Meet the New AHA Staff Member: Kate Uesugi

Welcome our new Communications Associate, Kate Uesugi!

What is your educational and work background?

I earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Business and Marketing, with a minor in Sustainability, at The George Washington University (GW). I was especially interested in ethical business practices and corporate social responsibility. During that time, I interned with various startups and agencies in marketing and communications positions.

After graduating from GW, I accepted a Princeton in Asia fellowship for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Myanmar) based in Yangon, Myanmar. I started as a Communications and Partnerships Fellow, spending half of my time leading campaigns and creating communications products, and the other half fostering relationships with our corporate partners and volunteer groups. Due to COVID-19, I moved back home to Hawaii but continued to work remotely. I moved to a Network Relations job (a form of internal communications), helping to market WWF-Myanmar within the larger WWF network. Most recently, I worked as an Internal Communications Research Consultant for the WWF Asia Pacific region. I assessed current outreach efforts and return on investment, and came up with a future outreach plan for the regional country offices.

How did you first learn about humanism?

I’m not sure when I first learned about humanism but I don’t think I ever made the personal connection until I landed on the AHA website! I was interested in doing communications work with an organization that tackles social justice and environmental issues, which led me to this role. Once I read about the history and philosophy of humanism, I realized that I could totally identify with it.

Did you grow up in a traditional religious faith? How did it impact you?

I grew up in a very non-religious family. Even my grandparents (on both sides of the family) are non-religious. My parents raised my siblings and me with agnostic views, but we never really put a label on things. My dad is deeply interested in religion from a historical viewpoint, but we’ve always had a very rational and evidence-based view of the world. Since I’m from a mixed background, my extended family is either Catholic, which is deeply ingrained in Filipino culture, or Buddhist, on my Japanese side. Almost everyone I grew up with is nonreligious, but we celebrate some traditions and holidays (more as an excuse to get together!).

Growing up in Hawaii, where everyone tends to identify with two or more races or ethnicities, religion is a tricky thing. I’ve always found it interesting that you can clearly see the impact of colonization through religion there.

What interested you most about working for the American Humanist Association?

I knew that I wanted to work for an organization that tackled issues that I was passionate about. I am especially interested in the separation of church and state since we saw so much of that deteriorate within the past four years (not that we didn’t have problems with it beforehand). I also want to help get the humanist philosophy out there because I’m sure there are plenty of people like me, who don’t know they’re humanists until they read about it.

What book has influenced you the most?

I am a voracious reader and so this question is a little tricky. One book that comes to mind is Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills. In high school, I had an English teacher that introduced my class to a lot of Asian authors, but this one really got me interested in similar novels. Honorable mention goes to Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle for the same reason!

If you could have dinner with any three people in the world (living or dead), who would they be and why?

I would love to meet and have dinner with my paternal grandfather (Papa Uesugi, as people called him). He died about a year before I was born, but everyone absolutely loved him. I grew up living with my paternal grandmother, so I got to hear all of the stories and he just seems like a genuinely nice person. I would also invite David Lynch, just because he’s so weird and influential in film, and I would love to get inside his mind. My third dinner party guest would be Dolly Parton, which really makes this an eclectic bunch, but she’s just so unapologetically herself and I’ve loved her and her music since I was younger.