of locally grown fruits, nuts, coffee, and vegetables. One of my favorite fruits is a lychee, and it’s hairy cousin the rambutan is not to bad either. Another odd one is the atemoya which is a weird looking fruit that I have come to appreciate over time. The thing about this island I will never get over is how fruit is growing everywhere – feral fruit. Here a banana there an avocado and what is that? A papaya, why yes it is.

Persimmon, Banana, Orange, Coconut, Starfruit, Lemons, Pomegranate, Mango…what else?!?

I am a part of and have been affiliated with the Big Island astronomy community for 13 years now. With telescopes owned by the UK, USA, Japan, Canada, Chile, Netherlands, and many other countries our town is quite international.

On a good day after work, you can find me running down Hilo Bay towards Lili‘uokalani Park. Gorgeous views and fresh sea air I ask you where else can you run past outrigger canoe crews, surfers, and when in season whales breaching in the bay?! Lili‘uokalani Park with its traditional pagodas and fish ponds makes a great turning point.

I can not introduce myself without mentioning that I love to play golf. The Big Island has so many beautiful affordable courses to choose from. Every time I play I really do realize how very lucky I am to live on the Big Island. My favorite course at the moment is Mauna Lani South as you get to hit that ball right over the ocean and hopefully land on the green. Gotta love it!

Jules Ung, IT & Events Manager

As we document our reflections and perceptions through time, we are able to weave a story together for future generations. With social media applications, we are creating a multitude of shared experiences, collaborative documentaries, and connections which are intuitive and seamless. Our geographic boundaries are dissolving and our ability to connect across the world is astounding.

For the UH Hilo Conference Center, this is particularly empowering as we have served as a hub of scientific and academic event coordination for over two decades! Connecting brilliant minds across continents to support groundbreaking research and scientific developments is a responsibility that we think is awesome. Additionally, it is a privilege to support the Hawaiian EDventure programs which are based on sustainable tourism and the preservation of Hawaiian culture.

I have worked with the UH Hilo Conference Center for the past eight years, and since early 2010, I have worked remotely from various locations; a year in the Netherlands, ten months in Berkeley, CA, and currently, from Baltimore, MD. Cloud computing and social media applications have empowered me to work seamlessly while enabling mobility across continents and time zones. Regardless of my physical location, I remain grounded in Hawai‘i, interfacing with locals on a daily basis, and serving the communities in which I was born and raised. With international experience in Japan, England, Europe, and the Continental U.S., I can honestly say that while many of the places I’ve lived have been enchanting and gorgeous, nothing in the world compares to the breathtaking beauty of the Hawaiian Islands; the aloha of our kupuna, or the “mana” (power) of the land and ocean.

There is a primal energy of Hawai‘i Island that resonates with your soul and awakens your spirit as you inhale; perhaps you are overlooking a sea cliff on the windward side of the island when a hump-backed whale breaches; perhaps you are at the summit of Mauna Kea, gazing at the horizon as the sun sets and the stars emerge in the crisp clear atmosphere of high altitude; perhaps you are overlooking the rim of Halema‘uma‘u Crater in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, chanting E Ala e to awaken the sun when an i‘o (native Hawaiian hawk) graces you with her presence; perhaps you are tasting the sweetness of an ulu (breadfruit) picked ripe and steamed to perfection, as you exhale into a moment of gratitude.

There are moments when the powers of creation and destruction remind us that life is short, life is sweet; Let’s write our stories and connect on many different levels as we experience this life together.