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Saturday, September 30, 2023

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The Japan Studies Institute welcomed 13 faculty members from across the country. The Japan Studies Institute welcomed 13 faculty members from across the country.

Japan Studies Institute Promotes Global Education

The SDSU institute uses Japanese culture to create exciting curricula.
By Hallie Jacobs

Professors from all over the United States recently visited San Diego State University to attend a faculty development conference focused on Japanese culture and academia.

The institute, sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), is designed to help educators who wish to incorporate information about Japan into the courses they teach.

Faculty have the opportunity to learn from scholars, business leaders, artists and government officials about modern Japan throughout the two-week program.

"The program provides excellent training for faculty," said Yoshiko Higurashi, director of SDSU's Japanese Language Program and head of the AASCU Japan Studies Institute. "Past participants reported that the program was well-balanced, comprehensive and beneficial on both a professional and personal level."

About the institute

Designed for faculty with no prior experience in Japanese studies, "Incorporating Japanese Studies into the Undergraduate Curriculum" ran from June 10 through 21 at SDSU.

The institute welcomed 13 fellows who were selected from across the nation, including distinguished scholars and dedicated educators recommended by the presidents of their institutions.

Participants from universities including the University of North Georgia, Indiana University Kokomo and the State University of New York at Fredonia, joined SDSU faculty to learn about integrating Japanese culture into their curricula.

The visiting professors were a diverse group, with backgrounds ranging from business to literature to political science.

Lasisi Ajayi, a professor of teacher education at the SDSU Imperial Valley campus, enjoyed learning about the parallels between the Japanese and English languages.

"Although the languages are written differently, a lot of the words are phonetically pronounced the same," he said. "Teaching children how to spot these similarities and commonalities between the two languages could help improve literacy."

Culture as curricula

The program featured a variety of activities ranging from meditation, tea ceremonies and visits to the Mingei Museum and Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. 

"With a country as rich and diverse as Japan, you can't learn about it through a textbook — you have to immerse yourself in the culture," said Theresa Rooney, an English professor from the City University of New York. "This experience was similar to actually being in Japan. Thanks to the hands-on approach, we got to understand the culture from many different perspectives."

Theodore Gilman, executive director of Harvard University's Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies addressed the group on the importance of integrating Japanese culture as curricula.

"Japan is an incredibly important country," he said. "It has a large economy, strong democracy and it is a close ally of the United States. Many Americans don't realize how important Japan is to the U.S. and incorporating the Japanese culture into college curricula could be very beneficial."

Japan and SDSU

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities recognized SDSU's contributions since Higurashi became the director in fall 2005, and chose SDSU as an official co-sponsor of the institute in 2013.

"In order to prepare our students who will be the future of our society for a competitive global world, their faculty must be global and international themselves," Higurashi said. "Many faculty members are aware of this fact and are eager to widen their perspectives."