Where Are They Now?
Soka University of America alumni profiles.
Anna Taeko Casals Fernandez • CLASS: 2018
Hometown: Barcelona, Spain
Current Location: Washington, D.C.
Occupation: Climate Migration Specialist
At SUA, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in migration to contribute to creating a more humanistic approach toward supporting migrants. I work in an international organization helping countries in Africa respond to internal displacement due to climate change. SUA taught me to see things, issues and my environment holistically. I learned that the problems we face today are interrelated, and only by looking at their interconnectedness will we find real solutions. Being an SUA alumnus means being the one to initiate dialogue. It means creating value and building bridges of friendship and compassion wherever you are.
Lenny Bogdonoff • CLASS: 2011
Hometown: San Francisco
Current Location: New York
Occupation: Chief Technology Officer
One of Soka’s core principles is to strive to create value in the world. This can take many forms, and I decided to go the route of business and technology, where it’s so important to consider the humanity of the people we’re impacting.
Due to personal challenges, I left SUA my freshman year, but because of the support from countless students, alumni and faculty, I saw the importance of being a Soka student when I returned. We’re all founders who are creating the school together. This spirit to establish something of value is what helped me start a company. Last July, I co-founded a startup that creates media content for companies in an innovative way.
Soka represents doing good in the world. To be part of this movement toward the future gives me great pride, and I want to help future students feel that too.
Jacqueline Mills • CLASS: 2008
Hometown: Belleville, Ill.
Current Location: Boston
After SUA, I went to graduate school, specializing in public policy, and worked in India and Tanzania. Based on those experiences, I was inspired to become a doctor and develop the skills to work in global health policy and clinical medicine. This was difficult, since I had to start from basic premedical courses, but because of SUA and Ikeda Sensei’s encouragement, I determined to succeed. Since graduating medical school, I have taken care of hundreds of individuals through their pregnancies and deliveries, became a skilled surgeon and have learned to care for diverse people on the front lines of healthcare. I will soon change career course again, combining my knowledge of clinical medicine with global policy as a consultant. I am so thankful to SUA for giving me the courage to believe in myself and those around me. No other education system that I have encountered has provided me that. Being an SUA graduate means being a courageous pioneer, being bold and unwavering in pursuing your dreams and contributing to the world.
Michael Sasaki • CLASS: 2005
Hometown: Torrance, Calif.
Current Location: Los Angeles
Occupation: Actor and Filmmaker
Going into Soka, I didn’t have confidence in myself, which reflected in my grades. But SUA fosters the student-teacher relationship, and in my case, I had a professor who really believed in my potential. She sat me down in her office and said, “What do we need to do to get your grades up?” This teacher helped me set up a plan, and I did it. This was a very powerful experience for me at SUA. It wasn’t about being perfect but, rather, taking one step forward.
Being with Soka students from all different cultures, I learned to embrace everybody. This is the message of my new short film, Masaru, which is inspired by my life growing up as a Japanese American queer male. Masaru is about breaking free from the shackles of our own inner prison by owning our lives and loving ourselves just as we are.
Indigo Ross • CLASS: 2015
Hometown: Chandler, Ariz.
Current Location: Chandler, Ariz.
Occupation: Comedian and Voice-Over Actor
SUA taught me the importance of empathy. As a voiceover actor, the characters I portray have real, complex emotions and stories. When I read a script, I empathize with their situation and pull from my own experience to bring the characters to life with just my voice.
At Soka, the student body was small enough that each person had a presence. I got to know so many people intimately and learned that everyone has something to offer. I developed appreciation, patience and compassion for people from all walks of life.
Now, I seek that out after Soka. Even in the pandemic, I’m making new friends in the voice-over community and doing Zoom sketch comedy shows with them. These communities remind me to have appreciation and empathy for others. As an alumnus, I strive to be a light of hope wherever I am.
Jaemin Park • CLASS: 2016
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea
Current Location: Seoul, South Korea
Occupation: Commercial Assistant, Embassy of Sri Lanka
Just before my freshman year, I met with an SUA alumnus from my home country of South Korea. He told me that many of the donors who funded scholarships like mine were ordinary people who believed in the school’s mission and that I was going in their stead.
SUA taught me that to create great value in the world, I had to have an indomitable spirit. That outlook is important in the work that I do at the Sri Lankan embassy in Seoul, South Korea, supporting economic exchange between the two countries.
As an alumnus, I am connected with people around the world who share the same vow. As alumni, we keep challenging ourselves and urging one another on. That’s why I am proud to be an SUA graduate.
Nathan Flores • CLASS: 2009
Hometown: Albuquerque, N.M.
Current Location: Albuquerque, N.M.
Occupation: Physical Therapist
A few months after I graduated from SUA, my father passed away. He had significant health issues but always maintained a truly positive spirit and encouraged people to win. I used the compassion he imparted to go into physical therapy. I received my doctorate in May 2020 and just completed my eighth month as a physical therapist.
Every day, I go to work as a global citizen determined to live a contributive life and put my energy toward 1) creating value, 2) creating joy and 3) growing continuously.
SUA gave me a well-rounded education and exposed me to different cultures, which helps me communicate with patients from different backgrounds. Toward the future, I’m determined to open my own clinic based on the values I gained at SUA and create tremendous value with every interaction.