Lisa Orii ’21, 2022 inaugural Quad Fellowship recipient

Lisa Orii

Tell us a little bit about the Quad Fellowship, and the impact (either current or anticipated!) of receiving this award.

The Quad Fellowship supports students from the Quad Countries — U.S.A., Japan, India, Australia — in channeling their skills and knowledge in STEM to advance social good. This fellowship will play a key role in driving forward both my research and my mission to empower vulnerable populations and promote health equity. My research focuses on designing technologies that support communities that are experiencing stigmatized health in low-income and low-resource settings. With the fellowship’s financial support, I can actively visit and collaborate with communities on a global scale, which is critical for making incremental progress towards my goal of providing more individuals with the resources to live healthy lives.


What (or who) are the major influences in your life that have inspired you to pursue this award, and your path in STEM more generally? How did your time at Wellesley shape your interests, or encourage you along this path? Your professors? Career Education?

I was inspired to pursue the Quad Fellowship because of its focus on supporting STEM students in making social impact. 

 My initial interest in prosocial causes sparked in high school, when I became involved with a Japanese NPO, Parasaiyo, which supports foster children in the Philippines in pursuing higher education. I began making annual visits to the foster home where I reconnected with the foster home’s staff and children and also helped with organizing events in Japan to gather donation funds. 

When I began my undergraduate at Wellesley College, I began to think about how I could connect my passion for building strong relationships that fueled meaningful social impact - as I was doing with Parasaiyo and the foster home - to my academics. As a computer science and philosophy double major at Wellesley, I grew interested in work that valued thinking about the human-aspect of technology. Through Wellesley’s computer science department, I realized that research in human-focused technologies was not only a possibility but also extremely valuable. I began to think about how I could apply the thinking and methods of this field (human-computer interaction) to supporting vulnerable populations. I was extremely excited to join the University of Washington’s ICTD Lab, where I am a Ph.D. student now, and connect with great researchers who have visions similar to mine. 

The faculty at Wellesley had a tremendous impact on my decision to pursue computer science. Although Wellesley was my first introduction to computer science, through courses and research, I found myself being fascinated by the power of technology and the socially impactful contributions that computer scientists could make. I am very grateful for the Wellesley faculty who have supported me in pursuing my interests.


What did you learn or gain from going through the application process?

The application process was a reflective experience. Most of the time that I spent preparing my application was on connecting the dots between my past experiences, current pursuits, and future vision. In writing about my aspirations and interests in the application, I became more confident in the importance of my field - research on technologies that support communities in low-income and low-resource settings - and became more excited to continue pursuing challenging yet worthwhile topics.


What inspired you to take the leap and apply? Or, what would you say to encourage your peers to apply?

I highly encourage anyone who is passionate about pursuing STEM for social impact to apply to the Quad Fellowship. You could become part of an incredible international community of scholars who are committed to their work and to promoting social good! 


What most excites you about this opportunity?

I am very thankful and honored to have been selected into the inaugural cohort of the Quad Fellowship. I am excited to join a community of scholars who are committed to advancing social good through STEM. Through the connections I make with other Quad Fellows, I hope to engage in collaborative projects across the Quad Countries that embrace the application of STEM for social impact.