SPF Meets with Class of 2021 Sasakawa Fellowship Students

On 7 December, the 31 Sasakawa Fellowship Students in the Class of 2021 participated in a virtual meeting with the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF), the organization that administers the Sasakawa Fellowship programme on behalf of The Nippon Foundation of Japan. The purpose of the meeting was to help the students make connections with each other, as well as to update SPF on their studies and experiences amidst the pandemic. 

Opening remarks were made by Dr Atsushi Sunami, President of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and Ocean Policy Research Institute. He recognized the inherent difficulties the students face undertaking their studies during the pandemic. He noted that all of the Sasakawa Fellowship Students in the Class of 2021 were attending the meeting, while a few are not yet able to travel to Malmö yet due to the COVID-19 restrictions in their home countries. However, all of the students are already building their network with their classmates by engaging virtually. Dr Sunami spoke positively of a light at the end of the tunnel regarding the pandemic with the current promise of vaccines, committing that the Foundation will keep in touch with the students as they continue to progress through the programme. 

Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, WMU President, addressed the gathering and thanked The Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation for their continued support to the University which has been on-going since 1987. Speaking to the students, President Doumbia-Henry emphasized the honor they hold as fellowship recipients of The Nippon Foundation which is the largest fellowship donor to the University and which maintains close ties with the network of 660 WMU Sasakawa Fellows from more than 70 countries. She emphasized WMU’s commitment to ensuring delivery of the highest level of education, despite the current pandemic circumstances. She also voiced the University’s support for The Nippon Foundation's mission of social innovation to achieve a society where people support one another. 

Mr Eisuke Kudo, Senior Advisor for the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) and WMU Governor, addressed the students expressing regret that they have not yet been able to meet in person. He was hopeful that this would be possible in 2021. Under normal conditions, a delegation from SPF, including Mr Kudo, meets the fellowship students on multiple trips to WMU during a given academic year, and also in Japan as part of the week-long field study hosted by The Nippon Foundation. The field study was not able to take place in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it is hoped that it will be possible in 2021. 

The meeting concluded with six student representatives providing insight on their WMU experience to date. They spoke of challenges due to the pandemic, such as difficulties in traveling to Malmö, being far from family, and the adjustment to online learning under the current guidelines in place in Sweden. They also spoke of the incredible experience they have already gained in just three months since their MSc studies began. Virtual learning has challenged them in new ways, but also inspired them on ways in which online learning can be adapted to programmes offered in their home countries. They expressed their appreciation to the Foundation for funding their studies and for the dedication of the University in ensuring a high level of education is maintained under the current circumstances. 

Ms Sedigheh Zarei from Iran spoke of her extraordinarily rich experience. In just three months, she has been tremendously impressed by the many cultures and languages among the students and interested in their different experiences of exploring the same city. She said, “We are learning and discovering everything not only from Sweden and WMU, but also all countries of our classmates living at the Henrik Smith Student Residence (HSR). I cannot believe we have already become close friends, supporting each other in many ways. I believe that if the leaders of each country could live together at HSR, the world would be a more peaceful place.”

The WMU Sasakawa Fellows Programme provides a global network to enable the Fellows to support their countries in addressing maritime policy challenges and to develop excellence in leadership as well as promote international cooperation. 

About The Nippon Foundation’s Support to WMU

The Nippon Foundation’s contributions to WMU began in 1987 with providing fellowships for WMU students. The WMU Sasakawa Fellowship Programme began in 1988. The Nippon Foundation is the largest fellowship donor to the University, providing 30 new awards on an annual basis.

In addition to providing Fellowships, The Nippon Foundation usually hosts a week-long field study to Japan, although this could not take place in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2001, SPF has regularly hosted Regional Network Meetings for WMU Sasakawa Fellows. The Nippon Foundation further supports the capacity building mission of WMU by substantially funding the WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute, as well as funding five Professorial Chairs, an Associate Professor and numerous conferences and events connected with WMU.

Each year, a limited number of Sasakawa Fellowships are open to government employees from developing countries. The Sasakawa Fellowship Awards Committee looks for well qualified candidates with a strong academic and professional record. Candidates aged between 26 and 35 are prioritized. Interested applicants should apply for admission to the University, and in tandem, should submit an Application for Donor Funding from their organizations, plus a Sasakawa Fellowship Motivational Statement, completed by the candidate. It is essential that both these forms are completed in detail and with reference to the University’s Academic Handbook and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation’s website: https://www.spf.org/en/ Complete applications must be sent to the University by the end of January in the year of entry. For more information, click here.

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