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Keiji Kimura, SDM ’19, is a 2021 recipient of the William L. Stewart Jr. Award. The Stewart Awards recognize outstanding contributions by students or student organizations to extracurricular activities and events during the preceding year. Keiji was honored for his work with the team that organizes Innovation Discovery Japan (IDJ).

IDJ takes place during MIT’s January Independent Activities Period (IAP) and offers students a chance to visit a wide range of companies in several cities across Japan. The students on the trip are able to experience Japanese culture as well as learning about the technologies and advances at Japanese start-ups and companies, often hearing directly from executives and research scientists working on these developments. The entire experience is organized by a team of student volunteers. Keiji has been part of this team in previous years and was the leader of the organizing team in 2021. The team responded to the changes necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic and transformed the in-person trip to a virtual experience in January 2021. Students were able to attend online sessions with representatives from a range of companies in a variety of industries, including the sake brewery Asahi Shuzo, Obayashi construction, and the digital immersive art organization teamLab. More information on the virtual IDJ is available in this recent SDM news article.

Keiji was nominated by Christine Pilcavage, managing director of the MIT Japan program. She noted that the organizers went to great lengths to make sure the experience was as immersive and comprehensive as possible in the virtual format. Participants joined a Slack, attended a virtual orientation and received care packages with IDJ swag and Japanese foods to offer a sense of community. Keiji also recruited instructors from MIT to teach the participants basic Japanese and discuss Japanese culture and technology. Christine noted, “I know Keiji sacrificed much of his time and used his leadership skills to coordinate an incredible virtual trip so that his fellow MIT students could enjoy and learn more about Japanese culture and the innovative technologies coming out of Japan, even during a pandemic.”

Keiji himself added, “As the head organizer of IDJ, I believe this award is the result of the accumulated hard work made by the organizer team and all the previous organizers who have improved many aspects of IDJ. I could not achieve anything without support from them, SDM, and the MIT Japan program, especially in this pandemic situation that prevented us from visiting Japan with the participants. Last but not least, I would like to thank all the Japanese companies sharing their cutting-edge technologies and unique businesses.”

SDM congratulates Keiji for this award, and we look forward to the resumption of the in-person IDJ in the future. For more information on the Stewart Award, visit the MIT Awards website.