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Double degree challenges strengthen our Japanese graduate

10 July 2024

Hiroki Ito’s love for the ocean and passion for environmental issues have shaped his academic journey and career ambitions. His diverse background nurtured his interest in social and environmental issues. This passion led him to pursue a double degree in environmental management at the University of Tokyo and a Master of Public Policy at the Crawford School of Public Policy. We spoke with Hiroki about his journey, experiences, and future plans.

Tell us about yourself, Hiroki.

I was born in the United States and lived in Japan, Indonesia, and Malaysia before coming to Australia. Growing up in these diverse sets of places nurtured my interest in social and environmental issues experienced in these countries. I grew an interest in the marine environment when I lived in Indonesia and Japan.

Why did you choose to study at Crawford?

I came to Crawford as a double degree student from the University of Tokyo because I thought going to Crawford would allow me to enrich my insights on environmental policy issues in the Asia-Pacific region. I became interested in Public Policy during my undergraduate degree as it was a problem-oriented, multidisciplinary type of field that allowed me to think about issues from multiple ways of thinking. I was interested in applying these diverse perspectives to look at environmental problems. After I had a great first few months at the University of Tokyo, I thought that maybe changing country would allow me to change perspectives and allow me to develop a deeper understanding of environmental policy issues in the region that I was interested in. ANU stood out as it was in the Asia-Pacific, and it allowed me to specialize in the environment. So, I signed up, and a few months later, I landed in Australia for the first time in my life.

What topic area are you most interested in?

As an ocean lover, I am particularly interested in marine governance issues in the Asia Pacific region, such as fisheries and coastal tourism. During my time here at Crawford, I created a research proposal that studies the social impacts of dive tourism on the local communities in Indonesia. I became interested in this topic as I have always been interested in the ocean since a young age and because I had the opportunity to travel around Indonesia when I was a teenager exploring various coastal communities. This experience made me think about how we have lived with the ocean and if there are any good strategies we can take to keep co-existing with ocean ecosystems while having good livelihoods.

How would you describe your experience at Crawford?

To put it short, my time in Crawford allowed me to discover various tight-knit communities in which I felt safe. When I first came to Canberra, I was surprised to know how closely the students interacted with each other in classes, dormitories, and outside of the classrooms. Although it was my first time living abroad by myself, it was very easy for me to make friends and find communities where I could talk about my personal life and/or engage in long academic conversations. I was able to make a friend in each class, and I knew if something happened, I had someone I could count on. These connections helped me persevere through my studies and personal endeavours.

In 2024, Crawford is focused on “From local to global: a journey in public policy”. Can you share your thoughts on how your experiences in local policy issues have shaped your perspective on global policy challenges? How will this perspective guide your future endeavours in public policy? What do you think policymakers in Australia and the region should focus on?

My experience of engaging in local traditional land management has taught me the importance of considering indigenous insights and cultural values of land in the global challenge of biodiversity conservation. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, I lost the chance to go to university on a regular basis, which made me interested in what was happening around me. As I was interested in the environment, I became fascinated by the rural landscapes that existed around my home in a town called Machida in Tokyo.

After the pandemic started to calm down, I decided to volunteer at an NGO that aimed to revitalize a plot of land that was abandoned due to real estate development in the 1980s-1990s by implementing traditional Japanese land management practices. The experience of getting my hands dirty and learning about traditional methods to manage land has taught me a bit about how humans and nature co-constructed each other. While many endangered species are dependent on the traditional types of human cultivation, humans have created things like cuisines, songs, and festivals in their interactions with their local natures. I was personally fascinated by how fallen leaves were traditionally used as fertilizers through composting. Here, the clearing of leaves has allowed many plant species to keep surviving, and the lack of this in modern agriculture is threatening the plant species’ existence.

When I came to Crawford, this experience helped me think about the importance of Indigenous land or sea management, and it has been one theme that I have been emphasizing in my schoolwork as well. The importance of indigenous and local knowledge in biodiversity conservation is also mentioned in the IPBES global assessments that helped to inform the current Kunming Montreal Framework, but I am hoping that policymakers can keep investigating further our complex interactions with nature as what we know now could be a tip of the iceberg.

What is the most memorable experience from your time at Crawford?

My most memorable experience was taking Professor Sara Bice’s ‘Cases in Contemporary Public Policy’ course in semester two. As it was my first intensive course that lasted for nearly 8 hours in a single session, I was worried about how I could manage it and feel at the end of the day. However, I ended up liking the course a lot because the experience was full of output learning that was centred on discussions that allowed me to look at current policy issues with academic theories from the diverse perspectives of ANU students. I think these discussions allowed me to think like a policymaker as they made the theories, we learned in class sink into our heads, and I still remember many of the policy theories we have used here. It also made me open my eyes to policy issues that I haven’t explored before, such as health policy-related issues. Overall, it was a very exciting subject, and I suggest other students take it!

What advice would you give to prospective students considering studying this course at Crawford?

I suggest people come to Crawford with an open mind and an open heart because you would be meeting a diverse set of people that you may not have met before. As the only Japanese national in my cohort, I felt this acutely because I always had to engage and make friends with people from completely different backgrounds during my time at Crawford. However, I enjoyed this very much because I took joy in knowing people who came from rich backgrounds. I also learned a lot from them, from policy issues in their countries to cooking techniques. I believe that you would be able to truly benefit from the Crawford school’s diverse population if you came with an open mind and heart to communicate and make friends with them.

What’s next for you after graduation?

I am going to start working as a development consultant back in Japan. I believe that my knowledge of public policy and the environment would be very useful in this field, and I am excited to have my career started after an amazing academic life at Crawford.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to use this opportunity to promote the double degree program between the University of Tokyo and the Crawford School of Public Policy. Although I had to take many more courses than I would have had to if I stayed in one university, I was able to be part of so many special opportunities that I still remember. In Tokyo, I was able to participate in the Global Public Policy Network (GPPN) where my team members and I created policy proposals with the support of the best professors from the university and compete with representatives from the world’s leading universities in the policy field such as the Columbia University and the London School of Economics. I also became part of the University of Tokyo Ocean Alliance, which allowed me to learn about various marine governance issues that I personally really enjoyed. I think that my time at both universities was unique, and my experiences at both places will have a special place in my heart. If you’re an adventurous Crawford student who is willing to study hard and challenge yourself in many opportunities, I would really encourage you to apply to come to Japan.

From all of us at Crawford School, congratulations on your graduation, Hiroki!

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Updated:  18 July 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team