A Conversation with Minerva Graduate Student Shinji

May 25, 2022

This is part of a series of profiles introducing Minerva’s Master in Decision Analysis (MDA) students from the Class of 2023. If you would like to learn more about the MDA program, please visit minerva.edu/graduate-programs.



“One of my passions is trying out something new. Minerva University sounded unique and exciting, and I thought — why not?”

Shinji is currently employed at an IT startup of a San-Francisco-based company in their Tokyo, Japan office. He works as a technical account manager to support clients after a deal is closed. Shinji chose to pursue a Master’s degree to gain interdisciplinary knowledge and practical skills to solve issues. He received a traditional liberal arts education at Dokkyo University in Tokyo. Shinji felt his undergraduate program was a passive learning experience and sought an international graduate program that would be more engaging. He found Minerva University and its Master of Science in Decision Analysis (MDA) through research online and by reading a book about Minerva by Hideki Yamamoto, based on Building the Intentional University: Minerva and the Future of Higher Education.

“After getting multiple offers from the graduate schools, I ended up picking the MDA for several reasons,” shared Shinji. He wanted a graduate program that focused on problem-solving and design-thinking skills, which is exactly what the MDA offers. Shinji explained that Japanese universities teach problem-solving skills in a narrow way, whereas Minerva trains students to consider issues holistically. While the topics of the “Big Questions” students tackle in classes are broad, students are taught how to decompose problems into trackable components. “Getting familiar with the decomposition frameworks contributed to my problem-solving skills. The tools and skills gained in the MDA program make it truly invaluable,” shares Shinji.

Reflecting on how the MDA has impacted his life, Shinji shared that he now addresses problems differently. In the past, he used to rush to find solutions whenever there was a problem. The approach has changed after taking Minerva classes, where students were taught to approach the problem from a different angle — first define the right problem, analyze what gaps separate the current state from a goal state, analyze current solutions, and specify what solutions will help achieve the desired state. “Such a framework teaches you to focus on the right problem, which is a critical element of solving an issue,” reflects Shinji. In addition, he appreciated that faculty utilized current global issues such as climate change to illustrate frameworks that not only ground learning in real-life application but also deepen understanding of critical issues.

Shinji remarked that the active learning approach had changed his behavior at work. “As I gained confidence in sharing ideas in class discussions, I noticed I was more comfortable speaking up in meetings at work. Minerva teaches you to express your opinion and actively contribute to the discussion, which I definitely found useful for my professional development,” concludes Shinji. Furthermore, Shinji reflected that the diverse backgrounds of his fellow students, both country of origin and industries, helped him expand his perspective and the ways he implemented his work.

While Shinji has not yet decided which topic to pursue his thesis, he does see multiple applications of the skills gained already in public policy. He is also looking forward to expanding his professional knowledge to apply to his current role.