Japan program takes first step in global intiative

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • April 3, 2013

At issue: Emerson offers week-long Japan program

Our take: A bento box of opportunities

For most Emerson students, the closest our educational experience gets to Japan is discussing Murakami in a fiction workshop, grabbing chilled sushi from the Max, or ironically replaying the Pokemon series. This summer, a new course in Asian history will give 10 students a week stay in Tokyo, with airfare and hotel bills covered by a grant through the Japan Foundation. Think of it as the ultimate field trip.

Though this program is only a week long, it signals that Emerson is taking seriously President M. Lee Pelton’s inaugural commitment to increasing the college’s global presence. Communication and the arts, after all, are not limited to the United States — graduates will face an increasingly internationalized job market, where American culture may not be the dominant mode.

Pelton has made diversity a key initiative, and this course is a model of teaching history from a diverse perspective. For five of the six weeks the course will be taught in Boston, but the week in Tokyo will immerse students into the culture and ideas of a nation they had been studying from 6,179 miles away.

“There has never been a more important time to study human communication in all of its forms,” said Pelton during his inauguration in September.

Pelton and several administrators traveled to Japan last semester to form a relationship with Tokyo International University, which he had previously fostered as president of Willamette University in Oregon.

“He was a major contributor to the internationalization of the student body for both Willamette University and Tokyo International University,” TIU Chairman Nobuyasu Kurata told the Beacon after the visit.

Clearly, this partnership has been fruitful, and Emerson would be wise to pursue similar affiliations with universities in other countries — like how professor Gregory Payne recently brought a group of students to Kazakhstan.

Emerson’s self-stated mission is to bring innovation to communications and the arts. This goal is not restricted to the confines of the United States. The arts, as we know by our geographically diverse student body, are present everywhere, in different shapes and forms. With the creation of this one-week program, we are allowing the expansion of our mission to new cultures and backgrounds.