Kai Oishi ’24 earns Rotary Foundation Global Grant Fellowship to fund master’s program abroad at Erasmus University Rotterdam

Oishi’s Rotary award will fund a one-year master’s degree in urban management and development at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, where he will specialize in urban housing and land justice.

Erica Helgerud ’20 7 June 2024 Posted In:
Kai Oishi standing outside by a body of water during sunset, with a city skyline in the background.
Kai Oishi ’24Photo:

When Kai Oishi ’24 was considering fellowships that fit his interests in urban planning and sustainability, he got the same answer over and over from professors and colleagues: go to the Netherlands!

Luckily, Director of Student Fellowships Marynel Ryan Van Zee helped him find the Rotary Foundation Global Grant Fellowship, which gives recipients the freedom to choose what and where they want to study, as long as they align with one of the Rotary Foundation’s areas of focus — and Oishi’s goals fell squarely in the area of Community and Economic Development.

Oishi’s Rotary award will fund a one-year master’s degree in urban management and development at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) at Erasmus University Rotterdam, where he will specialize in urban housing and land justice.

“My specialization focuses my studies on creating more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous cities,” Oishi said. “I look forward to learning more about addressing the affordable housing crisis, and I’m incredibly excited and honored to be a Rotary Global Scholar. I am grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!”

The Netherlands is a global leader in urban planning and sustainability, making Erasmus University Rotterdam the ideal place for Oishi, a political science and psychology double major with a public policy minor, to pursue his master’s.

“I look forward to immersing myself in a new culture and context, living in a country I’ve never visited before,” Oishi said. “I’m especially excited about studying in Rotterdam, because it’s known as the ‘city of the future’ and renowned for its modern architecture. Rotterdam’s architecture featured prominently in my Architecture Since 1950 course at Carleton; I can’t wait to see some of my favorite buildings, like Markthal and de Rotterdam, by my favorite architectural firms, MVRDV and OMA. I also hope to use my time abroad as an opportunity to travel around the Netherlands and Europe, allowing me to further explore the everyday impacts of urban policy, planning, and design.”

It’s not just the Architecture Since 1950 course that has prepared Oishi well for this experience; he says his entire time as a student-athlete at Carleton has led him to this moment.

“My fellowship is the culmination of my liberal arts education at Carleton,” Oishi said. “The opportunity to take classes across many disciplines, study abroad, and conduct research while balancing athletics and extracurriculars has allowed me to discover and explore my academic interests. I am especially grateful for my professors and the relationships I’ve developed with them, because my profs have challenged yet supported me throughout my time at Carleton. I also have to thank the incredible alumni network and the Career Center for their guidance; my fantastic internship experiences confirmed my desire to pursue the fellowship and a career in urban planning.”

Oishi has an endless list of thanks to give for the people he’s met through Carleton. Plus, he’s always encouraging other students to fully utilize the same opportunities and guidance he’s received.

“Carleton has all the resources for you to succeed, so take advantage of them!” he said. “Not only have I received so much support, but I’ve also enjoyed the connections I’ve made with my professors, the Writing Center, Career Center, and the fellowships office during my time at Carleton. The fellowships office, especially, made me aware of the best opportunities for my post-Carleton goals and helped me craft my application materials. I was in constant communication with Marynel, sending numerous drafts of my essays to her and Melanie Cashin, director of the Academic Support Center, and receiving invaluable, in-depth feedback every time. Even after I was awarded the fellowship, Marynel has continued to support me with decision-making and figuring out the details of living in Rotterdam!”

The support Oishi talks about is also not limited to campus; Rotary, after all, is one of the largest service organizations in the world. In order to receive the Rotary Foundation Global Grant Fellowship, Oishi was sponsored by the Northfield chapter of the Rotary Club, which is part of a larger district containing chapters throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. Oishi was then selected by that larger district as their candidate to send to the Rotary Foundation, which then chose him for the award. Oishi wants to pay that energy forward and get more involved with the Rotary Club of Rotterdam once he’s overseas.

“An integral part of my fellowship activities is applying my education in urban development to make a positive impact on the local community,” Oishi said. “I am eager to connect with the members of the local Rotary Foundation chapter and volunteer for their community and economic development initiatives! I also hope to volunteer with local organizations such as Pauluskerk Rotterdam and Habitat for Humanity Netherlands to address housing, sustainability, and other local urban development issues.”

For more information and to ask questions about the Rotary Foundation and other fellowships available to Carleton students, contact the Office of Student Fellowships.

Erica Helgerud ’20 is the news and social media manager for Carleton College.