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Four LUJ Alums Make History at Virginia Wesleyan University

Four LUJ Alums Make History at Virginia Wesleyan University


Four LUJ Alums Make History at Virginia Wesleyan University

The LUJ community congratulates Momo Higuchi, Reo Nagayama, Moeno Sawai and Risa Yanagita. On May 13, 2023, these four LUJ A.A. alums earned their Bachelor’s degree in Business at Virginia Wesleyan University (VWU). The foursome’s accomplishment is historic because they are the first four LUJ students to graduate from VWU under the sister-school partner agreement completed by former Lakeland University president David Black and VWU president Scott D. Miller.

LUJ’s partnership with VWU, announced in July 2020, gives LUJ students the opportunity to complete their 4-year degree at VWU’s Virginia Beach campus.

Although they accomplished this feat together, each student started out individually demonstrating their skills in LUJ classrooms.

For Momo Higuchi (bottom left), her journey started in LUJ’s EAP program. She demonstrated an interest in a wide variety of topics, such as the civil rights movement. “I knew very quickly that Momo was determined to reach for bigger goals,” says Patrick Parr, one of Momo’s LUJ professors. “In college as well as life, curiosity is vital to success, and Momo has it in spades.”

Moeno Sawai (middle) showed her passion for the business world early on in LUJ’s Public Speaking class. Her final presentation, “The Influence of Unique Advertising,” showcased her fast-growing interest in the marketing field. Moeno is currently a marketing intern with Sodexo, a sustainable food company.

Many at LUJ still remember Risa Yanagita’s (bottom right) successful term as LUJ’s president of the Student Government Association (SGA). Risa developed her leadership skills while a student at LUJ, and she has continued to show initiative by giving back to LUJ via information sessions and helping to answer any questions LUJ students might have about life at VWU. Recalling Risa as a student, LUJ professor Roger Grabowski says that her speeches in Public Speaking were well-crafted, and “I still show new students [one of Risa’s speeches] today as an example.”

Technically, Reo Nagayama (top left) earns bragging rights for being the first of the four to earn his A.A. degree and choosing to study at VWU. Starting in LUJ’s EAP in 2018, Reo went on to excel in his undergraduate classes. Currently planning to stay in the U.S. after graduation, Reo advises that students who “want to experience true American university life,” should “come to VWU!”

To read an interview with the four students, check out the write-up on VWU’s website.