From Metropolis Magazine
Where are you from?
I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, though I feel at home in many places. After graduating from Stanford (History, '92), I went to New Orleans to run a non-profit educational program and teach middle and high school history at Isidore Newman School. After five years, I decided to pursue my own education at New York University, where I earned an MA in Digital Media Design for Learning (formerly Educational Communication and Technology).
What brought you to Japan?
My best friend at NYU was a Japanese-Colombian, who was there on a Fulbright Fellowship. After graduation, he returned to Tokyo to become the production manager for a major Japanese broadband content producer. About a year later, he called me to come over for a consulting project.
Tell us a bit about what you do.
In my admissions consulting work, I provide cross-cultural coaching and interview training to a select handful of clients as they apply to top US, UK and European business and law school programs. I have also helped many clients secure Fulbright Awards.
In my off-season, I have served as a part-time lecturer at the University of Tokyo. I also provided pro bono resume and interview training to graduates of the JET Programme who will return to North America after serving as teachers and cross-cultural advisers to local Japanese municipalities and school systems. Since 2012, I have volunteered with The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC), where I served as a board director for six years, including one year as president.
What hurdles do Japanese students face when applying to universities abroad?
Top schools all say they look at academics (the numbers), leadership and teamwork (career and community), personal qualities and communication skills (essays and interviews). But if they all want the same things, why are the results so varied? Schools play games, and I help translate and localize the ever-changing rules for a Japanese audience.
The recommendation process is also a hurdle. MBA admissions officers claim to lack cultural bias, but do they really expect Japanese bosses to write in-depth qualitative evaluations that praise and critique an employee based on American performance standards? I educate my clients on what the questions mean and how to coach their bosses to produce authentic, believable recommendation letters. That is probably the hardest part of my job.
Japanese students also face economic disincentives. For undergraduates, leaving Japan for college often makes it difficult to find work at a large, traditional company.
At the graduate level, many of my clients struggle to implement their MBA and law school lessons after they come back. Organizational behavior and management theories are not universal. Still, I have seen a few former clients use their overseas training to make real changes in Japan. It is inspiring.
Tell us about your favorite place in Tokyo.
Our son was born in Mejiro, so I have a fondness for that neighborhood. We lived near the Tokyo Sakura Tram (Toden Arakawa Line)–Tokyo’s sole remaining streetcar. On sunny afternoons, my son and I would ride the entire line, from Waseda to Minowabashi. Rolling along through hidden parts of old Tokyo always reminded me why I live in Japan.
What do you like to do in your free time?
My great love is music, especially the bass guitar. I enjoy getting to know a culture and its language through music. Whenever we travel around Japan (or anywhere in the world), I always keep my ears open for that one true sound, that truly transcendent story. What’s yours?