Members of “Horizon”, a student organization at Sophia dedicated to youth empowerment, joins the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) program at Stanford University and completes its fellowship as the first participating members from Japan

Horizon meetings provide opportunities to discover new insights and knowledge.

Members of “Horizon“, a student organization at Sophia dedicated to youth empowerment, successfully completed the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) program at Stanford University.

These four students were the first from Japan to complete its fellowship, which has been offered by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (“”) at Stanford University, a hub for innovation nurturing potentials as innovators in all people. Since its establishment in 2012, the program has been engaged in the development of students’ innovative/creative capacity, resulting in those participants turning into agents of change at the education bases of their own.

In 2020, other than those students from Sophia, 194 students from 45 institutions of higher education around the world joined this program. Over a six-week training period, those UIF fellows studied principles of entrepreneurship, design thinking, innovation, and creativity in order to make an impact as students. Given the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for leaders equipped with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to solving problems has never been greater.

After completing the online training course, students are tasked to practice their learning, making actual change at their home university. At the end of the program, upon submitting an impact report to Stanford University, students are invited to a Silicon Valley meetup in March of the following year on the premise of Stanford University and Google’s U.S. headquarters.

Horizon is a student organization at Sophia University, launched in 2019 dedicated to youth empowerment. It is committed to building tools and platforms to empower young people in order for them to drive social changes. Horizon consists of members with diverse interests as to social reform, entrepreneurship, literature, art and many more, and by collaborating as teams, members engage in projects. The groups address challenges according to members’ interests, ranging from the environment and refugees to mental health, gender issues and beyond.

Even after the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the group has been actively engaged in activities by fully utilizing the online environment, and the Stanford program was among one of those opportunities.

This year’s UIF Fellows from Sophia University included Akiho Yoshizawa (Faculty of Law), Marius Schmich, Misshel Keyani, and Tomohiro Loeer (all three Faculty of Liberal Arts). They will continue to share their learnings with the Sophia community.

Voices of a participating student
Horizon is a place where all members can exercise leadership.

We spoke with one of the four students who participated in the UIF program, Ms. Akiho Yoshizawa, a second-year student in the Department of International Legal Studies at the Faculty of Law.

− How did you get involved with Horizon?
I was among the original founding members of Horizon. To me, launching an organization that takes on social challenges with such a unique and innovative approach was truly sensational. In the early days, we had discussions and shared ideas with each other, day after another. Over time the Horizon evolved to what it is today, but we all are still learning, growing, and iterating every day. The organization reminds me of how crucial the richness of diversity within teams are in order to create impactful and meaningful ideas.

− What were the impressions from participating in this program?
I was puzzled by the term “design thinking,” at first, but what I learned was very simple. When you are faced with a complicated challenge, do not immediately jump to a solution but rather understand the cause of the problem and empathize with the person experiencing the problem. After completing the program, we immediately transmitted the knowledge in two online workshops for fellow Sophia students. These workshops focused on utilizing design thinking to address real needs in a team setting, which gave me a great sense of accomplishment.

− What is your dream/goal for the future?
As a female co-founder and leader, I would like to convey to the new generation the need to push forth towards making gender equality a reality. My passion is to contribute to creating a society where all young people can freely pursue their passions and dreams without concern paused by social limitations.

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