Celeste Connors has twenty years of experience working at the intersection of economic, environment, energy, and international development policy. Before joining Hawai‘i Green Growth, she was CEO and co-founder of cdots development LLC, which works to build resilient infrastructure systems and services in vulnerable communities. Celeste previously served as the Director for Environment and Climate Change at the National Security Council and National Economic Council in the White House where she helped shape the Administration’s climate and energy policies, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Prior to joining the White House, Celeste served as a diplomat in Saudi Arabia, Greece, and Germany. She also held positions at the U.S. Mission to the UN, served as the Climate and Energy Advisor to the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and worked for City of New York.
Celeste is a Senior Adjunct Fellow at the East-West Center and was a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in the Energy, Resources and Environment Program. She holds an MSc in Development Studies from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and a BA in International Relations from Tufts University. Celeste has served on numerous boards including her current service on Hawaiian Electric Industries, the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), the Institute for Sustainability and Resilience at the University of Hawaii and Icebreaker One. She previously served on the Board of America’s Service Commissions, the IUCN World Conservation Congress National Host Committee, and was a Term Member on the Council on Foreign Relations. Celeste grew up in Kailua, O‘ahu.
Operations & Strategy Director
In her capacity as HGG’s Operations and Strategy Director, Shelley oversees the organization’s operations, development and finances, personnel, and strategy, working closely with all members of the Hawai’i Green Growth team. Shelley’s prior experience includes outreach and capacity building as the Hawai’i Association of Watershed Partnerships’ Outreach Specialist, in addition to four years of international experience in the Mekong Basin (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar) as an analyst and writer to support a USAID climate change adaptation project; and subsequently as a Global Environmental Facility project design team leader on behalf of IUCN. She has a Bachelor’s in Biology, a Master’s in Water Resources and 20 years of professional experience working on environmental, climate change, and sustainability projects.
Aloha + Dashboard & Partnerships Manager
Kaimana Bingham is Hawai’i Green Growth’s Aloha + Dashboard and Partnerships Manager. Before joining Hawai’i Green Growth, Kaimana worked for the State of Hawai’i Enterprise Technology Services branch where she implemented the first State Executive Branch IT Roadmap and Dashboard. Her role at ETS transitioned to the State Portal Program Manager in which she provided guidance to the Access Hawai’i Committee Governing Board on digital government solutions. Kaimana also participated as a stakeholder for the State of Hawai’i IT Strategic Plan. She served as panelist for the Hawai’i Virtual Digital Government Summit and as a sponsor for the ETS 2020 HACC program. Prior to working for the State, she was a consultant for CGI, administering the financial management system for State Exchanges under the Affordable Care Act in 2013.
Kaimana is a graduate from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with a BS in Psychology and a double minor in Business Diversity and Business Leadership. She spent a semester abroad at Telecom ParisTech, where she specialized in Information Technology and participated in visits to the International Telecommunication Union and United Nations.
Laura Kam is Hawai‘i Green Growth’s network manager and supports the partnership’s statewide network, meetings and events, and strategic initiatives. Laura previously served as HGG’s program and strategic initiatives coordinator. She completed a year of service with Hawai‘i Green Growth through AmeriCorps VISTA in partnership with Kupu Hawai‘i and the AmeriCorps Program. Laura has her Bachelors in Political Science with a minor in Environmental Affairs from Colorado State University, and studied Russian for a year before returning to Hawai‘i. Laura previously interned with Amnesty International USA, and has volunteered with the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, The Nature Conservancy at Kamakou and Mo‘omomi Preserves, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Midway Atoll, and National Marine Fisheries Service Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program. Laura is from O‘ahu, and graduated from Kalani High School.
Aloha+ Challenge Community Outreach Coordinator
Sommerset Yamamoto is Hawaiʻi Green Growth’s Aloha+ Challenge Community Outreach Coordinator. Building on our MOU with Kamehameha Schools, Sommerset will be working to advance the Aloha+ Challenge and UN SDGs in Hawai‘i. Sommerset is also a Senior Policy Analyst at Kamehameha Schools, focused on community strategies as well as food systems and ‘āina policy and advocacy. Prior to joining Kamehameha, she practiced commercial litigation at Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert. She graduated from the William S. Richardson School of Law where she was Executive Editor of the University of Hawaii Law Review, a Criminal Justice Teaching Assistant and Law School Visit Coordinator.
Sommerset was born and raised in Kāneʻohe, Hawaiʻi and is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, Kapālama Campus. Sommerset earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with a minor in Criminal Justice, from The George Washington University.
Josh Sawislak, AICP
Josh Sawislak is an internationally recognized expert on sustainability and climate and disaster resilience. He holds concurrent appointments as an Associate of Argonne National Laboratory, a Senior Advisor to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), and a professional affiliate of the Center Urban and Environmental Solutions (CUES) at Florida Atlantic University as well as the chief sustainability officer of several early-stage startups. Josh served in the Obama White House as the Associate Director for Climate Preparedness at the Council on Environmental Quality, where he helped develop the executive order on federal sustainability. He also served as a senior advisor to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), on President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, and on the White House response coordination team for the H1N1 influenza pandemic (2009-2010). Josh practiced as an environmental and transportation planner for over 25 years and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He earned a degree in political science from The George Washington University and a certificate in infrastructure development from the Harvard Kennedy School. He serves on the board of directors and is an advisor to several other organizations and programs in support of sustainability and resilience.
Lilian Wan has spent her professional career in and around financial markets, and was most recently a Managing Director at BlackRock, a global investment management firm. As a relationship manager, she was responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with some of the industry’s largest asset owners across the federal government, corporate and public pension plans, and foundations and endowments, working closely with them to identify and fulfill their investment needs. Beyond her work with clients, Lilian has deep experience building and leading relationship management and sales teams in asset management, and during her years at BlackRock she held leadership positions and served on a number of management and governance committees that helped shape the organization. Lilian became aware of Hawai’i Green Growth and its mission through her work at BlackRock. Her appreciation for HGG’s approach to developing solutions to address sustainability challenges resonated with her, and she is excited by the opportunity to help HGG meet its goals. Using her experience with asset owners in Hawai’i and across the mainland, she will help HGG Staff and Board understand how sustainability is viewed by institutional investors, and how HGG can continue to accelerate adoption of sustainability within the finance and investment world. Lilian holds a BA in Economics from the University of Michigan and is a CFA charterholder.
VISTAs and Fellows
Sustainability Dashboard VISTA
Megan Hickinbotham supports the Aloha+ Challenge Dashboard data, innovation and outreach initiatives as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Originally from Wisconsin, Megan has worked in the sustainability and community outreach field for two years, including conducting climate research on lake sediment cores and organizing multiple student led climate strikes. She studied abroad in Costa Rica, and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse with a BS in Geography and Environmental Science.
Local-Global Communications VISTA
Ariana Caruso supports local-global communications through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. She has a BS in Marketing and a minor in Sustainability Leadership from Penn State University. During her time as a student, Ariana spent eight weeks in Hawaiʻi studying the intersections of sustainability and culture on both Oahu and Hawaiʻi Island. Originally from New Jersey, Ariana returned home following graduation and interned in New York with the United Nations Development Programme supporting communications for SDG Integration.
Sustainability Business Forum VISTA
Hannah supports the Sustainability Business Forum as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Originally from California, Hannah went to the Bronx, NY to earn her BA in Economics and Spanish at the College of Mount Saint Vincent. Before graduating college, Hannah served as the President of Model United Nations, studied abroad in Seville, Spain, and analyzed data at the Fishlinger Center for Public Policy Research. She also interned with the Department of State at the US Mission to the UN where she assisted the operations of the Economic and Social Section Affairs Section.
Julius Fischer is a Global Fellow with Hawaiʻi Green Growth’s Sustainability Dashboard and the Sustainability Business Forum. Before joining HGG, he worked for the Hawaiʻi State Senate Transportation and Energy Committee. Previously, he was a Fellow for the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), a voluntary partnership of islands across the globe that catalyzes action on resilient and sustainable island communities by mobilizing high-level political leadership. Born and raised in Germany, he has lived in New Zealand, Japan, and Micronesia. Julius holds a BA in International Relations and BS in Earth Systems from Stanford University, and a Master in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Global Outreach and Communications Associate
Kiara Kealoha is a global outreach and communications associate with the HGG Local2030 Hub, and completed a Master’s degree at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 2018. She previously served at as the Communications Coordinator for HGG, as well as worked with KYA Sustainability and as an education project assistant for the Climate-KIC Switzerland. Kiara completed her undergraduate education at Harvard University, obtaining a degree in History and Science with a secondary field in Environmental Science and Public Policy. Kiara is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, and was born and raised on the island of O‘ahu.
Alison Rhatigan is a global fellow with the HGG Local2030 Hub, and is currently completing a Master’s degree in Finance at the Norwegian School of Economics. She previously served as HGG’s Local-Global Communications Specialist through the AmeriCorps VISTA Program and worked with the non-profit Repowering London on projects promoting renewable energy, green spaces, and sustainable communities. Alison received her BBA in International Business and Japanese from Chapman University, and spent a year at City, University of London where she designed a Certificate in Sustainability. Alison is from O’ahu and graduated from Punahou School.