By Jeff Murphy, August 27, 2019
On behalf of the University of Central Missouri, Phillip Bridgmon, left, provost and vice president for academic affairs, on Aug. 26 signed a Memorandum of Understanding that provides details related to study abroad opportunities at UCM for students attending Niigata University of International and Information Studies (NUIS) in Japan. The agreement was presented by Peter Iori Kobayashi, a lecturer on the faculty of International Studies at NUIS.
WARRENSBURG, MO – The world may seem like a large place, but the opportunity to experience new people from countries and cultures around the globe just got a whole lot closer for students at the University of Central Missouri. A new memorandum of understanding (MOU) is paving the way for more students from Japan to come to UCM, while possibly opening doors for future study abroad opportunities for domestic students.
The MOU was signed Aug. 26 by Phillip Bridgmon, provost and vice president for academic affairs at UCM, after it was presented by Peter Iori Kobayashi, a lecturer on the faculty of International Studies at Niigata University of International and Information Studies (NUIS) in Japan. Bridgmon signed the agreement approximately four days after 16 students from Niigata arrived on campus to begin a four-month study abroad program coordinated by faculty and staff in the UCM English Language Institute in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. The other signature on the MOU was previously added in Japan and came from Professor Hiroshi Sasaki, dean of the NUIS Faculty of International Studies.
Consisting of eight male and eight female students, this is the third group of Niigata students who have visited UCM in recent years as part of the program offered through Niigata’s Department of International Culture. According to Kobayashi, the MOU formally spells out the details of this special study abroad program for Japanese students and responsibilities of all parties that are making it possible.
Kobayashi said students enrolled in this program had the opportunity to consider choosing between UCM or schools in Russia, Korea and China. At UCM, the program helps Japanese students develop their English language skills by focusing on areas such as reading, writing, and grammar, as well as communication skills, accent reduction, American history, culture and more.
“We have positive comments from students, and they are recommending this program to their underclassmen back at home,” Kobayashi said.
He added that UCM is a good match for Niigata students. In fact, many of them chose to visit UCM because they enjoy the smaller community atmosphere, landscape and weather, which is similar to where they have lived most of their lives.
While their college experience in the United States may have a rural flavor, students are getting well-rounded opportunities to experience Midwestern culture through various trips outside the Warrensburg area. Valerie Heming, director of the English Language Institute, said so far this has included a tour of Kansas City, where they also visited the American Jazz Museum. Future plans include a return to the metro area to visit the Main Event fun and entertainment center and also tour the Missouri Innovation Campus in Lee’s Summit.
Marc Joseph, chair of the School of English and Philosophy, was among individuals who attended the MOU signing. He stressed the value of what this study abroad opportunity means for students who come to UCM, and for the domestic students who have an opportunity to meet and interact with them.
“I am thrilled to have these students here for the benefit of what it brings to our students,” Joseph said. “It really is the internationalization of our campus, and exposes our students - many of whom have not traveled widely in their young lives – to an opportunity to meet people from different cultures. It’s the proverbial win- win situation. It’s good for the students who are visiting here. It gives them an international perspective and it gives our students an international perspective as well.”
“I’ve also been very impressed by the interactions that I have witnessed between our students and some of the (UCM) students and student workers,” Kobayashi said.
Although no decisions have been made, he noted that one of the topics of future discussion will likely be related to the possibility of scheduling study abroad programs at UCM that take place over a shorter time period.
Michael Sawyer, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, noted that UCM welcomes opportunities to expose its students to study abroad.
“You don’t just get a degree for the sake of having a degree, you are making a difference. We have a good number of students who go abroad, but in terms of overall percentage of students at the university, we need to grow that,” Sawyer said.
He added, “It’s a responsibility that our students have, if at all possible, to be able to understand the world and other cultures in order to be able to act as informed citizens.”
Bridgmon noted that UCM students share a commonality with Japanese students in terms of finding study abroad opportunities that are financially within their reach.
“The issue we have is how to make study abroad more accessible to our students, which is a goal we are committed to,” Bridgmon said.
Meanwhile the focus is on Niigata students whose study abroad experience has taken them to UCM.
“We appreciate this relationship and want to make sure it’s mutually beneficial, and that we always provide a welcoming place to study in a region that is thriving,” Bridgmon said. “I think the students will discover there’s a lot that they enjoy here.”