Published: Feb. 14, 2024 By

Yuka HasegawaYuka Hasegawa (ChinLang&Lit; MIntlEdu), who graduated in the 1990s, lives in Japan and splits her time between Tokyo and Yokohama. She is vice chair of the alumni chapter in Japan, Forever Buffs Tokyo, which for more than two decades has hosted alumni, students, faculty and staff from CU Boulder for events, internships and career opportunities. In January, she was part of a CU Global Ambassadors event in Tokyo which hosted more than 80 alumni. 

How long have you been involved with CU Boulder?

I’ve had an ongoing relationship with CU Boulder for over 35 years. While at CU, I was one of the starting members of the Japanese Student Association, Japanese Movie Club and other Japan-related food and culture clubs. The opportunity to be passionate and deeply involved in teaching language and culture was luckily expanded for me as I became a teaching assistant when completing the professional teacher license program in teaching Japanese through the Colorado Department of Education, and then an instructor (visiting professor) in the Japanese department (known as East Asian Languages and Literature at that time). It was a privilege for me to have now-Chancellor Philip DiStefano as my dean of the School of Education. And my scholarship from CU for Semester at Sea helped broaden my view for the immense value of a cross-cultural education. 

Why did you get involved in the Japan alumni chapter? 

I’ve been involved in the alumni chapter for more than 20 years. It has been my dream to be a bridge between the U.S. and Japan since I was a child. I spent my childhood and early education with my parents in New York — that’s where the motivation started. These memories and experiences made me want to receive a higher education degree in the U.S. 

I had the life-changing fortune of getting to know Boulder and CU thanks to my father, an engineer who at one time was assigned to work for a company in Boulder. When I spent a whole summer with him, a young woman who was a CU student and who worked at the front desk of the hotel we stayed at showed me around the campus. I was impressed by the beauty of the huge campus and by the vibrant student life, and fell in love with CU Boulder instantly. That was when my tie with CU started.

These childhood and CU experiences made me want to contribute back because of the hospitality that I received from the U.S. It is such a rewarding and humbling experience for me to not only benefit the Buffs we help, but it also enriches my life in countless ways. I feel CU in my heart. Making someone happy makes me happy. It’s truly fulfilling and heartwarming. That becomes the source of my energy.

What sort of connections have you made with other chapter members during this time? 

In Japan, we have hosted alums, scholars and students and high school students who may go to CU in many different cultural enrichment activities. A good example was when we hosted the inaugural visit of students and faculty from Leeds Business School in May 2016. About 30 students were hosted by the very first Fulbright Scholar from Japan after WWII, Mr. Akira Horie (MMktg’54), who connected us to the Japanese global company Mitsubishi. And, in 2018, to serve Buffs better, I obtained an official tour conductor license in Japan to help show them around the city and visit businesses. It is my wish to continuously be of assistance to CU.

Does a particular event that involved CU stand out to you?

I enjoy supporting alumni meetings or parties through the chapter and accommodating staff or scholars visiting Japan. It is a special honor for me to be involved in CU chancellor or president visits. Collaborating with CU, working together to create a tie with the U.S. and Japan and, most importantly, being of assistance during their stay in Japan are the most delightful events of my life. 

Why is a global presence important for CU Boulder to have?

Each cultural exchange can be one that is given on a grassroots level. These exchanges not only enrich our own lives, but it also contributes to a bigger global presence. We can broaden our horizons and foster mutual respect deeply. We can share knowledge, exchange ideas and it deepens our understanding of each other. I respect and cherish this philosophy. This is my lifelong work that I wish to continue forever.


Photo by Brian Scott Peterson