By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Ask questions. Gather Resources. Seek Opportunities. Be Persistent.

Those self-imposed guidelines have proven particularly valuable for School of Information Studies student Tsubasa Morioka. The Information Management and Technology major from Kansas City, Missouri, and originally from Yachiyo, Japan, graduates this weekend with a baccalaureate degree, the university’s highest academic honors, and a world of opportunities at her doorstep. 

Tsubasa is one of 12 SU undergraduates receiving the Syracuse University Scholar designation this year. Her four-year record of service to Syracuse’s campus community, her global engagement, and her significant academic achievements earned her that ultimate recognition.

The Syracuse University Scholar designation is “a huge honor, I’m very grateful to be awarded it. I never expected it,” Tsubasa says modestly.  

While such positioning in life is not something Tsubasa may have anticipated when the eight-year-old arrived in California with her mother and sister, it is the kind of path she has determinedly created through years of adaptation and perseverance. From teaching herself English using kindergarten books, to getting out of her comfort zone to create new opportunities, the ability to initiate and persist has been the pattern for Tsubasa’s success.

She was attracted to Syracuse because of the school’s reputation in Information Sciences.  Being “practical-minded,” she said, she chose a dual-school major to start, focusing on information management at the School of Information Studies (iSchool) and Finance at the Whitman School of Management. She wanted a way to combine marketable skills with the chance to explore her interests in the humanities. That stemmed from a desire to “not end up waiting tables or being in my parents’ basement after graduation,” Tsubasa laughed. 

A keen interest in research caused her to refocus on an IM&T major, and curiosity about the world led to a term abroad teaching English to secondary students in Tanzania. During her years at SU, Tsubasa also served as a peer leader in the WellsLink program, an organization for students of color; was a resident advisor during her junior year; and volunteered in the International Young Scholars.  As a member of the SU Honors program, she also completed a thesis examining several American movements.

The breadth of student programs at SU and the range of humanitarian service opportunities led Tsubasa to “re-examine my identity, values and beliefs, and learn to take charge. I’ve changed a lot here for good, and would not recognize the shy and confused woman that I was four years ago,” she reflected. 

Those experiences also cemented her perspective about the need for global citizenry. “As an Asian-American you learn about institutional injustice, and you start to place yourself in a globalized setting or state; you’re not in your personal bubble anymore. I think once you gain a kind of knowledge, if you have the privilege of doing that, rather than just working at a regular job, I think you want to place yourself in the position of helping others,” she explained.

Her experiences also have led to the recognition that she desires “a lifestyle fueled by growth.” “The people, organizations and classwork at SU have empowered me to lead a path grounded in doing service for members of my community. Because of my experience at SU, I will always be on the lookout as an explorer of the world, and will continue to purposefully get out of my comfort zone. That’s when things that make my time worthwhile and interesting happen.”

Tsubasa now has a wide range of options. Starting in June, she plans to spend a year on a Boren fellowship in Tanzania, teaching English and helping improve the health care of residents though information technology. She’ll work using clinical algorithms via mobile phone training tools to improve the quality of healthcare among the world’s poor.

She also qualified as an alternate for a Fullbright scholarship, which could take her to South Korea for a service project. Additionally, Tsubasa  is reviewing her options for her next academic foray. That may entail pursuing a law degree, with a focus on information policy law; or perhaps entering the Ph.D. program at the iSchool. She is planning to teach at the university level someday, but characteristically is permitting herself the time to develop a well-rounded perspective about her next steps.

“I think I learned that the harder I work, the luckier I get,” Tsubasa says of a popular saying she says  describes her outlook. “ I always tell myself that I have to initiate whatever it is that I want to accomplish. Don’t wait for an opportunity to come by, but seek it out and always be persistent.”