National

Student group's pandemics study wins Japan Times award

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

A student group addressing the growing threat of pandemic diseases in the age of globalization received the grand prize for this summer’s presentations in The Japan Times Youth Project.

Nineteen university students, divided into three groups, delivered in-depth 10-minute presentations at the company’s head office in Tokyo last Saturday on a topic of their choosing based on politics and the economy, culture and education, and the international community.

“Since globalization is often thought to be something positive, we thought it would be interesting to research this topic based on its negative aspects,” David Fujiwara, the winning group’s closing speaker, said after the awards ceremony.

The group examined pandemic diseases such as Ebola and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

In suggesting ways to prevent the outbreak of diseases, the group examined various micro and macro approaches, calling on individuals to take personal responsibility to seek medical attention where appropriate, while also urging countries to share information more openly on an established communications network.

Launched by Waseda University in September 2013, The Japan Times Youth Project gathers once or twice a week to study English and attempt to attain a global perspective using The Japan Times as a study reference.

The club has expanded over the past two years and now includes students from Meiji, Rikkyo and Aoyama Gakuin colleges.

The students research a topic over a few months and prepare multimedia presentations to showcase the information they uncover along the way. A preliminary round of presentations is held to select the top three or four groups that will vie for the top prize in front of a panel of judges each summer and winter.

One of the other two groups concentrated on ways creativity can be used to prevent technology from making humans redundant in the workplace. Using the story of the Wright brothers as an example of how the creative process can improve technology, the team argued that innovations are the key to future endeavors, even if they produce failures in the beginning.

The remaining group shifted the focus toward the growing refugee crisis in Europe, warning that people fleeing regional conflicts in Africa and the Middle East are increasingly crowding onto boats to cross the Mediterranean.

The group suggested that more be done to encourage neighboring countries to accept these refugees. The United Nations, European Union and developed countries, it argued, should provide financing that would allow neighboring nations to give refugees financial assistance, education, job opportunities and management skills that would allow them to establish a refugee camp managed by the residents themselves.

Participant Nonoka Tsugawa believes her experiences with The Japan Times Youth Project will be beneficial to her in the future.

“I was very nervous to give a presentation in English,” Tsugawa said. “But such an experience should give me better opportunities in the job market. If I’m able to become a researcher one day, I may even be able to give presentations in English at academic meetings.”

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