Marc Hitzig is the Executive Director of the Japan-America Society of Washington DC (JASWDC). He has worked for JASWDC for more than 12 years. He currently sits on the National Cherry Blossom Festival Board of Directors. Prior to working at JASWDC, he spent three years as an Assistant Language Teacher on the Japan Exchange & Teaching (JET) Program in Nagaoka City, Niigata. While on the JET Program, he enjoyed learning Japanese pottery and the culture of Japan. Marc received a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies from the University of Cincinnati.
Risa Okayama Kamio is the Director of Educational Programs. Before JASWDC, she was a Japanese teacher at Glenarden Woods Elementary School in Maryland and an educational coordinator/tour coordinator/interpreter at Japan Travelers Service, Inc. (also known as America Information Service, Inc.). She attended the ladder program of the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo and went on to study American literature at the University of the Sacred Heart.
Melissa Tolentino is the Assistant Director of Educational & Public Outreach. She was born in the United States and spent several years moving back and forth between the U.S. and Japan as a military dependent. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with bachelor’s degrees in Journalism and Japanese, she went to graduate school at Waseda University in Tokyo and received a master’s in International Culture & Communications. Melissa is also a published writer of both fiction and poetry.
Yuko Hishitani Smith is the Membership and Program Coordinator. She was born and raised in Kyoto, Japan and went to Ritsumeikan University where she majored in literature focusing on international cultures. While a student at Ritsumeikan, she joined the Dual Undergraduate Degree Program (DUDP) and studied at American University for 2 years, where she received another degree in international relations. After graduation, she worked at NNR Global Logistics in Japan for 3 years before moving back to the U.S. in 2016.
Marley Taylor is the Japan Bowl assistant. She recently graduated from American University with a major in international relations with a concentration in national security and sustainability. While an undergrad, she studied abroad at Ritsumeikan University. She was previously the president of the AU Japanese Conversation Club and worked in several DC public schools through the DC Reads program. In the fall, Marley will be an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) with the JET program.
Guanrong Li is the Membership and Program Assistant. She was born and raised in Yunnan, China, and went to Beifang Ethnic University where she received a bachelor’s in Japanese Studies. She went on to receive a master’s in International Area Studies at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan. After graduating, she worked for Ryogen Aichi Corp. in Nagoya, which is a Mandarin-language book trading company, for two years before moving to the U.S. in 2016.
Gabrielle Oliver is an intern with the Japan-in-a-Suitcase program. She is a rising 4th year student at Howard University, and is studying English and Linguistics. Gabrielle has also studied abroad for a summer semester at Keiwa College in Niigata, Japan with a focus in Japanese language and culture, in July of 2016. During her time in Niigata, she was also able to work as a teacher’s assistant at both Keiwa Gakuen High School and at their middle school. In the spring of 2018, Gabrielle plans to study abroad at Tokyo International University.
Minae Sakata is the Sakura Matsuri Program Analyst intern. She was born in Aichi Prefecture in Japan and graduated from Aichi Shukutoku University with a bachelor’s degree in linguistic communication studies. Previously she worked for the Toyota Motor Corporation as a pricing assistant and at Lexus brand marketing. Minae volunteers at public high schools as a Japanese class assistant and enjoys traveling around the country.
Tamami Yoshida is the Japan Bowl Coordinator intern. She is a rising senior at the George Washington University, and is majoring in International Affairs with a concentration in Asian Studies. She was born in Yokohama, Japan and attended the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo. She has worked as an English-Japanese translator and enjoys traveling the world to eat local specialties.
Shannon Kearney is an intern with the Japan-in-a-Suitcase program. She is a rising senior at Wellesley College, studying International Relations and Political Science. Shannon was born in the U.S. and raised in England, Germany, Japan and Ghana. She has experience interning at KURABO Industries in Osaka, Japan. Shannon has also worked as an assistant teacher at the Akwaaba Japanese Saturday School in Accra, Ghana from 2013 to 2014, and served on the Executive Board of the Wellesley Japan Club in 2015. After graduating in the spring of 2018, Shannon hopes to continue studying East Asian languages and cultures.