Japan Center earns Award for International Education

Japan Center earns Award for International Education

February 6, 2011/The State News

By Beau Hayhoe

As soon as she returned from her study abroad program in Japan in the summer of 2008, Mandy Kline wanted to go back.

Through the Japan Center for Michigan Universities, or JCMU— where Kline, a psychology and Japanese senior, now works as a peer adviser — she found a new passion and developed the necessary language skills, both of which might some day allow her to return.

“I decided to add an additional degree because I loved it so much,” Kline said. “It kind of helped me to plan out my trajectory for my future.”

JCMU — a Japanese language program which has served Michigan’s 15 state-funded universities from the MSU campus since 1988 — recently received an honorable mention in the 2011 Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education.

“The award is huge,” said Kitty Douglass, an administrative assistant with JCMU. “Really it’s a recognition of 22 years of hard work.”

This accomplishment comes as a result of several things the center does, Douglass said.

“Our nomination was built on the fact that we are an inclusive program,” she said. “We have both American and international students who are attending our program.”

The programs themselves are a major element of that award. The center offers rigourous, contemporary Japanese language education courses for students, with the ultimate goal of sending them to study abroad, Douglass said.

“Most of our students are prepared to go into Japan and use their language skills right away,” she said. “Largely because they’ve been immersed in the culture, they’re able to internalize those skills much more quickly.”

The center tries to be inclusive to students from all walks of life, offering special services and accessibility to persons with disabilities or learning disorders, said Kate Simon, the program coordinator with JCMU.

“We’ve worked hard over the years to maintain a high level of accessibility,” she said. “We’re really able to create a process in which future students can request help with disabilities.”

Combined with those services, the actual study abroad trips have many inherent benefits, Simon said.

“Study abroad can really be a life-changing experience,” she said. “(It) can be a very challenging experience when you’re immersed into a new language and a new culture. … I think (program participants) come back with a new self-awareness.”

JCMU now is working with MSU’s Asian Studies Center to add to JCMU’s award-winning programs, Douglass said.

“Our goal is always to provide the best language and culture education,” she said. “We plan to be here another 22 years.”