International student follows her passion



Risa Fukaya ’22 follows her passion at Bluffton University

International student follows her passion at Bluffton University

Risa Fukaya ’22, an international student from Zushi, Japan, graduated from Hesston College with an associate degree, took a gap year with Mennonite Mission Network and found her passion on her way to completing her bachelor’s degree at Bluffton University. She is now finishing her final year as an undergraduate as a social work major.

Fukaya began her studies as a communication major at Hesston College, a two-year Mennonite school in Hesston, Kan. After graduation, Fukaya, who was then considering a career in speech-language pathology and audiology, signed up for a 10-month volunteer program. She was placed in Jackson, Miss., and served at a homeless shelter and a daycare.

“It led me to majoring in social work,” said Fukaya. “There was a lot of community building. It was all just connecting the dots.”

Once arriving at Bluffton, Fukaya pursued her new interest and is now completing her social work practicum experience at the Hancock County non-profit Children’s Mentoring Connection.

Monday through Thursday, Fukaya and other mentors hold sessions for students in Findlay-area schools. The goal is to hold a space for the kids to be with adults and cultivate relationships.

“I learned I really do enjoy more one-on-one interactions,” said Fukaya. “When I get to be the mentor for the day, I really love it a lot.”

One class Fukaya took that has really helped her with her social work skills was interviewing skills with Heidi Mercer, assistant professor of social work. The class taught her how to sort through interviews with clients.

“It is a very basic skill, but it has taught me how to listen well, start a session and guide a client through an interview,” said Fukaya. “The skills are also applicable to your daily life because you talk to people every day, so they are practical skills to have.”

Fukaya appreciates the mentorship Mercer has provided as she moves forward in the field of social work.

“She always brings up specific examples to the questions we have,” said Fukaya. “I think it’s so much better to have a professor who has a lot of experience in a field.”

On campus, Fukaya is a resident assistant in Ropp Hall and works in the tech center. She is also involved on campus committees including Spiritual Life Week; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and cross-cultural.