Returning to the Forbes stage, ASU alumna speaks to the power of DACA youth leadership

November 8, 2019

Just over 10 million people were living in the U.S. without legal immigration status in 2017. Tens of thousands are young people who received temporary protection through the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) after being brought to the country as minors. 

And as the fate of that program remains uncertain, the issues being analyzed at a policy level are the same ones impacting lives around the country in real time. At Forbes' 30 Under 30 Summit in Detroit last month, Arizona State University alumna and DACA recipient Reyna Montoya asked the audience to consider a basic commonality we all share. ASU alumna Reyna Montoya will be honored for her growing legacy of community activism empowering Arizona families touched by immigration issues during The College Leaders event in November.  ASU alumna Reyna Montoya will be honored for her continued legacy of community activism empowering Arizona families touched by immigration issues during The College Leaders event in November. Photo by Diego Lozano, Creative + Digital Director of Aliento Download Full Image

“There are thousands and thousands of children who are looking for our leadership today, and you have a choice within you to remember that they are human beings too, people like you, who breathe the same fresh air,” Montoya said. “I want to challenge you to take a moment to slow down, and breathe with me.” 

Montoya was one of more than 200 keynote speakers at the October summit, the latest in a list of recognitions for her activism and humanitarian work over the years. This fall, her growing legacy will also be honored with an induction to The College Leaders. And she’s intimately familiar with immigration issues that she’s addressing as a community organizer today.

She was 13 when her family fled violence in Tijuana, Mexico, for Mesa, Arizona. Growing up undocumented, she remembers facing challenges in everything from enrolling in school to finding a job. 

Despite the hurdles, she graduated with dual degrees in political science and transborder studies from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a minor in dance in 2012. 

DACA was enacted that same year, carving out new education pathways for Montoya and other recipients. She now holds a master’s degree in secondary education from Grand Canyon University and recently completed an executive education program through the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

But DACA did not quell the fear and uncertainty that families of mixed immigration status still faced. Montoya’s drive to help fill that gap led her to found Aliento in 2016, a nonprofit providing art and healing workshops, educational outreach and leadership training to students and families touched by immigration issues in Arizona. 

The work earned her recognition on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for social entrepreneurship and a Muhammad Ali Spirituality Award in 2018. Most recently, she was chosen as a finalist for the Greater Phoenix Chambers' ATHENA Awards for outstanding Valley businesswomen. And on the ground, Aliento The Spanish word "aliento" translates as both "breath" and "encouragement."has continued to grow.

Today, the organization hosts community building and resilience initiatives including a youth fellowship program, outreach to local middle and high schools and the creation of Aliento at ASU, a student-run club on the Tempe campus.

Driving change through youth leadership

Montoya said returning to Forbes as a speaker felt like a chance to talk not just about Aliento’s growth, but about the DACA program and its recipients at large.

Reyna Montoya speaks at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit.

Reyna Montoya speaks at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit. Photo by Diego Lozano/Aliento

“It was very humbling to be asked to go back and speak, and it's validating to see that the contributions of DACA recipients are being recognized by a place like Forbes,” Montoya said. “The Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments around DACA in November, days after the summit, so I wanted to educate people about what Dreamers go through and invite them to invest in youth leadership by supporting organizations like Aliento.”

Since its founding, Aliento has helped DACA and undocumented students as young as 14 advocate for themselves to representatives at the Arizona State Capitol, and hosted seminars where families can learn more about immigration policy. To Montoya, those initiatives speak to the empowerment platform her organization is based upon. 

“I think often we hear that millenials are the do-nothing generation, but I have witnessed the opposite,” she said. “I have seen young people of all ages getting involved in leadership and investing in not just their growth as individuals, but also that of the community.”

Aliento is also involved in impacting immigration policy in other ways. Earlier in October, the group appeared on an amicus brief alongside 165 universities, including ASU, urging the Supreme Court to uphold DACA.

“At the end of the day, higher education should be available to everyone, regardless of their background,” she said. “That’s why it filled me with so much pride to see my alma mater being willing to support DACA students in that way.”

Montoya originally created Aliento to give mixed-immigration-status families, students and young people the tools to navigate many of the higher education and immigration challenges she faced alone. 

“I’m a firm believer that once you’re educated, no one can take away those skills and that knowledge from you,” she said. “Going to ASU, I was able to build relationships and challenge my own thinking. All of that helped me understand who I am and what I am worth — that's something I’d encourage anyone to fight for.”

As the organization continues to grow, she said some of the best reminders of its impact come from some of the youngest people it serves.

“The other day, we were at a local elementary school supporting fifth- and sixth-grade students, and one of them told me after that our workshop on identity made her feel proud to be Mexican,” Montoya said. “It gives me a lot of hope for the future hearing that we’re helping young students in that way — I didn't always have that growing up, so creating a place where they feel their voice matters is to me the best impact we can make at Aliento.”

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Rethinking corporate value: A conversation with Yoshimitsu Kobayashi

November 8, 2019

Kaiteki “the sustainable well-being of people, society and planet Earth,” is fundamental to the identity of the Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corporation and the KAITEKI Institute, MCHC’s think tank and research institute. The concept aligns seamlessly with the goals of Arizona State University’s Global Futures Laboratory, which seeks to shape a future in which Earth and all its inhabitants can thrive. ASU and MCHC have partnered to support research aimed at realizing the concept of kaiteki through the Global KAITEKI Center.

MCHC Chairman Yoshimitsu Kobayashi visited ASU on Oct. 24 to kick off the center’s activities. At the event, Kobayashi and ASU President Michael Crow shared their visions for a sustainable future, and the two organizations pledged to work together to advance these goals. Kobayashi speaks at ASU event Download Full Image

Here, Kobayashi explains kaiteki management, how it can be applied, and why partnerships between industry and academia are essential to achieving this ambitious vision.

Question: How do you explain kaiteki to others?

Answer: The Japanese word kaiteki means “comfort” or “well-being,” and I firmly believe that it’s the most appropriate name for the type of value sought by a company with Japanese origins. The forms of value provided by Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings are separated onto three axes: the economics axis, which indicates profits and efficiency; the technology axis, which indicates innovation and new frontiers; and the sustainability axis, which indicates contributions to public interest and the environment. We quantitatively measure and assess the values along each axis, increasing all three in a balanced way. We call this kaiteki value.

Q: How did kaiteki become a driving principle for MCHC?

A: When I became CEO in 2007, I felt strongly that the company’s almost total lack of an established corporate identity was very risky. Unlike beer or car manufacturers, we’re engaged in a diverse range of businesses — spanning everything from pharmaceuticals by the milligram to petrochemicals by the ton — and it’s difficult to explain what kind of company we are in simple terms.

So, in 2007 I made sustainability, health and comfort our decision criteria, as well as our slogan, and I established as company policy that we would undertake business activities in line with these criteria in order to solve problems faced by society, including the problem of carbon dioxide emissions, and to help people live more comfortable lives. We then carefully considered this policy in connection with our market capitalization, intrinsic corporate value and general existential value.

We concluded that value formed on three axes — Management of Economics, Management of Technology and Management of Sustainability — would itself constitute our corporate value. In 2011, we began to refer to corporate value generated on these three axes as “Kaiteki Management.” Everyone in the Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Group, both inside and outside Japan, comes together and pursues all corporate activities under the kaiteki banner; this is our identity.

Q: Why is kaiteki so very important in today’s world?

A: Humanity currently faces a number of pressing challenges, including climate change and marine plastic pollution. In light of these challenges, which pertain to Management of Sustainability, corporations that are greedy in pursuing profit alone will not last long. We believe we can achieve sustainable growth by employing technology and innovation to provide solutions to social and environmental issues — Management of Technology — and thereby increase business income — Management of Economics — which is none other than the pursuit of what we call kaiteki value.

In August of this year, the Business Roundtable, an association led by major U.S. companies, announced its departure from the shareholder supremacy principle. The time has come for the world to rethink the meaning of corporate value. We believe our decision in 2011 to institute Kaiteki Management was appropriate to the age in which we live.

Q: How do you envision kaiteki applied in business?

A: Realizing kaiteki value in business means undertaking business activities that lead to sustained growth while solving social issues. This encompasses energy-generating solutions like organic solar cells, energy-storage solutions such as lithium-ion battery materials, and energy-saving solutions such as carbon fiber-reinforced plastics and gallium nitride, as well as solutions related to health and living such as regenerative medicine and new forms of agribusiness — though these businesses are still in the maturation process.

In connection with communities, we have declared our support for the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, and we participate in the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy 100 Network. We also chair the Carbon Recycle Fund, an association of private-sector companies, as a part of our participation in government efforts to expand the circular economy, as well as the government-sponsored Japan Initiative for Marine Environment, which is tasked with addressing the problem of plastic waste.

Q: Why are partnerships important to advancing this vision?

A: Climate change and marine plastic pollution are global challenges that go beyond national borders. And with ICT and other technologies growing more sophisticated and information becoming widely available, society in general is demanding that problems be solved with considerable speed.

In light of this, companies and research institutes have neither the time nor resources to handle the entire process from crafting a vision to seeing it through all on their own. To provide the value that society requires in a way that is timely and precise, it is becoming all the more important to combine the scholarly perspective of the academy with the business perspective of the private sector in the form of open innovation.

Q: Why did you decide to partner with ASU? 

A: I owe a debt of gratitude to ASU’s Dr. George Stephanopoulos for this partnership. He has been a good friend of mine since he served for two years as CTO of Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings from the year 2000, and I have often discussed Kaiteki Management with him.

In addition, under the leadership of President Crow, ASU has emphasized education and research that strongly promotes innovation, established the expectation that achievements contribute to the public interest, and acquired a track record in actively pursuing collaborations between industry and academia that pivot on sustainability. We believed that these factors will help create synergies for realizing the kaiteki that we have proposed and pursued.

Q: How will working with ASU and the Global KAITEKI Center support kaiteki and building a sustainable future?

A: We have high expectations, in particular for ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and the new Global Futures Laboratory. I firmly believe that joining our kaiteki concept with ASU’s sustainability-focused technology, research capabilities and sophisticated social scientific perspectives will make it possible to create new methodologies and roadmaps.

Q: If a company wanted to realize kaiteki, how should they begin?

A: I think it is first important that all stakeholders, including shareholders, customers, employees and the general public, recognize the meaning and importance of kaiteki value. Deepening communication with stakeholders and providing society with solutions through the products and services that result from this communication will generate kaiteki value.

Q: What three key things need to happen in order to realize kaiteki world-wide?

A: The kaiteki vision needs to be shared with shareholders, employees, customers and other stakeholders worldwide.

Management of Sustainability, one of the three axes of Kaiteki Management, needs to be visualized, quantified and standardized, even while 80% of the focus may remain on Management of Economics.

In addition, alliances need to be promoted between companies and universities for the purpose of creating kaiteki value — as is the case with ASU.

Q: What legacy do you want to leave on the world?

A: Kaiteki is a beautiful Japanese word that means “comfort” or “well-being,” and ever since founding the KAITEKI Institute, my dream has been to make that word as familiar as “kaizen” or “teriyaki” all over the world. Another goal is to visualize and quantify Management of Sustainability value and to standardize it as an important assessment indicator alongside economic value. I believe this would significantly change how corporate activities are assessed and judged.