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Universal Stories

Andrew Ogawa ’95 supports Japanese language and cultural studies at UC Santa Barbara

Andrew Ogawa ’95 was born in Tokyo to a Japanese father and an American mother who met at the University of Washington, Seattle in the 1960s. He grew up attending international schools in Japan. At UC Santa Barbara, Andy double-majored in business economics and East Asian studies with a focus on Japanese language and culture. His gift to the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies will help current students discover the power of cross-cultural connection.

A successful venture capitalist with a commitment to fostering cross-cultural ties between the U.S. and Japan, Andy envisioned a gift that would amplify his impact. He first supported Technology Management at UC Santa Barbara and served as a judge for the university’s New Venture Competition, where he listened to young entrepreneurs pitch their ideas. As Andy reconnected with UC Santa Barbara, he followed a path back to the department that gave him a new lens on his culture.

The Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies is dedicated to the study of the civilizations of China, Japan and Korea in all their richness and diversity. Study focuses not only on East Asia’s vital role on the world scene, but also on various elements of the region’s long and fascinating history.

Through studies in language, literature, history, performing arts, anthropology, religion, and sociology, the department emphasizes cultural analysis as its signature approach and core identity in support of its intellectual objectives. This framework facilitates creativity and interdisciplinary thinking. Andy remembers one class that illustrated this approach. It was a surprising and challenging class with distinguished Professor John Nathan (now emeritus), who had translated Nobel Laureate Kenzaburō Ōe's 1964 novel “Kojinteki na Taiken.” Nathan compared old spaghetti westerns and Japanese films like “Seven Samurai,” highlighting the interplay between Western and Eastern storytelling. It was an experience that stayed with Andy.

“I want to expose more students to the Japanese language and culture,” he said, and indeed, Andy’s gift will help the department continue its broad offering of classes and experiences.

Department Chair Katherine Saltzman-Li highlighted just how important his gift is to the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies curriculum and mission.

“The department is delighted to be reconnected with one of our own who fully understands the value of studying language in training students for meaningful careers and connections with Japan. Language is essential in learning about culture, and it is essential to many of the professions our students will choose. For those reasons, language study is at the core of our major and minor programs, and Mr. Ogawa’s very generous support will enhance the training we can offer, particularly at the intermediate and advanced levels. We are extremely grateful to Mr. Ogawa for growing the opportunities for our students to excel at UC Santa Barbara and in their future endeavors.”

Second-year graduate student Raymond Chung

Faculty will use funds to enrich teaching materials for Japanese language studies and provide students opportunities to engage with Japanese scholars and professionals in Japanese and in translation work, preparing students for success in a globalized world. With Andy’s support, second-year graduate student Raymond Chung — who specializes in Japanese religions and folklore — interned at The Center of The Tokyo Raids and War Damage in Tokyo for six weeks.

“I was tremendously excited, if nervous, and determined to give it my all, to positively represent my university, and to make the most of my then-unknown benefactor’s kind generosity. Despite my current research being largely unrelated to the museum’s work, revisiting and expanding my knowledge of postwar Japanese history was a wonderful experience. I cannot thank Mr. Ogawa enough for giving me this opportunity. His generosity has made a long-lasting contribution to my personal and professional growth, and I hope to stay in touch with all of the amazing people I met for years to come,” said Raymond.

“As I get older, things take on different importance. I value my family and friends more, and I have gratitude for my experiences,” said Andy, who lives in Honolulu with his wife, Mako, and their daughter. “It’s important to reflect on what impacted your life and how you can give back to show your appreciation. Contribute towards the next generation of leaders, and let them learn from your story.”