We’re back, back again… to Japan!

We’re back, back again… to Japan!

By: Dr. Hiroki Takeuchi, Director of the Sun and Star Program and the SMU-in-Japan Program

This June, we were feeling an inexplicable sense of happiness as we were back to Kwansei Gakuin University (KGU) to resume the SMU-in-Japan Summer International Studies Program. It is the only SMU Abroad international studies program that goes to a non-English spoken, non-Western country, which the SMU students more internationalized through such a unique “foreign” experience.

The SMU-in-Japan Program provides our students with a great opportunity to sharpen their communication skills. We are living in the time of automation and rapid technological advancement, and its speed is getting faster and faster. However, humans have advantage over computers, machines, and robots in three areas: first, humans are more compassionate than robots; second, humans are more creative than machines; and third, humans are more flexible than computers. In short, humans are better at communicating with other humans, but if you don’t sharpen your communication ability, you will be more likely to be replaced with computers, machines, and robots.

SMU-in-Japan Faculty members Hiroki Takeuchi and Diana Newton at the 40th Anniversary of the SMU-KGU Exchange ceremony.

During this summer’s program, the symposium celebrating the 40th year anniversary of KGU-SMU ties took place on June 30. KGU still appreciates that SMU hosted its first exchange program in 1980 when ten KGU students studied at SMU for a year. SMU is KGU’s first exchange partner, and now KGU has an exchange program with more than 150 universities all over the world, including more than 30 universities in North America. On the basis of inter-university exchange contracts, KGU sends the largest number of students abroad among the Japanese universities—although KGU is not the largest university in Japan.

SMU’s ties with KGU were established on the basis of the ties developed by late Dr. H. Neill McFarland (former SMU Provost and Professor at SMU Perkins School of Theology), who passed away on July 14, 2017. He had visited KGU 13 times since 1956, and at KGU those who know him all talk about him fondly—especially Dr. Ken Takeda, former President of KGU who stayed at SMU as a visiting scholar in the 1980s. Thanks to their fond memories of Dr. McFarland, they are very supportive for our program and enthusiastically welcome our students every year. As a result, the SMU-in-Japan Program is one of the SMU Abroad programs that is well subsidized by a hosting institute.

Commemorating Dr. McFarland, ORIX USA (with the leadership of Mr. Hideto Nishitani, then Chairman, President, and CEO of ORIX USA, and a KGU graduate) founded a scholarship for the SMU students participating in the SMU-in-Japan Program (named the Dr. H. Neill McFarland Memorial Scholarship for the SMU-in-Japan Summer International Studies Program at KGU). All the 19 students who participated in this year’s SMU-in-Japan Program received the scholarship, and they were acknowledged during the symposium on June 30.

Students visiting Japan Airlines as part of their extra curricular activites.

Finally, but not least importantly, the SMU-in-Japan Program has been supported by many Japanese companies. In addition to ORIX, Japan Airlines (JAL), Toyota, Central Japan Railway Company, and Shin Kurushima Dockyard have cooperated with our program. Special thanks go to JAL, which has provided special airfares with the SMU-in-Japan Program as well as the SMU Tower Center’s Sun & Star Program on Japan and East Asia. Overall, the SMU-in-Japan Program is a program to learn the Japanese economy and industry. The U.S.-Japan alliance has been supported by strong business ties and economic networks. By visiting and seeing the field of manufacturing, businesses, and cultural activities, the SMU-in-Japan Program provides our students with unique opportunities to learn Japanese business, culture, economy, politics, and society, which helps to strengthen U.S.-Japan relations.