By Anelle Mensah
Akane Fukuda is a recent Darden graduate (as of this last weekend!) from Tokyo, Japan. She attended Baruch College, and earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 2012. Prior to enrolling at Darden, she worked at Krusen Capital Management as a Business Development Associate.
As a Darden student, Akane actively participated in a number of the global academic programs offered through the school, gaining insight into the global business practices and perspectives of various countries. During her first year she traveled to Brazil on a Darden Worldwide Course (DWC), and in her second year she participated in the India DWC in January. This past fall, she worked with Mbarara University in Uganda on a Global Consulting Project (GCP). Furthermore, in her role as an Ambassador for the Darden Center for Global Initiatives (CGI), she assisted in developing one of the newest global immersion courses to Japan.
Akane already had strong ties to Darden, several alumni served as sources of inspiration for her as she pursued business school options. As she sought out schools that had a close-knit community where she could get to know her peers as well as an educational experience with top faculty and programs, it became evident that Darden would be perfect for her.
During her time at Darden, Akane has been involved in many student organizations and initiatives including the Retail & Luxury Goods Club, where she served as the Vice-President for Conference and Alumni relations, and Net Impact as the Vice-President for Community Impact and Education. Furthermore, she worked with the Career Development Center (CDC), second year students, and alumni to design the marketing job trek to New York. Akane also served as a CGI Ambassador during her second year and recently worked with Professor Yael Grushka-Cockayne and the CGI team to develop the Japan DWC, one of the newest DWC offerings.
In her role as CGI Ambassador, Akane advertised many of these programs during First Coffee, as well as information sessions and events like Darden’s International Food Festival. “I started as an Ambassador at the end of my first year. I’m originally from Japan and I wanted to help create more opportunities for students to be exposed to international culture. The fact that I went to Brazil in my first year at Darden and was able to have that experience and simultaneously share it with my classmates was amazing. I really wanted to bring that excitement to students who have yet to explore different cultures,” she said.
Through being a CGI Ambassador, Akane further connected with her peers and built relationships with various members of the Darden community. “People would personally reach out to me and ask questions. Getting to know the school’s perspectives and the CGI team — it’s an aspect that students don’t always get to see. Darden students see the finished product but it was important for me to see the effort and work that happens behind the scenes,” she shared.
Her participation in the Brazil and India DWCs stemmed from a desire to learn more about those countries, engage in those cultures, and continue developing bonds with her classmates. “I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go by myself and experience these countries. Darden would offer me without the whole package. I have always been curious about developing countries and I wanted to be able to see the different energies that exist there. In Brazil, I formed meaningful friendships and had a learning experience that was really hands-on. In India, I saw how Indian companies function in comparison to U.S. companies and within a completely different cultural context than the U.S.,” she reflected.
In addition to Brazil and India, Akane participated in a global consulting project in Uganda working with Mbarara University Science and Technology (MUST). Her past global experiences at Darden influenced her decision to pursue this GCP, during which she learned important aspects of Ugandan culture and business. “Global consulting projects are more hands-on with a select group of people. It really seemed like something that was a one-of-a-kind experience. In Uganda, the people are entrepreneurial, open-minded, and curious. When you’re in a team that has completely different strengths and weaknesses, you can make a great final product. You develop a strong bond after working through these differences and you come out strong. This trip also made me appreciate the simple things a lot more,” she stated.
Akane credits Darden’s global offerings as key to helping her learn and understand different perspectives and viewpoints. “It gives you a broader perspective. People should take advantage of what Darden is offering and a big part of these programs is visiting the companies — you wouldn’t have those kinds of opportunities outside of the program.” she said.
Akane looks forward to learning more about her strengths, seeing the Japan course come together, and graduation. “My plan is to look more at what I want to do in the future and focus on the industries that I’m interested in—technology and marketing. I want to work on products that are meaningful. I enjoyed going back to Japan to see the DWC before graduating — a lot of the companies involved are those that I wanted to personally see — and I couldn’t wait to see my family,” she said.