FUTI Scholarship Recipients Discuss the Importance of “Diversity”

On November 11, 2022, the FUTI Advisory Committee (AC) invited three former scholarship recipients to report on their current activities as well as to discuss their thoughts on the topics of “Diversity”.  Invited former award recipients included an evolutionary biology graduate student currently enrolled in a PhD program at a U.S. university, a physician practicing hospital medicine in Tokyo, and an international relations graduate student pursuing her doctorate degree at UTokyo.

The participants all agreed upon the importance of striving to attain “diversity,” while recognizing that it is a multifaceted and dynamic concept. The main conclusion of the group was that “diversity” has multiple aspects and interpretations that can change dynamically over time. Participants also agreed on the importance of recognizing/approaching this concept from a broad perspective while striving to achieve it. Highlights of the discussion are presented below. 

The meeting included a presentation by Dr. Shige Matsushita (chair, FUTI Scholarship Committee) entitled “Outline of scholarship student selection process at FUTI.”  In particular, Dr. Matsushita noted that the pool of scholarship recipients at FUTI has been well balanced in terms of gender. While women students comprise about 20% of the student population at UTokyo, approximately half of our award recipients are women. We are interested in finding out why male UTokyo students appear to be underrepresented in our applicant pool compared to the university-wide ratio. He wondered if male students have a limited appetite for studying abroad because of concerns about establishing a career and family. Another reason why we receive more female applicants may be because more women than men aspire to work in the international arena.

Student I (2015 Recipient of FUTI Global Leadership Award) 

  • I obviously greatly appreciated the financial support provided by FUTI. However, even more importantly, the award gave me an opportunity to expand my personal and professional network, which has proved to be very valuable.  For example, we are currently planning an in-person gathering of FUTI alumni…the first such gathering after the Covid 19 pandemic.  
  • Additionally, we have established XPLANE, an online program to support Japanese students who are interested in studying at graduate programs in the US or Europe. The program has already attracted 2000+ registrants and includes Podcast and Slack Community programs. (https://xplane.jp) 
  • In an effort to improve gender-based diversity, we hosted a YouTube webinar about women’s careers after studying abroad, focusing on romance, marriage, and child rearing.  


 Student II (2018 Recipient of FUTI Global Leadership Award) 

  • At UTokyo Medical School, I was a member of the women’s yacht club. I assumed a leadership role in the club, partly because I was specifically encouraged by  a senior woman who served as an excellent “role model” for me. 
  • It is important to encourage women students to take up the challenge of any available opportunities in their careers and lives in general. We need to show our appreciation of their abilities/contributions and accomplishments and provide them with our support. I believe that this type of approach is more effective in the long run than establishing quotas for women or similar requirements (however well-intentioned).
  •  Gender is only one dimension in the concept of diversity. Race, age and physical disability are among other dimensions which merit considerations
  • Given the importance of “role models” (especially to women), I would encourage everyone to be open to serving as role models for aspiring young people. 
  • In my personal life, I am applying for an astronaut position in the JASA program… a new challenge for me. This program is also beginning to stress “diversity” in selecting astronauts. 


 Student III (2018 Recipient of Ito-Foundation U.S.A.-FUTI Scholarship Award) 

  • I spent my childhood in Vietnam and China attending international schools. Having been a “Third-Culture Kid”, that is, a child who spent her formative years abroad, I have always been conscious of the promise and complexity of “diversity”.
  • I currently study social science, and I realize that “diversity” is a difficult concept to define, because it is influenced by the context. Opinions on the best way to attain “diversity” also vary tremendously.
  • It may be impossible to fully achieve “diversity” which is a ”fluid” target,  but  society should nevertheless aim for it. 
  • In my area of research, I am exploring ways to bridge the contexts of academic communities in various regions and countries. 

The students’ presentations inspired a lively exchange of ideas and opinions from the audience also. Some examples are given below:  

  • It is not necessary that the “minority” uncritically accept the value system of the “majority” and behave like the “majority.” Instead, in order for society to adapt to various changes, it is desirable that it appreciates the “diversity” generated by minority groups. 
  • The definition of “diversity” needs itself to be diverse. It ought to include many dimensions in addition to gender such as race, age, and physical disability.  
  • Several participants commented on the importance of “role models”, noting that even small children would benefit from good role models.
  • It appears that many male UTokyo students are averse to risk taking. They prefer to remain in Japanese society which is perceived as “comfortable” rather than seeking challenges abroad. There is a tendency among Japanese male students to go back to Japan where society treats them “well.” 
  • In addition to diversity, it is necessary to stress the concept of “inclusion” so that a structure is established to allow diversity to contribute to the improvement of society.  


The meeting ran overtime due to this lively dialogue among AC members and scholarship recipients. Closing the session, Dr. Yamada, Chair of the Advisory Committee, thanked the participants and proposed holding another session in the near future to continue this meaningful dialogue.