President M. Lee Pelton took the initial steps in negotiating Emerson College’s first academic partnership with Japan by signing a memorandum of understanding with Tokyo International University (TIU) during a four - day trip to the country early last month.
Pelton met with TIU Chairman Nobuyasu Kurata on Nov. 13 in Tokyo, where they agreed to create a foundation for their schools to establish possible future faculty and student exchange programs and joint research projects, according to Vice President and Special Assistant to the President Donna Heiland, who attended the trip with Pelton.
“We are very optimistic about this relationship,” Heiland said. “There is a real desire to forge a partnership because both institutions understand that higher education is global, and both want to act on that recognition.”
Heiland said Emerson and TIU exchanged information about both colleges’ academic programs and facilities to start a relationship that she said is needed to construct a long-lasting affiliation.
“We got to know each other, and we didn’t really go farther than that,” Heiland said.
Before coming to Emerson, Pelton was president of Willamette University, which has had a strong relationship with TIU since 1965, according to the Willamette University website.
During his inauguration, Pelton said one of his five commitments to Emerson is to expand Emerson’s global presence, and Heiland said this trip was part of his plan.
“We are increasing the number of options available for students,” Heiland said. “We remain strongly committed to the programs we have in place, but Asia is a priority for us.”
TIU, founded in 1965, is located just outside of Tokyo, in the Saitama prefecture. The school has nearly 6,000 full time undergraduate students.
“When Mr. Pelton was with Willamette University, he was a major contributor to the internationalization of the student body for both Willamette University and Tokyo International University,” Mr. Kurata said in an email interview. “Now that he is with Emerson College, I expect this relationship to be just as close if not closer.”
TIU offers classes in both English and Japanese. Heiland said she hopes Emerson’s partnership with TIU would serve both students who speak Japanese and those who do not. Emerson currently does not offer Japanese language courses.
David Griffin, the director of international study and external programs at Emerson, traveled with Pelton on this trip to Japan and said this has the potential to be a great addition to the school’s international programs.
“I get inquiries from schools who want to partner with Emerson all the time,” Griffin said. “What we have to do is to try and find partnerships with schools that have the best institutions and the best curriculum that we can find, and I think TIU is a school that has a lot of potential opportunities for students.”
Paul Niwa, the interim chair of the journalism department, also traveled to Tokyo with Pelton but was unavailable to comment for this article.
Heiland said Emerson has invited TIU representatives to Boston sometime this spring, and Pelton is planning on returning to Tokyo next year.
The interview with Kurata was translated by Deffebach, who speaks Japanese.