Business major Mina Lam welcomes a dozen fellow Japanese Student Association members to a meeting at University Crossing, where every other week they share their mutual interests in everything from Japanese language and music to anime and cuisine.

“I’m really passionate about learning about Japanese culture,” says Lam, who is from Medford, Massachusetts. Her family is Vietnamese, but she has Japanese relatives and “always wanted to learn more about my family tree and get connected.”

When she realized there wasn’t a student organization dedicated to exploring Japanese culture at UML, she decided to start one during spring semester of her sophomore year. The first meeting, held virtually because of the pandemic, drew a surprising 30 students.

“Everyone is welcome; you don’t have to be Japanese to join,” says Lam, whose club is part of the New England-Japanese Intercollegiate Network. In fall 2021, the club competed against other member schools in an undoukai, or sports festival, at Boston University.

Getting a new student organization off the ground isn’t easy, especially for someone as busy as Lam, an Honors College student with concentrations in finance and marketing and a minor in economics.

Her extracurricular activities are almost too numerous to list: Student Government Association senator; Career Peer with the Career & Co-op Center, ambassador with the Pair-Up Program; resident advisor at University Suites; Student Donor Engagement Officer with the Advancement Office; and Student Alumni Ambassador.

“I wanted to be a campus tour guide, but it wouldn’t fit into my schedule,” says Lam, whose Honors project is on how being involved on campus relates to entrepreneurship.

Looking ahead, Lam plans to work as a co-op with the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute while continuing to grow the Japanese Student Association. One idea she has is to create a mentorship program with students in Japan who are pursuing an online MBA from the Manning School through its partnership with Abitus, an executive education firm based in Tokyo.

“I knew the education was really valuable at UMass Lowell, but I never imagined I’d be able to take on these roles and meet so many people. It’s really helped me develop my time-management and leadership skills,” says Lam, who became the first Manning School student to earn an Ethical Leadership Certification from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy Center for the Public Trust — an online program that was sponsored by the Donahue Center.

Based on all that she’s experienced at UMass Lowell, Lam can see herself working in higher education someday. 

“Once I got here for Accepted Students Day, I remember walking across the bridge to North Campus and thinking, ‘Oh, wow. This is it,’” she says. “It just felt like home immediately.”