Foundation’s grant offers Mount students hands-on learning of Japanese sites, culture

Academics, Arts & Humanities, Press Releases

By: Jill Eichhorn

More than a dozen students and professors from the College of Mount St. Joseph recently returned from two weeks touring Japan, where they were able to see the shrines, temples and design elements they studied during the spring semester.  The trip culminated the course the students took titled, “Contemporary Japan and Its Roots,” which examined the art history and religion of the country from the Edo period to the present.  This year, the Japan Foundation Center for a Global Partnership awarded a grant to the Mount to help pay for the program.

“The trip helps students connect book learning with their personal experiences,” said Helen Rindsberg, adjunct instructor at the Mount, who initiated the curriculum six years ago.  “It’s one thing to read about Japanese graphic design or Shinto shrines then to be surrounded by advertising, fashion and packaging.  It takes learning to a new level.”

The Japan Foundation Center for a Global Partnership gave the Mount more than $35,000 to help fund student travel.  It also financed two additional lecturers during the trip, including one at the Edo-Tokyo Museum discussing Japan after World War Two and a discussion of Zen Buddhism with a priest in a Kyoto temple.

“The grant made it possible for students to take part in this program who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford it,” said Jennifer Morris, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the Mount.  “The trip offers a great hands-on experience for our students to witness the culture of Japan that they can’t experience in the classroom.  There is so much our students took away from this trip that is beneficial to their college experience.”

“You can take a class in college about Japan, but seeing how different their culture is from ours gives us a different global perspective,” said Emily Helman, a senior majoring in fine arts from Wyoming.  “The grant generously provided us the opportunity for some real hands-on learning experiences.”

Highlights of the trip included the Sanja Festival in Tokyo, visiting local shrines, home stays with Japanese families, creating a tea bowl with a Japanese artist, visiting a hot springs resort near Mt. Fuji, and learning about Japanese cultural influences in religion.

“The immersion into a different culture leads students to take a fresh look at their own culture and assumptions,” said Rindsberg.  “This experience has allowed them to become more comfortable with people from other cultures and open to different ways of doing things.  This will help our students’ marketability for jobs with an international foundation.”

The College of Mount St. Joseph is an undergraduate and graduate Catholic college that provides an interdisciplinary liberal arts and professional curriculum emphasizing values, service and social responsibility.