5 questions with…global activist Mai Segawa

Mai Segawa (right) with females she met at the refugee camp in Zambia.

Throughout senior Mai Segawa’s time at Case Western Reserve University, she has been involved in a number of outreach and aid activities. Her sophomore year, she coordinated a jewelry sale and a benefit dinner on campus to aid victims of the tsunami in Japan. As a rising junior, she created the Adoption Network Cleveland Scholars Program, a certificate program in which interested college students can learn about various cross-cultural adoption issues. Over the years, she’s also been actively involved in the Global Ethical Leadership Society, the Human Rights Committee of the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities and Center for Civic Engagement and Learning.

Now, she hopes to take her goodwill efforts to Africa, having entered a competition to build a study center for female refugees there.

A psychology and medical anthropology major, Segawa was selected for an internship last summer with Harvard Business School and Innovations for Poverty Action–Zambia.

While in Zambia, she became a special student visitor at the UN Refugee Agency’s Meheba Refugee Camp, where she got a first-hand look at the safety and inequality issues keeping Zambian girls from receiving their education. “I saw with my own eyes what types of things were happening and what could be done to support more girls to continue their education and to increase their eligibility for the limited number college scholarships,” Segawa said.

It was then Segawa realized she potentially could help these young women. So this week, she entered Dell’s Social Innovation Challenge to build a girls’ study center for refugees in Zambia. With a support network in the country, Segawa has the approval she needs but lacks the funding. The Dell challenge will award students a total of $350,000 in prizes and awards—ranging from three hours with a certified mentor to $5,000 for an Outstanding Innovation Award to $60,000 for first place overall.

For now, Segawa hopes to make an impact by earning votes for the $2,500 People’s Choice Award or the mentoring hours. Members of the campus community can vote by visiting dellchallenge.org/projects/refugee-girls-study-center and registering with a non-CWRU email address. Voting closes Feb. 18.

“The study center is vitally important for the girls,” she said, “because it will act as a safe haven where the girls can have a focused space to learn English, math, science and computer skills with extra support and a library of resources.”

To learn more about Segawa, read this week’s five questions.

1. What was the first album you ever purchased, and what was the medium (record, cassette, CD, etc.)?
Josh Groban’s first album in 2001, as a CD. “You’re Still You” is one of my favorite songs.

2. What do you think deserves to win “Best Picture” at the Oscars—whether or not it was nominated?
The Odd Life of Timothy Greene
had a beautiful storyline complemented by the breathtaking scenery of trees and nature. I recommend seeing this movie to everyone if you’re looking for a heartwarming movie to see with your family.

3. What moment at Case Western Reserve stands out as most memorable (so far)?
After receiving funding through Case Western Reserve’s Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence for my roundtrip ticket to Zambia, I was able to meet and thank Dr. Kazuo Inamori in person at a private reception in Severance Hall. There, I gave him a thank you letter, and in a letter that Dr. Inamori wrote back to me, he said: “Your intention to do something good in the world is very precious and wonderful. I made a contribution to establish the Inamori Center to promote such ideas and activities. I wish you continued success and happiness in the future.” Getting such a letter back from him made my year that much more special.

4. What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
I am fascinated by strong female entrepreneurs who take significant risks in order to carry out their vision to become the first to build, create or organize for causes they truly believe in. I highly admire creative and determined individuals who have an excellent dream and then start building their idea until it comes into shape exactly the way they envisioned it.

5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
Case Western Reserve has given me the strength and confidence to bring it upon myself to take action for issues that are of importance to me. Receiving an education at Case Western Reserve has transformed me into a global activist and an independent woman.