Junior Scholars

The Junior Scholars program provides support to SUA students whose research interests reflect the PBRC’s interests in humanistic development in the Pacific Basin and beyond.

Current Junior Scholars

Created in 2014, the program consists of approximately a dozen students who are included in PBRC programs and planning, and are provided with access to the PBRC library, a profile on our website, a budget for purchasing books, and access to conference funding. The call for new members typically goes out in the fall, and is open to students from any concentration or year.

  • a photo of leo

    Leonardo Salvatore

    Class of 2022

    Leonardo was born in Rome, Italy, and is pursuing a degree in Humanities and International Studies. He moved to the US at the age of 15. Having lived in four states and several cities ever since, the frequent exposures to numerous cultures he experienced ignited his passion for languages, which led him to spend one year working and studying in Florianópolis, Brazil, in 2017-18. Brazil conquered his heart, and he is currently conducting research on a poorly understood yet pivotal event in 19th-century Brazilian history. He is interested in historical commentaries and archival research, especially with respect to Latin America, and hopes to bridge past and present to devise potential projects and solutions for a more politically stable future, whether it be in Italy, in Brazil, or in the myriad places he hopes to learn from.

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    Mayuna Tomita

    Class of 2022

    Mayuna Tomita is a fourth-year student from New Jersey. Concentrating in Environmental Studies, until recently she was sure she wanted to work in a field related to food systems after graduation, and spent this past summer interning at a Japanese farm located in Delaware. Recently, however, she realized that what had been a secondary interest these past two years may actually be her true vocation, and is worth exploring further. This secondary interest is about history and discourse—not simply about how and by whom mainstream history has been written, but about how the structure of entire fields of study at the outset pre-determine the kinds of knowledge that can be produced. She would like to spend her last semester at Soka training her ability to think and study using this meta-analytical lens. 

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    Minori Sakai

    Class of 2022

    Minori Sakai was born and raised in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan in the Kansai region. She is a fourth-year student concentrating in Social and Behavioral Sciences with a focus on social and economic policies in East Asia. With her keen interest in evidence-based policy-making, she is currently involved with a research project on the effective use of disaster prevention and mitigation research results at SciREX center in the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. In the future, she desires to be a policymaker who serves the marginalized group of people in society.

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    Ninh Le

    Class of 2022

    Ninh Le is a student from Thanh Hoa, Vietnam. As a concentrator in Environmental Studies, his research interests lie in biogeochemical responses to climate change and the effects of climate change on public health. Since climate change-induced droughts threaten water security, many developing countries want to develop widely-accessible technologies to ensure a steady supply of clean water. Ceramic filtering is one of those, but arsenic leaching poses health-related concerns. Currently, he is working with Professor Michael Schaefer to examine arsenic leaching from ceramic water filters utilized by various Global South countries, thereby coming up with recommendations for technological improvements. In the future, he hopes to translate his passion for sciences and social justice into meaningful impacts in underserved communities.

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    Subina Thapaliya

    Class of 2022

    Subina Thapaliya is a senior concentrating her undergraduate degree in environmental studies and economics. Since her sophomore year, she has served as a student program coordinator for campus sustainability at SUA. She assists the administration in assessing, planning, and implementing environmental, social, and economic sustainability on their activities and operations. Fostering her knowledge of environmental management and economic development, she aspires to work for the sustainable development of marginalized communities in the global south via a participatory approach. For her senior year capstone project, she is analyzing past and present policies on Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods (GLOFs) risk management in Nepal and drafting a policy proposal to engage local communities in the GLOF risk management.

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    Tayná Baptista Ferreira

    Class of 2022

    Tayná is a fourth-year student, born in São Paulo, Brazil, concentrating in International Studies. Growing up in different regions of Brazil and witnessing regional inequality, Tayná nurtured a passion for governance for human rights and environmental justice. Tayná aims to use their education to develop research that can better inform equitable governance and the provision of basic services in Latin America that challenge ethnocentric concepts of development and foster South-South cooperation. Tayná has presented their research alongside their Soka peers in the California Brazilianist Conference, the Southern California Conferences of Undergraduate Research, and the Southern Student Leadership Drive-In.

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    Thuy Le

    Class of 2022

    Thuy Le is a global-minded and highly motivated Vietnamese young woman. At Soka, she concentrates in International Studies with a focus on East Asian politics and economics in the modern era. In politics, she is specifically interested in the influence of China’s soft power on regional foreign affairs. In economics, she wants to study the effectiveness of the Official Development Assistance fund from Japan and China in Southeast Asian developing countries. Thuy received Freetorino Scholarship to study Chinese politics at TOChina Summer School in Torino, Italy. She was also selected as Delegate at the United Nations Study Tour 2019, Governance and Geopolitics Delegate at Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations Conference 2020, and Delegate at the Duke - UNC China Leadership Summit 2020. 

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    Vibhu Walia

    Class of 2022

    Vibhu Walia is a senior pursuing economics and philosophy at the Soka University of America. He was born in Kurukshetra, India. Growing up in an agricultural state of a developing country, Vibhu saw how micro-capital could shape families and was curious to learn more. He is interested in ‘joint-liability groups’ as a tool in the success of microfinance institutions. His hobbies include standup comedy and speedcubing.

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    Aarohee Bhattarai

    Class of 2023

    Aarohee Bhattarai is a junior trailing Life Sciences and Social and Behavioral Sciences as her concentrations. Born and raised in Nepal between the echoing fruition of the institutional and public health systems, being in the US was initially a huge take on industrial action, how advanced the infrastructural systems were, and the intensity of where the health-systems had evolved. However, as the COVID-19 cases exploded in the States and elsewhere, the “public health” phrase overwhelmed the news. She learned Asian countries, with institutional learning on pandemic and semi-robust infrastructures were taming COVID-19 far more efficiently than many developed western countries. Therefore, she is interested to explore more about psychological behaviors, genetics, and public-health infrastructure, with a major focus on Asian-Pacific health institutions.

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    Amelia Hew

    Class of 2023

    Amelia is a third-year student concentrating in International Studies from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Having interned for the Malaysian parliament, coupled with her Chinese ethnic background and her study abroad experience in Japan, she has developed a passion to learn about the regions of Southeast and East Asia. Her particular research interests are in Malaysian politics, the modern history of Japan, nationalism and soft power in East Asia, and media production in Southeast and East Asia. Today, in line with her reason for being the President of the Soka Southeast Asian Student Association, Amelia connects with people all around the world on a humanistic level through her fluency in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay, Japanese, and her current endeavor of learning Spanish. She is excited to have the opportunity to develop herself through research initiatives provided by the PBRC.

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    Chiharu Nagai

    Class of 2023

    Chiharu Nagai is a third-year student from Kanagawa, Japan. Her field of interest includes social welfare, educational policies, various forms of communication, and literature. Since the end of her first year at Soka, she has remained in Japan due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, she started to work as a volunteer at a local municipal special-needs school, which intrigued her to explore the field of special education. She is interested in the culture of framing disabilities and policies to provide equal educational and occupational opportunities for all. Also, she hopes to explore the values and practices of a diverse and inclusive community in different contexts, including her own experience as a member of SUA. She is grateful for the opportunity to work as a member of PBRC to develop her interests in research.  

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    Jenski Nguyen

    Class of 2023

    Jenski Nguyen (he/him &/or they/them) is a junior student from Hanoi, Vietnam, currently concentrating in Social and Behavioral Sciences. Growing up in Vietnam where the field of psychology is yet to be fully developed and made accessible to everyone, he has developed an interest and passion for helping people who struggle due to the lack of access to mental health resources. This led him to start working as a crisis intervention counselor to gain more experiences with how to provide psychological first aid and gain insights to the overarching problem of getting the needed help. In numerous communities, especially in Southeast Asia, mental health is still cultural taboo, and the stigma surrounding mental health is etched deeply in people’s preconceived notions and cultural practices, thus preventing many from developing a support system and receiving treatment. Jenski pursues the study Social and Behavioral Sciences in order to better understand the human conditions, social and cultural issues and pave a way for awareness, education and development in psychology and mental health. He hopes to translate his passion into effective social policy-making and reform for cultural norms in his underserved community along with many others, so as to make meaningful impact to help those in need.

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    Michelle Boralessa

    Class of 2023

    Michelle Boralessa is a student of the Environmental Studies concentration from Massachusetts. Michelle spent many of her summers in her parents’ homeland, Sri Lanka, and her experiences there ignited her interest in the relationship between the environment and public health. She previously studied the causes and potential solutions to arsenic water contamination in Cambodia and vector-borne disease in Sri Lanka. In addition, she recently interned at an environmental consulting firm where she researched water purification and air pollution reduction in Southern California. She wants to explore what can be achieved through public policy and technology to mitigate environmental threats to human health.

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    Natsuha Kataoka

    Class of 2023

    Seeking refuge in the country of liberty, Natsuha flew from her mentally suffocating home country, Japan. In a twist of fate, after two years of study at Soka, she now concentrates in Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences, passionately learning about her native culture through the lenses of literature and anthropology. She is especially interested in analyzing women’s fashion in the premodern world, seeking to yield insights into the aesthetic embodiment of the female body through tensions between societal expectation and personal expression. She hopes to contribute to PBRC with her research, which aims to dismantle the fetishizing ideologies of fashion and to reexamine the meaning of female bodies.

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    Pablo Zavala Reina

    Class of 2023

    After living in Quito, Ecuador, for eighteen years, Pablo Zavala Reina arrived in the United States to study Economics, International Relations, and Mathematics at Soka University of America. After witnessing and learning about Latin America’s political and economic history, Economic Development in developing countries became Pablo’s main area of interest. In January 2021, Pablo participated in a research group to study the influence of national policies on Covid-19-related outcomes with Professor Junyi Liu. Since September 2021, he has worked with Professor Diya Mazumder to estimate the impact of petrol and diesel taxes on the expenditure patterns of Indian citizens. Pablo’s other interests relate to Finance and Accounting, for which he interned at the real-state construction corporation, Uribe & Schwarzkopf. Growing up with Spanish as his native language, he studied English for twelve years, French for six years, Chinese for three years, and Portuguese for one year. Pablo aspires to expand his knowledge, experience, and education in national and international economic policy to impact and improve the lives of people in Latin America.

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    Sachi Nishida

    Class of 2023

    Sachi Nishida, born and raised in Japan, is currently a third-year student concentrating in Social and Behavioral Science. Specifically, she is interested in Japan’s public policy, including foreign policy, security policy, and economic policy. Japan’s public policy has both positively and negatively shaped its international relations with neighboring countries (e.g., China and South Korea) and the U.S. Through analysis of Japanese politics, economy, and international relations, she would like to explore what Japan’s public policy should be to promote peaceful relations in the Asia-Pacific region. She believes that her experience as a research assistant, an internship at GR Japan, and as an American delegate at the Japan-American Student Conference will help her future research.

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    Xiyang Ge

    Class of 2023

    Xiyang Ge is a third-year student from Beijing, China, currently concentrating in Humanities. Xiyang’s interests lie in food security in developing countries and the hunger crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past summer, Xiyang earned the opportunity to present at the 67th International Student Conference. He seeks to analyze how Asian countries like Myanmar and Bangladesh implemented various policies (e.g. regional lockdown) and their impact on the local community (e.g. increasing urban poverty). Besides, he is interested in brainstorming a dynamic food supply system with the combined effort of the private sector and government subsidy in the post-pandemic era.

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    Yixin Wang

    Class of 2023

    Yixin Wang is a third-year student from Hangzhou, China. She is concentrating in International Studies with a focus on genocide studies, refugee crisis, and international human rights law. Yixin researched the Rohingya genocide and co-founded an NGO named Louder Than Words to help Rohingya refugee children in 2018. During her freshman year, she took the opportunity of SUA’s Travel Learning Cluster and conducted field research on the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Her current interests lie in the China-India border dispute and transboundary water conflicts in the Brahmaputra River Basin. She aspires to prevent mass atrocities and promote the peaceful settlement of disputes in the Pacific Basin and beyond.

Junior Scholars Program Alumni

Shunji Fueki (Class of 2021)
Victoria Huynh (Class of 2021)
Leonardo Salvatore (Class of 2022)
Ninh Le (Class of 2022)
Thuy Le (Class of 2022)
Vibhu Walia (Class of 2022)
Tayná Baptista Ferreira(Class of 2022)
Minori Sakai (Class of 2022)
Michelle Boralessa (Class of 2023)
Jenski Nguyen (Class of 2023)
Yixin Wang (Class of 2023)
Aarohee Bhattarai (Class of 2023)
Chiharu Nagai (Class of 2023)
Sachi Nishida (Class of 2023)

 

Akiko Yamada (Class of 2020)
Amrita Sood (Class of 2020)
Bikash Gupta (Class of 2020)
Hinako Irei (Class of 2020)
Jordyn Saito (Class of 2020)
Katelynn Jankowiak (Class of 2020)
Mark Chia (Class of 2020)
Nikita Sukmono (Class of 2020)
Shivi Thakur(Class of 2020)
 

Samikchhya Bhusal (Class of 2019)
Sofia Dugas (Class of 2019)
Zaw Lin Htet (Class of 2019)
MacKenzie Kermoade (Class of 2019)
Mahesh Kushwaha (Class of 2019)
Prashank Mishra (Class of 2019)
Ha Chau Ngo (Class of 2019)
Yutong Xue (Class of 2019)
Vassil Yorgov (Class of 2019)
Bikash Gupta (Class of 2020)
Nikita Sukmono (Class of 2020)
Shivi Thakur (Class of 2020)
Amrita Sood (Class of 2020)
Victoria Huynh (Class of 2021)
Thuy Le (Class of 2022)

Amanda Boralessa (Class of 2018)
Christopher Looper (Class of 2018)
Alaska Tan (Class of 2018)
Jaroslav Zapletal (Class of 2018)
Yuye Zhou (Class of 2018)
Samikchhya Bhusal (Class of 2019)
Sofia Dugas (Class of 2019)
Zaw Lin Htet (Class of 2019)
MacKenzie Kermoade (Class of 2019)
Mahesh Kushwaha (Class of 2019)

Kenichi Morita (Class of 2017)
Jianmin Shao (Class of 2017)
Amanda Boralessa (Class of 2018)
Christopher Looper (Class of 2018)
Risa Nakayama (Class of 2018)
Alaska Tan (Class of 2018)
Jaroslav Zapletal (Class of 2018)
Yuye Zhou (Class of 2018)
Samikchhya Bhusal (Class of 2019)
Sofia Dugas (Class of 2019)
Zaw Lin Htet (Class of 2019)
Prashank Mishra (Class of 2019)
Yutong Xue (Class of 2019)
Vassil Yorgov (Class of 2019)