USJC Outreach and Allyship Committee Creates Safe Space for Members to NAVI-gate Difficult Conversations as Part of Regional Women in Leadership Program

On June 24, viewers from all corners of the United States and Japan gathered over Zoom to attend a Regional Women in Leadership (RWL) program hosted by co-chair of USJC’s Outreach and Allyship committee and Director of Diversity Strategic Initiatives at Meta Platforms Inc., Dr. Mana Nakagawa (ELP ‘14). In addition to Dr. Nakagawa, the meeting was facilitated by USJC Associates and members of USJC’s Outreach & Allyship (O&A) Committee Materials Science Engineer at Advanced Drainage Systems, Inc. Aila Gomi, Assistant Professor at Ithaca College Christine Kitano (ELP ‘16), Senior Strategy Analyst at Vanguard Andrea Sugano (ELP ‘16), Legislative Assistant to Congresswoman Barbara Lee Erika Ninoyu (ELP ‘16), and Senior Program Manager at Community Partners Stephanie Nitahara (ELP ‘19). 

Dr. Nakagawa directed the critical kaiwa, or conversations, throughout the one and a half hour workshop, offering exercises that kept the audience engaged and thinking critically about what it means to be an ally and to self-advocate. 

Viewers were guided through an exercise in which they shared their own experiences of exclusive behavior as both a bystander and an involved actor. These difficult but valuable stories gave Dr. Nakagawa the opportunity to teach the participants the acronym “NAVI,” (notice, ask, validate, and initiate) which outlines the steps one should take when faced with an uncomfortable conversation. 

Participants were able to employ “NAVI” in role-play scenarios that built on their “inclusive conversation muscles.” A debrief on the exercises brought up some recurring themes among the audience. Those themes included gaining the courage to stand up for others in uncomfortable situations and how best to respond to difficult situations in both professional and casual settings. 

The U.S.-Japan Council would like to thank the speakers and facilitators for their time and effort in putting together this wonderful event. The Regional Women in Leadership Program is generously sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Written by Kira Morimoto