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September 12, 2016 at 5:17 pm

OHIO Continues Post-Tsunami Relationship With Iwate Prefectural University

OHIO Japan specialists Chris Thompson, Hiro Oshita (both of Linguistics), Charlie Morgan (Sociology-Anthropology), and Taka Suzuki (Political Science) pictured with Dr. Tomomasa Sasa of IPU (English) on Sept. 9.

OHIO Japan specialists Chris Thompson, Hiro Oshita (both of Linguistics), Charlie Morgan (Sociology-Anthropology), and Taka Suzuki (Political Science) pictured with Dr. Tomomasa Sasa of IPU (English) on Sept. 9.

Dr. Tomomasa Sasa of Iwate Prefectural University, Japan made his fifth visit to Ohio University on Sept. 8 and 9 to confirm the details of plans to bring nine of his students from IPU to OHIO next March for a short-term intensive English Study Abroad Program designed by the Ohio Program of Intensive English in the Linguistics Department.

As Sasa arrived in Athens on Sept. 9, four new OHIO undergraduates arrived in Japan to partner institutions to begin their study abroad experience. Ben Piper and Nick Ferris arrived at Chubu University, while Coner Fogarty and Ciara Blomgren arrived in Tokyo to begin their studies at Musashi University. On Sept. 17, Thompson leaves Athens again for Iwate, Japan, where he will be joined by these students and Dr. Shiyong Wu (Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Director of OHIO’s Edison Biotechnical Institute) for Year-Six of the OHIO-IPU Tsunami Volunteer Project.

One of the unique features of this program since year-one is that the transportation, food, and lodging for OHIO students is funded by the OHIO Alumni Association, Japan (Tokyo and Nagoya chapters) with additional local support from IPU. The IPU help in particular has enabled the project to fund OHIO student participation for longer than the originally projected five years. A special feature of the project this year is that Thompson and Wu will explore ways in which Edison Biotechnical Institute can collaborate with Dr. Keiko Chiba, Associate Vice President of IPU, on her research that focuses on the eating habits of Iwate’s coastal residents resulting in high incidences of diabetes, a disease that afflicts residents of southeast Ohio.

OHIO Associate Professor Chris Thompson (Linguistics), center, with seven of the nine IPU students slated to come to OHIO next March at a post-forum reception on July 17. They are flanked by OHIO study abroad student Ali Smith (left), OHIO alum Anthony George (foreground right), and an unknown IPU foreign student.

OHIO Associate Professor Chris Thompson (Linguistics), center, with seven of the nine IPU students slated to come to OHIO next March at a post-forum reception on July 17. They are flanked by OHIO study abroad student Ali Smith (left), OHIO alum Anthony George (foreground right), and an unknown IPU foreign student.

This collaborative program between IPU and OHIO is the latest in an unprecedented collaboration between OHIO and IPU, which began in September of 2011, when Dr. Christopher Thompson, Chair of Linguistics, and Chiba began a five-year collaborative project to provide victims of the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami that ravaged the coast of northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, some local relief.  Since September of 2011, this OHIO-IPU joint ventures has provided opportunities for more than 50 OHIO students, faculty, and alums to work with their IPU counterparts during the third weekend of September to help out as the affected communities rebuild their infrastructures and rehabilitate their lives.

To celebrate five-years of successful tsunami relief collaboration activity between OHIO and IPU, Thompson, Dr. Taka Suzuki (OHIO Associate Professor and Director of Asian Studies), 12 of OHIO’s past participants including five current students finishing their one-year study abroad experience at Chubu University (Nagoya, Japan), seven alumni currently living and working in Japan were invited to attend the first ever IPU Tsunami Relief Forum, which took place on July 16 and 17.

Over the past five-years, OHIO and IPU have engaged in a variety of tsunami-related relief and recovery projects ranging from river clean-ups and goodwill visits to “temporary housing villages,” to water delivery and involvement in local cultural festivals within communities on Iwate’s Pacific coast.

At the Tsunami Forum, OHIO alums Julian Heartshorn and Adam Martenelli, along with current student Dakota Williams gave speeches in Japanese that reflected on the many positive experiences they had as participants in this project. Suzuki and Thompson presented IPU President Dr. Atsuto Suzuki with a letter from OHIO President Dr. Roderick McDavis thanking him for the success of the project. Thompson also spoke in Japanese about the meaningful collaboration between the two universities that has helped hundreds of tsunami victims over the last five-years. Other OHIO participants were alumni Greg King, David Laurence (both associate professors at Chubu University), Demetre Evans, Matt Carnavale (teaching English in Japan), Anthony George (pursuing an M.A. in engineering at Tokyo University), and Lu Chang, Steven Friedman-Romell, Junlin Tang, and Ali Smith (finishing their studies at Chubu).

Thompson, a cultural anthropologist specializing in the folk culture of Iwate prefecture, has been conducting ethnographic research in the prefecture since 1994. According to Thompson, the future of OHIO-IPU relations looks bright. In addition to hosting IPU students in what will hopefully be an on-going program in OPIE, research connections and extensions of the Tsunami Volunteer Project in the form of longer-term service learning opportunities between the two universities that involve Chubu University students and faculty and Itoen, a major bottled drink manufacturer in Japan that has been supplying the tea and water consumed during the project, are on the horizon.

Thompson emphasizes that Sasa’s visit to Athens this month symbolizes this new phase in the OHIO-IPU collaboration that is beginning to unfold. IPU recently hired Patrick Maher, one of Thompson’s former students, as an instructor in its International Relations program. Thompson suggests that this connection to the region, and Sasa’s proven interest in and track-record of research associated with Second Language Acquisition in the English as a Second Language context in itself is bound to tie his Department of English at IPU to the Department of Linguistics at OHIO for the foreseeable future.

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