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This April 22nd was to be the college’s 20th annual banquet — the college’s largest event of the year and primary fundraiser for undergraduate student research projects. But like many events since the arrival of COVID-19, that event — which typically draws over 900 attendees — was canceled.
Although social distancing orders prompted the banquet’s cancellation, that hasn’t stopped the college from taking its fundraising efforts online with a “virtual fundraiser.”
According to UH College of Engineering dean Brennon Morioka, “The banquet provides a significant amount of funding for student projects and other student activities. In some cases, it is the only funding some of these projects receive, so we felt the need to go on with a banquet of some sort.”
With massive cuts to the university’s general fund and tuition revenues expected, student projects must now look for financial support from sources outside of the university, like the industry partners that typically contribute to the banquet.
The goal now is to raise $100,000 from those industry partners by April 22nd, which would have been the date of the banquet, with all contributions being 100% deductible.
Although the financial hardship caused by the banquet’s cancellation can be easily seen, there’s a lesser seen social aspect too, “We are extremely disappointed that we cannot gather and celebrate as an engineering community since we are truly one of the closest tight-knit industry ‘ohana in Hawai’i, so we wanted to continue the essence of the College of Engineering banquet in a way that’s safe for the community,” said Morioka.
To that end, the customary presentation of awards to distinguished alumni and those who’ve made a significant contribution to the college will still go on, but online, with videos of each recipient that would’ve been played at the event.
Despite all this, Morioka remains optimistic. “We will be looking forward to our other opportunities the College of Engineering and our Engineering Alumni Association will have to engage throughout the remainder of the year once circumstances have settled down in our state and we have returned to some level of normalcy. We look forward to that day – hopefully soon.”
So far, the college has managed to raise $68,600. Donations are being accepted through April 22nd and can be made through the University of Hawai’i Foundation web portal here.