‘I like working with people, not paper.’ Japanese resident wins NYU scholarship

When Yuka Matsudaira was 20 years old, she left her native Japan to come to the United States in order to get an education, attending Penn State University. She continued her education by pursing a Master’s degree in human resources management at New York University.

“I came here to study English and get my education,” said Matsudaira, who has been a resident of North Bergen for the last six years. “I used to work in human resources in Japan, but I wanted to come to the United States to learn. At one point, I was so excited to come to the United States and see what it was all about.”

When Matsudaira arrived in North Bergen, she was fortunate enough to get a job right away, working for the United Nations in logistics, working on peace-keeping missions.

However, since Japan is not a member of the United Nations, Matsudaira could never get a job as a translator. “That would have been nice,” Matsudaira said. “I like working with people, not paper.”

Career change

When Matsudaira decided to head to graduate school to pursue a Master’s in human resources, that was the plan – to get away from dealing with office clutter and paperwork and work on a one-to-one basis with people all day instead.

“I had to make a career change,” Matsudaira said. “I really missed the human side.”

So Matsudaira began to take classes in the NYU grad program for human resources management.

About five months ago, she worked on a collaborative project with fellow NYU students Hason Raza and Carolina Toro, who has become one of Matsudaira’s best friends.

“It was basically a website-based tool kit,” Matsudaira said, describing her project. “The kit assesses whether a company has the environment to be innovative in the world of human resources and see what the company may be lacking. It was quite a bit of work, but we worked very hard in finding out all the information.”

Matsudaira’s teacher, Dennis Garritan, who is the director of graduate programs in human resources at NYU, liked the project that the three students did so much that he entered it into a scholarship contest organized by a New York-based employment agency called The Employment Line, which presents $10,000 in scholarships to the best NYU students that advocate human resources management and development.

“We decided that we were going to find a program for the NYU students to help with the development of human resources programs,” said Anne Accini, one of the three owners of The Employment Line. “We wanted to reward the best research program with innovations in human resources.

Added Accini, “Human resource managers all over are looking at innovative ways to develop human resources.

It’s not just staffing agencies and recruitment areas. It’s companies themselves, realizing that strong human resource programs are vital to drive the success of U.S. organizations. We really feel that human resources has been the ‘Cinderella’ department of all major organizations, but it should be vitally important and bring more income.”

Growing field

Accini said that the three students from NYU, including Matsudaira, were selected after going through their research and interviewing them.

“I’m certain that other clients and candidates can learn from their presentation,” Accini said.

Needless to say, Matsudaira was shocked when she was told she was receiving the scholarship, which she was presented with at a ceremony at NYU Tuesday night.

“When my professor [Garritan] told me that we were getting the scholarship, I couldn’t believe it,” Matsudaira said. “He told me that he had e-mailed me a few days earlier, but I didn’t go online to access the Internet for a few days, so I didn’t know. When I read the e-mail [saying that she received the scholarship], I had to read it a few times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.”

Accini said that the program will eventually turn out as money well spent. It’s the third year that The Employment Line has offered the scholarship program. Already, former students are putting the knowledge they gained at NYU to the test.

“If we can highlight to companies the ways that human resources could have more of an emphasis on their company, then they listen,” Accini said. “Companies are not one big happy family, offering what they do next. We just hope we were able to make a difference.”

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or jhague@hudsonreporter.com