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Student Profiles

Amanda Boralessa '18

Amanda is a member of the class of 2018 and comes from Massachusetts. She is concentrating in International Studies with her interests focused on poverty, social justice and human rights. For Amanda, the Pacific Basin region is an integral part of her identity, growing up on one side of the United States, studying on the other here in California, her family originates across the Pacific Ocean in Sri Lanka and she will be studying in Latin America for study abroad. She is interested in how history, especially colonial rule, has shaped and continues to affect peoples of the world. She hopes to someday work in social development, foreign relations and human rights.


Christopher Looper '18

The topics Christopher is interested in involve implementing the study of humanities to understand current day issues. He is primarily interested in how the study of cultural texts, such as fiction and religious texts unique to certain regions, can be used to understand and resolve regional conflicts. His geographic focus is primarily within East Asia, with an interest in various aspects of issues such as civil rights, implementation of socialism, and imperialism."


Alaska Tan '18

Alaska is a fourth-year student born and raised in the tiny little island of Singapore. He is currently concentrating in Social and Behavioral Sciences, and his area of focus are political science and anthropology. His academic interests include social stratification, poverty, state and society power relations encompassing race and ethnicity, and gender and sexuality. Alaska is also passionate about learning, traveling, photography and writing, and wishes to continue in academia to become a professor one day.


Jaroslav Zapletal '18

Jaro was born and raised in the Czech Republic. Growing up in the era of the country’s transition to a market economy, it was then when he had the opportunity to observe his parents' entrepreneurial efforts in the new economic environment. Consequently, he became interested in the Czech Republic’s, as well as European, political economy, and it later brought him to the field of Euro-Asian relations, which he has developed a huge interest for. His other research interests include economics and investment (particularly Latin America and its interconnection with Asia and the United States), philosophy and Chinese language and culture.


Yuye Zhou '18

Yuye is a fourth year student. Her interest lies in the field of environmental justice and nature conservancy. Coming from a highly industrialized city Chongqing, China and having traveled to different cities around the world, Yuye has seen a lot of practices towards economic development that are at the expense of environmental well-being. Her future goals are to utilize her knowledge to mitigate climate change, promote sustainable development and build a healthy connection between human and nature worldwide.


Samikchhya Bhusal  '19

I am a third year student from Kathmandu, Nepal. I am concentrating in Environmental Studies with a focus on environmental planning and policy in the Global South. In my undergraduate career and later, I am interested in understanding how less developed nations can approach the problem of development and environment simultaneously. Having spent eighteen years of my life in a developing country, I have learnt about some of the challenges faced by nations in development amidst differing interests. I would like to explore more about the possibilities of the role of non-governmental organizations, and market-based approaches in solving environmental crisis.


Sofia Dugas '19

Sofia Dugas is a third-year student at Soka pursuing a concentration in International studies. Sofia’s passions stem from her involvement with an international peace organization called CISV (previously named Children’s International Summer Village) since she did her first interchange to New York when she was 11. With this program she has attended seminars and interchanges in Brazil, Norway, Tennessee, and Colorado. The main purpose is to bring children from around the world together to build global friendship and create a more peaceful and just society. Soka has enabled her to cultivate these interests and further explore education policy and practice in other parts of the world and in her community. The PBRC granted Sofia the opportunity this past summer to she had experience alternative styles of education and develop relationships with schools and educators in Nepal. She worked in various schools and helped in creating student-led projects aimed to develop and strengthen students’ communication skills, critical thinking skills, teamwork skills, and confidence. In Nepal, she discovered her passion of education and collaborative peace work which she will explore during her time at Soka.  Besides her involvement with the PBRC, she is member of the Soka Education Student Research Project, a group of students dedicated to researching this pedagogy and others that share values of humanistic education. In the future, she is would like to continue working with underdeveloped schools and collaborate with teachers and students to create a more valuable educational environment.


Zaw Lin Htet '19

Zaw is a third year student from Yangon, Myanmar. Due to his upbringing in a multi-ethnic country under a repressive military regime, he has always been enthusiastic to learn about developmental sciences. His research areas are civil-military relations, democratization, wealth sharing, and state building. Despite the transition to democracy, the current Myanmar government is a quasi-civilian one with the military holding power in law making and security. He aims to explore the role of the military in regarding itself as a guardian of national sovereignty through a historical lens and how it can be brought under civilian control. ​

Zaw Lin

MacKenzie Kermoade '19

MacKenzie Kermoade is a writer, musician, and citizen scientist from the Seattle area who grew up on the Salish Sea, an estuary system that straddles the border of Washington State and Canada. At Everett Community College’s Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA) she gained exposure to ocean science courses and hands-on research in the trans-national Salish, sparking her passion for international marine management. Over the course of her career, MacKenzie hopes to negotiate policy issues in trans-boundary ecosystems like the Salish Sea. Of particular interest is the management of Canada’s Northwest Passage, an Arctic shipping route anticipated to accelerate commerce between Asia and Europe in the near future. Above all, MacKenzie hopes to promote sustainable solutions in ecologically and economically sensitive areas of the Pacific Basin and beyond. ​


Mahesh Kushwaha  '19

Born and raised in a small village of southern Nepal, Mahesh Kushwaha is currently a third year student concentrating in International Studies. Growing up in a family of Indian immigrants, he had to go through several day-to-day and sociopolitical challenges from a very early age. Thanks to support from different people and institutions, he was lucky enough to attend bigger and “better” schools where he learnt about ethnic and cultural discriminations from close. This personal experience encouraged him to study politics and explore the ideas of nationalism and ethnicity. He looks forward to attending a graduate school after Soka and then going back to Nepal.


Prashank Mishra '19

I am from India and currently a second year student at SUA concentrating in Environmental Studies. Climate change, a threatening global phenomenon which is likely to impact all of us, is my primary field of interest. I am passionate to study the relationship between the factors leading up to climate change and the environmental movements associated with it, such as in the fight between indigenous people and corporate interests. I look forward to widen my knowledge on such issues and contribute my learning towards the betterment of society.

Ha Chau Ngo '19

Ha Chau is an undergraduate student in Soka University of America who concentrates in Social and Behavioral Sciences with a focus on Political Science. Born and raised in Hanoi, Vietnam, she first came into contact with socio-political issues due to her family’s association with the government. She later got involved with development projects in Hanoi as the co-founder and president of a NGO called Hanoi Food Rescue. As her passion for languages and social issues since childhood nurtured her fascination to learn about the world, she decided to pursue higher education in the United States. Her current research interests include state-society relations, gender equality, as well as human development. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in public policy with an emphasis on social welfare and sustainable development in developing countries.

Ha Chau

Yutong Xue '19

From my observation of China and the United States, I could not help but notice the significant decline of wildlife due to environmental degradation. Witnessing the disappearing of a once diverse Earth, I choose to concentrate in Environmental Studies, focusing the Ecology field. I hope to research more on different areas of Ecology, such as Behavioral Ecology and autecology. Currently, I am working with Professor Anthony Mazeroll to study a particular fungus that caused a notable decline in the amphibian population in Peru. As a PBRC junior scholar, I will focus on a more holistic perspective on wildlife decline and factors contributing to its cause within the Pacific Basin region, attempting to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the area.

Yutong Xie

Vassil Yorgov '19

Vasko was born in Bulgaria, and moved to the US at a young age. This distinctly bicultural upbringing has given him a deep interest in the roles that culture plays in the creation of individual identity. More broadly, he is interested in analyzing the causes of ethnic conflict, and the relationships between governments and the cultural and ethnic groups that they govern, focusing on South-East and East Asia. Growing up in a region with a history of ethnic identity, and consequently tension, as deeply rooted as the Balkans, he sees many similarities between the two regions, and hopes to study them comparatively.

Vassil Yorgov

Bikash Gupta '20

I am Bikash Gupta, and I am from Nepal.  I am interested in politics and economics in general.  In politics, I am specifically interested in the democratization aspect of once-authoritarian countries: how these countries transition to more-democratic political regimes, or most of the time, how they cannot and became hybrid regimes.   In economics, I am interested in developmental sustainable policies that help eradicate massive poverty.  In future, I would like to pursue an intersection of these two fields.


Nikita Sukmono '20

Nikita Sukmono is a member of the Class of 2020 and comes from Connecticut. Her primary passions lie in international environmental policy within the Southeast Asian context. This includes interests expanding into the greater impact of environmental harm on both the greater Pacific Basin area as well as the economic dynamics of smaller communities. Navigating the ability of one region’s environmental consequences to travel human- made borders remains an issue she foresees to be critical in the successful future development of the region. Growing up traveling between the East Coast and her parents’ homeland of Central Java, Indonesia, she has come to deeply appreciate the richness of culture, diversity, and unique approaches that will become vital as the Pacific Basin becomes more central on the world stage. Nikita looks forward to working closely with the PBRC in further diversifying her research and knowledge, as well as to help nurture her passions for greater humane development.

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