Staff plan study tour to Japan

Darren Miller, professor of art, and Linda Bills, library director, will lead a study tour to Japan in January 2015. Study tours were implemented for staff and faculty to study specific topics and regions abroad.

Staff and faculty study tours originated in 2012 with a previous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation after the college realized there was a gap in the international curriculum, especially in Middle East and North Africa courses. That grant supported staff and faculty tours to Egypt, Morocco and Israel, which eventually evolved into study tours, experiential learning seminars or study abroad programs for students.

“They were very popular and very successful. There was a lot of faculty and staff support for the notion of study tours,” said Ann Areson,  associate vice president of foundation & corporate relations, donor relations.

Areson works with faculty and administration to write and submit proposals to private foundations, state and federal government agencies and occasionally to corporate foundations.

After the first series of study tours in the 2012-2013 academic year, Allegheny College was approved for a four year grant from The Andrew. W. Mellon Foundation, to further internationalize the curriculum and the campus.

A steering committee, with a mixture of faculty and staff, oversees the grant and how the money is spent. Another committee called Study Away and Campus Internalization Committee helps develop a comprehensive internalization plan for the college.

The grant helped support hiring a full-time, tenured faculty position to teach Arabic. The grant also supports faculty and staff in terms of international teaching circles to incorporate international aspects into a new or existing course, workshops and summer course development. Allegheny also brought in guest lecturers and scholars for week-long intensive courses and invited a consultant to help internationalize the campus. With this grant, the college is able to acquire new materials for library collections and help students, staff and faculty visit MENA regions. The grant also supports learning seminars, with the first being Japan in 2015.

The theme for the Japan study tour is traditional and contemporary arts. Staff and faculty will visit Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima from Jan. 1 to Jan. 9. Having the experience of living in Japan and teaching English in Nagoya from 1999-2000, Darren Miller proposed this Japan study tour as the tour leader. Bills also had previous living and travelling experience in Japan.

As the college’s gallery director, Darren Miller has brought in several international artists and wants to further that internationalism through the Japan study tour.

“In terms of having better linkages and communication with contemporary Japanese artists, and what that might mean for the the work that comes into the gallery,” said Darren Miller on his expectations in travelling to Japan.

According to Darren Miller, there will be totally 12 staff and faculty going to Japan study tour. The tour leaders are ideally one faculty member and one staff member, and the group of participants is relatively equally split between faculty and staff.

Having travelled to Japan several times, David Miller, professor of English, is travelling to Japan with the study tour in January. In 2008, David Miller was teaching global literature and travel writing at Semester at Sea, and started to think about a new course on world literature at Allegheny.

“I teach American studies, so I teach the literature in relation to economies, social and political issues, art, all of those things,” said David Miller. “What unifies that for me is this ethnographic approach to understand what are the motivating aspects of a culture. And it would be fun to teach a course on Japanese literature and culture at some point. I have a long way to go, but making a trip like this would be a good place to start. The Japanese aesthetic has always attracted me and interested me.”

In terms of the application process, David Miller thought it was ‘fairly simple,’ and included a short essay about the applicant’s purpose for going on the study tour.

“I like the fact that it’s both faculty and staff, so it brings the whole section of the Allegheny community, people with very different perspectives and purposes, ” said David Miller.

Staff and faculty are looking forward to the upcoming study tour and the experience and benefits it will bring to the students and the college.

“If we are asking our students to get out of their comfort zone and go to different places, what about us? We should be asking that of ourselves too. And we also think we can better interact with students before they go abroad or away, and when they come back we can talk to them with more shared experience,” said Areson, envisioning the outcome of the study tour.