The main academic component of the conference is the "Roundtable". Each Roundtable consists of four Japanese delegates and four American delegates, and is lead by a Japanese Roundtable coordinator and an American Roundtable coordinator. Delegates are a part of a Roundtable the entire conference that focuses on a specific topic within the context of U.S.-Japan relations.
Environment and Humanity: The Importance of Sustainability in Modern Society
In a society where technological advance and population growth are having detrimental effects on our environment, it has become imperative to think about the human influence on climate, biodiversity, and ecologies, and furthermore, what we as citizens can or should do.
Environmentalism, with roots in everything from biology to business, has become an object of political, social, and economic attention for many reasons. How will political actions have an effect on our physical and social environment? How can we pursue resources without increasing tensions between developing and developed countries? What are the true costs and benefits of these procedures, and who is the true bearer of their burden? Japan and America have vastly different cityscapes, attitudes towards nature, and procedures for environmental problems. This roundtable aims to examine nature and ecology preservation, humanity’s interaction with the environment through means such as sustainability, economic or political actions, as well as our society’s role on the planet that we live on.
Roundtable Leader: Kitanna Hiromasa
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Identity: Navigating Diversity and Understanding Homogeneity in a Global Society
How do you identify yourself? How do others identify you? Do the ways others identify you influence your own sense of identity? Or rather, could the way you identify yourself influence the eyes of those around you? “Identity” is seemingly paradoxical in its meanings. On one hand, embracing a sort of “oneness” with others helps to formulate identity, while on another hand, a presence of individuality is also considered necessary. Interestingly enough, these contrasting definitions complement Japan and America’s contrasting ideologies. Japan’s homogenous society contributes to its strong national identity, while America’s diversity urges individuals to focus more on their personal identity. Why is this the case? How has each nation’s history shaped the people and the society? Could an increase in immigration and globalization play a role in threatening or strengthening these ideals? Has so-called Japanese homogeneity become a questionable reality with the increase of foreign residents and mixed, “Hafu”, children?
With these questions in mind, this roundtable will aim to comprehend the importance of identity in a constantly-evolving, multifaceted, global society. Through discussion, delegates will become better equipped to become global citizens by understanding not only the society they call home, but themselves and their own personal identity.
Roundtable Leader: Carolyn Hoover
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Mental Health: Progression though Public Health, Policy, and Precision Medicine
The definition of health has expanded beyond physical health to encapsulate mental and social health as well. However, mental health is still being left out of the conversation nationally—in both the US and Japan. Though accessibility to mental health resources is increasing, stigma against mental illnesses often deter people from seeking professional assistance. Nearly 45% of mental illnesses in the US go untreated, and depression is the leading undiagnosed chronic illness globally. Knowing this, what changes in policy and practice can bolster national recognition of mental illnesses? What can we do within our communities and hospitals to make the conversation more comfortable and less taboo? How can companies contribute and how can policy makers ensure accessibility and receptiveness?
By placing the spotlight on individuals, policymakers, physicians, and public health workers, this roundtable hopes to question what roles and responsibilities each holds and what changes each can make to progress the disparity in mental health care.
Roundtable Leader: Christina Zhou
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Philosophy of Religion: the Examination of the Meaning of Religion in Human Life
What is the purpose of our existence? Why is the world the way it is? What exactly happens when you meet death? Since ancient times, human beings have strove to understand unexplainable phenomena in their daily lives. Many answer their questions through their beliefs in “transcendent god(s)”, or in other words, religion. This sacred and absolute existence has given affirmation and meaning to human lives that are filled with anxiety, fear and suffering. To this day, Shintoism and Buddhism affect the way of Japanese life, and it is undeniable that religious influences impact American culture and politics.
Now in the modern day, science has reached such a point that the existence of god(s) and myths has lost its significance in some areas of the world. Indeed, there was a time when people did not have much choice but to pursue religion. It was not until the 18th Century in Europe that people came to question the nature of religion itself, through the development of science and technology. However, with this development also came religious conflict. It is getting harder for utility and rationality to propose a solution to these complicated problems in modern society. This roundtable aims to understand the essence of religion and reconsider its meaning in our lives by examining the relationships between religion, individuals, and society, considering how we can sublimate religious ideologies into a universal truth in a philosophical way.
Roundtable Leader: Emika Otsuka
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The Potential of Innovation: Building an Awareness of our Technological Roots
In the modern day, technology supports the vital foundation of our lives. The food we eat, the houses we live in, the cars we drive—this is all made possible by technology. Oftentimes, however, we focus on the ends, more so than the means. Moreover, in recent years, technology has been leading us to numerous points of contention as a society. For instance, innovations in robotics have led to questions about what jobs will be left for humans to do, advancements in artificial intelligence have led to questions about whether we can trust machines, and the rise of social media and big data has many worrying about issues of privacy and security.
Thus, the US and Japan, as two pioneers of technology in the modern world, have an important role to play when it comes to leading innovation in the right direction. However, to even explore the possibilities of what this “right direction” is, we need to ask more fundamental questions. Is constantly seeking innovation and technological advancement beneficial, or does it just become progress for the sake of progress? Is the innovation that we see actually improving our quality of life, or is precious intellectual capital being put to waste? What are the roles that we can play in guiding innovation? Keeping such questions in mind, this roundtable aims to facilitate discourse on the roles of technology in our modern society, as well as examine the potential trajectories that innovation can send us on as a human race.
Roundtable Leader: Jacques Chaumont
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Education: Re-envisioning the Purpose of Schooling and Education Reform
What is the purpose of education? Throughout human history, education has served as the nexus at which the past meets the present, and where skills, wisdom, and ideology are passed from teacher to student. The forms, modes, and goals of education, however, are not static, but fluid, constantly changing. In today’s globalized era, questions regarding the essential purpose of schooling emerge regularly in both academia and popular culture. Should education strive to produce a talent pool for the workforce? Or should it focus on intellectual enrichment and self-improvement? Furthermore, the postmodern breakdown of physical and conceptual barriers amongst individuals, cultures, and lived environments is leading many to question traditional teaching methodologies, causing more and more people to demand reform. This demand is so powerful that it has driven the widespread establishment of alternative schools and international curriculums. At the same time, economic turbulence and financial inequality raise concerns about how such reforms should take place, or in some contexts, if they even can.
In response to these issues, this roundtable will revisit some fundamental questions: Why do we need education? Who can and should be educated? What kind of mindset and skills should education aim to cultivate? Such inquiry will launch this roundtable into discussions about contemporary issues in both the United States and Japan, such as standardized testing and college entrance exams, national curriculum and school choice, bullying prevention, affirmative action, education affordability, special education, sex education, moral education, religion in schools, and social change. The primary objective of this roundtable is to stimulate knowledge and ideas about how, and why, education must adapt to respond to the needs of a new era, and envision a better and brighter future for the United States, Japan, and the rest of the world.
Roundtable Leader: Nicole McNevin
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Work and Family: Changing Roles in Society
What is a family? What does it mean to have a job? The roles we take in both our families and in our workplaces impact each other. In an increasingly modernized and global society, the landscape of both family life and the workplace have changed drastically. Has the increase of women in the workforce impacted family structure in the United States and Japan? How about the culture of overwork? On the contrary, has popular culture terminology such as “ikumen”, allowed men to feel more comfortable taking on new roles in the household? Through addressing such questions, we begin to understand how our public and private lives influence who we are as individuals. Furthermore, viewing the topic with factors such as race, gender, sexuality, public policy, technology, and culture in mind, we can begin to understand how our roles in both the workplace and families have changed in the past, are changing now, and will be changing in the future.
This roundtable aims to examine the changing landscape of work and family in the United States and Japan. In sharing our own experiences and perspectives, we hope to understand the importance of these changes in our public and private lives, and how our involvement in both of these communities shapes how we experience and interact with the world.
Roundtable Leader: Ethan Mattos
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