In 2007, through grants from the Freeman Foundation and the Toshiba International Foundation, Hobart and William Smith Colleges undertook a program of curriculum development to encourage faculty who were not specialists on Asia to include Japan and China in their classes. HWS solicited proposals from faculty and area teachers and, with funding received from Toshiba, organized additional workshops on Japan to facilitate this process.
In January 2008, the Colleges sent four HWS faculty members and two area public school teachers to Japan for one week to gather information in their respective areas of interest. The cost of the trip was paid for by a grant from the Tanaka Memorial Foundation and the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures.
The group was lead by Associate Professor James-Henry Holland, director of the Japanese language program and member of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures. He was joined by William Smith Dean Debra DeMeis, Professor of History Derek Linton, Professor of Media and Society Linda Robertson, and the Venerable Tenzin Yignyen, a scholar-in-residence in Asian Languages and Cultures. Secondary teachers included Katie Grela of Geneva Middle School, and Alexe Dunham of Waterloo High School. The group arrived in Yokohama, Japan on Jan. 10.
Their visit was loaded with activity. They had a walking tour of the city of Kamakura, experienced an evening of traditional theater at the Kabukiza Theater, relaxed with a tea ceremony hosted by a famous tea practioner, and visited with Kate Delp ’05, who has been teaching English and Oral Communications in Japan since 2005 through the JET Program, which promotes grassroots international exchanges between Japan and other nations.
While touring Shirosato High School, the instructors were given a chance to observe a first-year oral communications class, meet Shirosato faculty members and administrators, and were serenaded by a music class.
“It was wonderful to see them again,” says Delp of the HWS faculty. She credits her HWS education with the success she has had teaching and living in Japan.
“HWS was a huge help in preparing me for JET. I received the Technos Scholarship at the end of my first year, and spent two weeks in Japan, then returned in the fall of my senior year for a term abroad in Hikone. I was an Asian Languages and Cultures major, and a lot of what I learned in my various courses has been applicable to my life here.”
Delp plans to pursue further occupational opportunities in Yokohama when her contract ends in July.
“Finding a job in a foreign country is definitely going to be a challenge, but I love it here and want to stay.”
A glimpse at their fields of study:
DeMeis is studying Japan, its family structure and cultural beliefs and practices regarding children’s development, and Japanese public policy as it relates to children’s issues.
Dunham teaches 8th grade at Geneva Middle School. She is creating a unit related to life in Japan before World War II, the causes of that nation’s involvement in the war, the role of the military in Japanese society, and the short-term and long-term effects of the war on life in Japan and on relationships with the United States.
Grela teaches global history and geography at Waterloo High School. She is developing a “Japanese Treasure Chest” including photographs and artifacts from Japanese culture and history that could travel through the school and be shared by the students.
Linton is researching the history of bacteriology and public health in Japan as well as Japan during the Second World War.
Robertson is working to deepen her inquiry in the World War II remembrance in Japan and its relationship to current political and social debates in Japan, especially over the movement to develop a Japanese military capable of deployment and the debate over women in the military.
Yignyen is studying Japanese monasteries as related to Buddhism and culture, architecture, location, philosophy, ways of life, and similarities and differences between Tibetan Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism.