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July 3, 2019 at 10:24 am

Iwate Prefectural University (Japan) to Fund Three OHIO Students On Weekend Global Community Engagement Initiative

Iwate Prefectural University (Japan) to Fund Three OHIO Students On Weekend Global Community Engagement Initiative

Pictured above are Dr. Chris Thompson (far left), followed by Maya Maynard, Aiden Dowers, Taylor Heddleson, and Kevin Balk, Japan Study Abroad GRS also traveling to Iwate for research purposes this summer.

Dr. Christopher Thompson, Associate Professor of Japanese Language and Culture and Director of Japan Study Abroad announced on April 15th that Iwate Prefectural University (IPU) has offered to fund three students from the Linguistic Department’s Japanese Language Program to participate in a new Global Engagement Initiative with OHIO University during the weekend of September 31st, 2019.

IPU has been closely associated with OHIO since 2011 when Thompson began coordinating annual trips to Iwate Prefecture’s coastal areas working with his contacts at the institution for OHIO students, faculty, and alumni to collaborate with counterparts on disaster relief projects following the devastating tsunami that struck there on March 11th that year.  Due to the success of this collaboration, in 2018, OHIO University’s President Duane Nellis and IPU’s President Atsuo Suzuki signed a Memorandum of Understanding facilitated by Thompson and his counterpart at IPU, Dr. Keiko Chiba, establishing an official relationship between the two universities and paving the way to further develop existing academic ties.  Besides the Tsunami Volunteer Program – which evolved out of Thompson’s initial contact with the university in 2011, IPU students have been coming to OHIO to study English in OPIE on short-term programs since 2017.

The new Global Engagement Initiative is a creative reimagination of the original Tsunami Volunteer Program, making it a more permanent credit-bearing experience for students from IPU and OHIO, but will now also include students and faculty from Chubu University (CU), which Thompson has been including in relief activities since 2013.  Thompson will begin recruiting for the fall of 2020 this September, so any interested students in the Japanese Program or faculty who have students who might be interested should contact him for details.

Students from OHIO University participating in the new OU-CU-IPU engagement initiative this year will be Aiden Dowers, a Junior Engineering Major; Maya Maynard, a Junior Environmental and Plant Biology Major; and Taylor Heddleson, a Junior Linguistics Major—all of whom will be studying Japanese for one semester at Chubu University this fall.  The airfare, lodging, on-site transportation (round trip from Nagoya to Iwate), equipment (estimated to be the Japanese Yen equivalent of approximately $600.00 a student) will be covered by IPU this first year to get this new program off the ground.

Thompson also hopes to participate using his own research funding.  He plans to apply for grants to fund students and his own continued participation going forward. OHIO students will be joined by three Chubu undergraduates and one faculty member (Greg King, an OHIO Linguistics Department graduate, BA ’96, MA ’99) to work with IPU students on new community engagement projects currently being developed by Thompson and the recently retired Dr. Chiba’s successor – an IPU International Studies faculty member Pat Maher (an OHIO Linguistics department graduate BA ’07, MA ’11).  Activities will include on-going beach clean-up work and cross-cultural interactive experiences with tsunami victims still living in temporary housing, as well as support of local volunteer groups actively working with residents continuing to rebuild their communities in the central and northern areas of the Iwate coast.

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