Online Mentoring Program Launched Connecting UTokyo Alumni in the US with Women Students of UTokyo

The Mentor Program aims to help women students at UTokyo connect with UTokyo alumni living abroad to gain a good understanding of studying, working, and living abroad. Through one-on-one communication and Slack group interaction, alumni advise women students on academic and career issues. On May 10 (Eastern Time) a kick-off meeting was held over Zoom.

While the decrease in the number of “internationally-minded” students is becoming a matter of concern in Japan, this program aims to encourage and promote overseas activities for women students at UTokyo. In the future, organizers are considering opening the program to male students as well.

This program was initiated by former representative of “Polaris,” a UTokyo student organization, led by Makoto Tanaka (3rd year, Department of Information Science, School of Science) and Yurika Doi (B.S., Mechanical and Information Engineering, School of Engineering, University of Tokyo [2017]; PhD in Neuroscience at Harvard University). Their hope is  “to provide a place  for UTokyo women students to have direct discussions and exchange of opinions with alumni living in the US.” The program is supported by Satsukikai America, a UTokyo alumni association in the US.

There are currently 16 mentors with backgrounds and careers ranging from 5 to 20+ years in research (science, engineering, and others), medicine, law, finance, and international organizations. Over 30 mentees are registered, including  undergraduates and graduate students in fields ranging from science and engineering, law, economics, humanities, and medicine.

After a mentor and a student (mentee) are paired, the nature of the mentoring depends on the paired individuals. It is expected that the focus will be primarily on college life, academic, and career related issues. Examples of questions may include:

  • How to study at or gain admission to a university abroad
  • How to work abroad
  • Funds for studying or working abroad (scholarship applications, etc.)
  • Language proficiency issues
  • Career after graduation from an overseas university
  • Life as a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow abroad
  • Differences between research in Japan and overseas
  • Differences between working at overseas branches of Japanese companies or going on business trips and working for an overseas company
  • Work/life balance
  • Community service/volunteering

Several times a year, a social event will be planned on Zoom for the entire group. Slack will be the main means of communication for individual mentor-mentee pairs. Additionally, a group discussion room geared for all members will be also set up on Slack.

One of FUTI’s Advisory Committee members, Geeta Mehta, a professor at Columbia University (Ph.D., School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo), commented:

It is wonderful that the students themselves are aware of the issues and are taking the initiative to reach out to alumni abroad. I hope that the mentees will be active in the international community and contribute to society in the future.

Written by Mentor Program Committee Members (Doi, Tanaka, Osako, Suzuki)