Closing Thoughts on Stanford e-Kagoshima City

Making connections between program achievements and students’ personal aspirations
2023–24 Stanford e-Kagoshima City students with Mayor Shimozuru (seated in center with green tie) and instructor Amy Cheng (far right on screen) 2023–24 Stanford e-Kagoshima City students with Mayor Shimozuru (seated in center with green tie) and instructor Amy Cheng (far right on screen); photo courtesy Kagoshima City Government.

Stanford e-Kagoshima City is a distance-learning course sponsored by Kagoshima City and the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) at Stanford University. Students are encouraged to think critically about diversity, entrepreneurship, and equity in the United States and Japan. Stanford e-Kagoshima City instructor Amy Cheng recently wrote these reflections about the inaugural year of Stanford e-Kagoshima City. 

On March 16, I said farewell to the 25 smart and hardworking students in my Stanford e-Kagoshima City class. Alongside the sadness I felt, though, I carried a strong sense of excitement knowing that they will, for sure, go on with their high school years and beyond with the knowledge and experience they gained from being part of this program.

I deeply appreciated having had the opportunity to be not only their teacher but also their student. I learned just as much from each of the students as they’d learned from me. Some things I learned from the class:

  • They care about their generation. 
  • They care about Kagoshima and Japan. 
  • They have amazing dreams. 
  • They’re determined to make an impact on the world. 

Before the class started in September 2023, I had a chance to review the students’ thoughts about their future. Now at the end of the class, I reread their dreams to see if the class may have had some influence on these goals. I think that it did.

Some students wanted to learn the different ways of thinking between themselves and those from other cultures like the United States. They wanted to broaden their horizons with ideas and approaches to diversity. In their quest to help remove biases in Japanese society, they eagerly studied about how to be more inclusive and bring equity to all.

Some students, in their desire to do something about economic decline in some parts of Japan, studied about entrepreneurship. They were exposed to the notion that entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be something big and impossible to achieve. It can be a small endeavor but still have a huge impact.

Some students, with their love for Kagoshima, wanted to express their concerns about disappearing communities and brainstorm ways to revitalize their beloved towns. Their passion toward keeping customs and traditions alive was very clear.

And finally, some students simply wanted a chance to learn more English and to study with other students of like minds. They wanted opportunities to ask questions that they normally couldn’t in their daily lives.

Whether they aspire to be doctors, entrepreneurs, diplomats, scientists, fashion designers, politicians, expert tradespeople, flight attendants, artists, or lawyers, everyone had a chance to talk about their dreams and passions during the six months we spent together. It’s my hope that each of the students makes the small step or two or three toward making their dreams become reality.

The final day of Stanford e-Kagoshima City for the 2023–2024 year came and went in a flash, but I’m perpetually reminded of my students and our collective experience learning together during the better part of six months. This is because so much of what we studied, discussed, and presented among ourselves centered around real-life activities and thinking. I’m glad that the program enabled all of us to bring even the most esoteric subjects down to the ground level so that we can apply much of what we learned to our daily lives.

Gary Mukai and Mayor Shimozuru

I have tremendous gratitude for the City of Kagoshima, including Mayor Takao Shimozuru and his staff, as well as the Department of Education members—especially Superintendent Haranosono, Chairman Kawagoe, Administrative Manager Komura, Manager of Education Department Sadohara, and Head of School Education Division Nakamura—for this wonderful opportunity to teach for Kagoshima City. An extra special thanks to Teacher Consultant Chiemi Hamada, the program coordinator, whose close partnership with me ensured that we accomplished everything we set out to do for the students. Mayor Shimozuru appears in the photo above with SPICE Director Gary Mukai following the closing ceremony; photo courtesy Kagoshima City Government. Also in attendance at the closing ceremony were members of the U.S. Consulate Fukuoka, Adam Gallagher and Chie Inuzuka. I am also appreciative of their support. 

Of course, I’m most appreciative of the students who proudly represented Kagoshima City and diligently participated in the course. I hope to keep in touch so that I can know what each of them will do in the future and see how this program may help shape who they become.

Chiemi Hamada and Amy Cheng with students; photo courtesy Kagoshima City Government.
Chiemi Hamada and Amy Cheng with students; photo courtesy Kagoshima City Government.

Stanford e-Kagoshima City is one of several online courses offered by SPICE.

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