Student Bios

IMG_1584My name is Anna Taeko Casals Fernandez. I am 20 years old and currently a second year student at Soka University of America. I was born and raised in Sant Antoni de Vilamajor, a small town near Barcelona, Spain. I am interested International Relations, diplomacy, non-profit organizations, and sustainability. I am extremely fortunate to be selected to go to Buenos Aires to not only work with FOVISEE and WWB, but also to interact with low-income families to investigate firsthand the historical, socioeconomic, and environmental factors that have shaped their housing situation. This Learning Cluster will allow me not only to expand my knowledge and further my development in the field of sustainable housing and weatherization. My interest in sustainable housing stems from my last year in high school where I focused my two-year thesis on eco-sociedades, a group of people who decided to live in their community sustainable. As I had the opportunity to interview members of eco-sociedades from around the world, I realized their efforts to achieve weatherization. I believe that my experience in this Learning Cluster can be connected with my goal to promote a new social, cultural, and economic paradigm based on equality, sustainability, dialogue, and peace.

blog pic 1Hello my name is Braxton Keo and I am currently a third year student at Soka University of America. I decided to participate in this learning cluster because I am interested in improving low income housing and also promoting sustainability in Latin America. Last year I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel to Brazil to study human development. While abroad, I was able to see firsthand how many people are dealing with the negative impacts of poverty. Seeing favelas built next to expensive high rises was a truly eye opening experience. In addition, I recently studied the political economy of Latin America and have gained a better understanding of the income disparity between the rich and the poor. Through this class I was able to research certain government and non-government programs that help reduce the income gap by improving the living standards of the low income families. The poor infrastructures of housing units in low income areas of Argentina are a great example of this income disparity. I hope that while in Argentina I am able to make a positive impact in the lives of the low income families by providing assistance improving the efficiency of their respective houses. From this experience I hope that I gain a better understanding of the lifestyles of these low income families and help make a positive impact in their lives.​

11951934_10206083746027030_6508282405764943054_nHi! My name is Elissa Park and I am from Porter Ranch, CA. I am currently a second year student at Soka University of America, concentrating on Environmental Sciences. Due to my family background, I am extremely interested in Latin American studies and Spanish. Since I was a young girl, I was always interested in the wildlife; I particularly had an affinity for animals. I pursued this passion during high school when I had the opportunity to volunteer and intern in various organizations such as Heal the Bay and Pacific American Volunteer Association. I organized various petitions and helped students coordinate beach and river clean-ups. This leaned more to wildlife conservation and environmental preservation, though I still participated in social-movements and petitions that helped animals that are close to becoming endangered. I am interested in sustainability and hope that my background could benefit others to learn more about these issues that surround all communities. The housing industry plays an important role in keeping the environment pristine due to the possible waste produced. It is important to build homes that are sustainable for the people that reside in the homes and for the exterior effects. I hope to expand my knowledge in the field. I wish to grow as a individual through first-hand learning and interacting with the environment.​

pictureMy name is Jaroslav Zapletal, I am a second-year student at Soka University of America and I was born and raised in the Czech Republic. Growing up in the era of the country’s transition to a market economy, it was then when I had the chance to observe my parents’ entrepreneurial effort in the brand-new economic environment. Consequently, my interest in the Czech Republic’s as well as European economy, and later on political economy grew stronger. This somehow brought me to the field of Euro-Asian relations. After coming to the United States for college, my horizons broadened even more and I naturally started looking at political economy holistically. Other than (unconventional) economics (and especially philosophy of economics, financial markets and real estate), politics and philosophy, my other interests include the Chinese language and culture. This course relates to my interest in real estate markets and I am confident it will provide me with a different new perspective of an area of the real estate business. I am currently working as a research assistant for the Pacific Basin Research Center by Soka University, which allows me to get an insight into the practical side of some of the fields of my interest, such as politics or economics as related to the countries of the Pacific Basin.​

11154656_847966071945914_8600783992688273110_oHello! My name is Joan M. Chica, and I was born in Colombia. I have been living in the United States since the beginning of my high school years. During my high school career, I was exposed to various branches of local and state government through internships, volunteer work, and government related classes. Due to the aforementioned exposure, I became interested in the city/regional management and planning side of government. At Soka University of America, I have pursued various Urban Planning related classes which have deepened my curiosity and interest towards the field. By participating in this Learning Cluster, I will strive to get a better understanding on the importance of weatherization as a means to achieve sustainable living. The Learning Cluster will also focus on sustainability in low income housing, which will greatly contribute towards my knowledge and experience in the area of housing within the Urban Planning sphere.

Hello! My name is Kaori Tsuji. I am currently a junior at Soka University of America. I am really excited about visiting Argentina and learning about assessing the construction of the low-income housing in order to have a sustainable housing system because I just came back from a semester study abroad in Buenos Aires and got to explore the city which made me realize the gap between the social classes. Housing is the one of the most basic and important things in our lives, so I’m excited to help the community construct the better housing as a part of this learning cluster! Also, I have been interested in learning about the media, and in this class, we seem to film our work as a documentary, which makes it more interesting for me.

11223658_885494868201991_1889203496042356041_n (2)¡Hola! My name is MacKenzie Kermoade, and I’m a first year SUA student from Seattle, Washington. As a recent graduate of the Ocean Research College Academy, I am extremely passionate about environmental activism, and I’m currently transitioning into a zero-waste lifestyle. I also love learning languages! So far, I speak a little Spanish, Russian and French. My life goal is to establish a multi-lingual eco-tourism agency out of the Salish Sea, in order to promote environmental awareness within the United State’s Pacific Northwest region.

Hello there. My name is Naomi Antinarelli. Currently I am a first year student at Soka 12074765_159010981110081_2844474621062916324_nUniversity of America. I feel that it is important to apply what we learn in a classroom setting in an immersive atmosphere. From the earliest interest in Liberal Arts I have had a profound interest in the relationship between humans and the land we inhabit. Thus my concentration is environmental studies. Weatherization has presented the opportunity to understand the mechanics of modern life in urban or non urban settings. I am so excited to work in argentina for the purpose of improving and analyzing efficiencies within homes. To learn about another culture in Latin America is important in itself while hoping to improve the livelihoods of the people we will encounter. I know that after this experience the luxuries of life will be revealed to me in a new light. Finding a way to sustainably construct is important to present progress in the urban environmental community. I have lived in southern California all my life and hope to expose myself to new standards of living as well as further my learning experience with applying weatherization practices.

IMG_920111 (1)Hello, My name is Oscar Medina, currently a Sophomore at Soka University of America. I am originally from Fontana, CA. Food, Soccer, and Latin America are among my greatest passions. I enjoy learning about the Cold War Era in Latin America. Argentina is specifically interesting for me because it has such a unique history. This learning cluster will provide a great opportunity for me to study Argentina in person. I hope to learn about how the people have moved on from this era and how they live today. Working hand in hand improving the everyday lives of the people has benefits beyond the simple housing upgrades. I believe that these upgrades should be more readily available for all socio-economic classes. This learning cluster will do just that by providing great services to the people of Buenos Aires.

PareshHi, my name is Paresh Khetan. I am a third-year student from Kathmandu, Nepal. I intend to major in International Relations with a focus on Latin American development. Before coming to Soka, I was fairly oblivious about Latin America as a region, however, after taking several classes here I have found that the region faces similar challenges to Nepal in terms of social, political, and economic growth. By traveling to Argentina and working on weatherizing low-income houses, I hope to better understand the power structures and socio-economic factors that have led to unsustainable, unsafe living conditions. I am also interested in learning about city planning and how the perception of public and private space has changed over the past decades following Latin America’s economic growth.

IMG_8643_1024Hello! I am Sofia Torres, a first year student at Soka University of America. I was born and raised in New Jersey by two loving Colombian parents. As a result of growing up very closely to New York city, I have gained an interest in sustainable living. I am extremely passionate about design and would like to possibly explore a career in sustainable architecture. With these goals, this learning cluster immediately sparked  my interest. I hope to gain exposure to techniques used to live sustainably and carry them with me long after I have returned from Buenos Aires. ​

11811568_868518053231643_4135686606215765796_nHi! My name is Yoko Taguchi and I am a third year student at Soka University of America. living in Tokyo, I’m interested in the construction of sustainable buildings in an urban city which has high humidity. I expect to investigate the cultural, historical, socioeconomic and environmental difficulties and learn the approaches to the issues. I’m also interested in journalism, and I want to explore how we can make a documentary that successfully inform this project and actually call for action.​