Panther Paths: Lindsey (Sasaki) Kogasaka ‘96

On January 13, Lindsey (Sasaki) Kogasaka ‘96 joined Upper School students for our January PolyConnect speaker session. Lindsey is currently the assistant director of the Office of Study Abroad at Pomona College and the senior research associate at The Nippon Foundation.
What does your current role entail? 
Title:  Assistant Director, Office of Study Abroad, Pomona College
The Office of Study Abroad assists students who would like to study abroad in a foreign country for either a semester or academic year in order to help foster cultural awareness as part of a liberal arts education. Study abroad allows students to become engaged global citizens at Pomona and beyond. My role is to assist in the overall administration of the office and its programs, which includes student advisement during the pre-departure, in-country, and re-entry stages.  I also manage program budgets and accounts, do fellowship advising, and supervise the peer mentor and graduate intern programs. In addition, I lead the development, promotion, and implementation of innovative strategies for outreach with academic and student service offices across campus to increase the diversity of underrepresented groups in study abroad through targeted workshops on identity, academics, and career.

Title:  Senior Research Associate, The Nippon Foundation
The Nippon Foundation in collaboration with the Japanese American National Museum, launched a global research project to examine how young adult Nikkei (Japanese emigrants and their descendants) not only express their Japanese heritage and culture, but also how they construct their identities and engage with communities throughout the world. As one of the two researchers on the project, I assisted in developing the project research design and methodology (survey and focus groups), conducting a focus group training workshop, analyzing the data, and contributing to the final project report.

What fueled your interest for your career path? 
From a young age, I always have been interested in learning foreign languages and meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures. It wasn’t until after college that I discovered the field of international education that focuses on people-to-people diplomacy and educational and cultural exchange. I am grateful that my career path has allowed me to work in administrative roles in higher education, conduct research, and teach.

What's the most rewarding part of your work?
Studying abroad allows students to open their minds and explore varied learning styles in order to develop and strengthen their academic, linguistic, intercultural, and interpersonal skills, such as critical thinking, empathy and understanding, and resourcefulness by engaging with local people and communities. It is so rewarding to see the transformation and growth of students who have developed their skills from their time abroad. I absolutely love hearing about students’ experiences and stories and how study abroad will shape their next steps! Regarding my research, I feel fortunate to have met Nikkei from around the world and to have learned more about the similarities and differences among them and their local communities. 

What is the most challenging aspect of your work? 
COVID-19 has presented challenges to every sector and industry. The field of international education is no exception as we have been faced with providing new ways for students to gain global learning experiences without traveling abroad. The challenge is to deal not only with health and safety issues and program assessment, but also to envision what the future impact COVID-19 will have on our work and goals. In addition, it is paramount to provide access to all students to have the ability to engage with high impact international experiences. 

What does a normal day look like for you? 
As we are only a three-person office, one of the aspects that I love about my job is that every day is different and exciting. There are numerous meetings and emails, but it is fun to be able to communicate with someone from Cape Town to Edinburgh to Tokyo on the same day. It is also fulfilling to be engaged with students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and community members.  

What's next? 
I hope to be able to continue to work in higher education and engage in international affairs and cross-cultural exchange. It will be exciting to participate in innovative ways to encourage global learning. Regarding future research prospects, I would love the opportunity to be part of creative projects that examine the various aspects of the Japanese diaspora, international migration, and community identity. Perhaps it would be possible to learn more about the other Asian communities in Latin America. 

What advice can you offer to fellow Panthers?
You have time to figure out which career path you hope to pursue in the future! The education (both in and out of the classroom) and life experiences that await you will give you the skills necessary to adapt and problem-solve throughout your various jobs and possible careers. 
  • Definitely pursue your passions in whatever job/career that you decide to embark upon. If you haven’t found that exact spark yet, explore different options and interests through internships, summer jobs, or volunteer opportunities. It is important not only to know what you love, but also what doesn’t strike your fancy.
  • Stretch yourself (safely and comfortably) beyond your comfort zone. There is a magic spot where personal and academic growth can occur when you challenge yourself. This could be taking a class that you might not otherwise take, or traveling and living with a host family, or learning how to dance salsa. Each unique opportunity will contribute to your life experience portfolio. 
  • Build your networks. You never know how that one family member, teacher, neighbor, friend, co-worker, etc. will be able to help you, offer you advice in the future, or become a mentor. Be open to meeting people from different backgrounds and experiences. 
  • Global engagement doesn’t necessarily mean getting on a plane. One way to engage in cultural exchange is to travel to another country, but you can also learn about other cultures and diverse perspectives right in your own backyard! Watch foreign films, read news from foreign sources, listen to music/podcasts/other media from around the world, learn new languages, try new foods, or visit our amazing and diverse communities in LA.