The Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) honored two of the top students of the 2015 Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP) at a Japan Day event at Stanford University on August 13, 2015. The two 2015 RSP Japan Day honorees were Meera Santhanam and Katie Goldstein.
Japan Day commenced with welcoming comments by Dr. Gary Mukai, SPICE Director, and opening remarks by Consul General Jun Yamada, Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. Praising Meera, Katie, and their fellow RSP students for their dedication to the study of Japan and U.S.–Japan relations, Consul General Yamada noted, “The U.S.–Japan relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world today. Without a doubt this is due to past generations’ tireless efforts to understand each other and build the kind of mutual trust that has made this relationship so durable and successful. To assure the future vitality of the U.S.–Japan relationship, it is therefore our joint responsibility to prepare the future generation for continuing this task. Through the Reischauer Scholars Program which has been instrumental in fostering future leaders who have acquired a deep and broad understanding of Japan, a solid foundation for this purpose has been established.”
Mukai recognized Naomi Funahashi, RSP Manager and Instructor, for her tenth year of teaching the RSP. Funahashi has empowered over 250 Americans with not only subject matter content knowledge on Japan and U.S.–Japan relations but also tools of critical analysis and perspective taking. Reflecting on her ten years of teaching the RSP, Funahashi commented, “While advancements in distance-learning technology over the past ten years have eased the logistical challenges of the RSP, the students remain at the heart of why I continue to love teaching this course. I have the unique privilege of guiding some of the most talented high school students in the United States through an exploration and examination of Japan, and I am confident that many of them will comprise the leadership of future U.S.–Japan relations.”
Funahashi gave an overview of the RSP to the Japan Day audience of over 30 people, which included Professor Indra Levy, RSP advisory board member, and Maiko Tamagawa, Advisor for Educational Affairs, Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. Named in honor of former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer, a leading educator and noted scholar of Japanese history and culture, the RSP is an online course on Japan and U.S.–Japan relations that is offered annually to 25–30 high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors across the United States.
Meera Santhanam (junior, The Nueva School, CA) and Katie Goldstein (senior, Crystal Springs Uplands High School, CA) were recognized for their coursework and exceptional research essays. They articulately presented their research that focused on women in the Japanese workforce and equity-related issues concerning LGBTQ people in Japan, respectively; and skillfully answered provocative questions from the audience.
Since 2003, the RSP has provided a creative and innovative approach to teaching high school students about Japan and U.S–Japan relations. The program provides American students with unique opportunities to interact with diplomats and top scholars affiliated with Stanford University, the University of Tokyo, the University of Hawaii, and other institutions through online lectures and discussions, and introduces both American and Japanese perspectives on many historical and contemporary issues.
The 2015 Japan Day honorees were reflective of the introduction of varied topics and perspectives in the RSP curriculum. When asked to comment on her RSP experience, Santhanam remarked, “With exposure to a wide array of perspectives and in-depth content alike, participating in this program is a decision I would make a thousand times over again. This rare, interdisciplinary opportunity allowed me to connect with my topic on not just an academic, but personal level as well.” Goldstein shared a similar sentiment, also noting the scholarly, yet congenial atmosphere of Japan Day: “The speakers—Dr. Gary Mukai, Naomi Funahashi, and Consul General Yamada—wonderfully set the formal yet fun tone of the academic event. The conversation, while centered around Japan, revolved around a myriad of topics: literature, current events, policies, you name a topic and it was talked about.”
For the first time in the history of the RSP, several RSP alumni introduced high school life in the United States to Japanese students enrolled in SPICE’s inaugural Stanford e-Japan course, which introduces U.S. society and culture and U.S.–Japan relations to Japanese high school students.
Stanford e-Japan students indicated early on in the course their desire to interact with students from the United States, and as a result, Waka Takahashi Brown, Stanford e-Japan Manager and Instructor, invited RSP alumni to comment on the discussion boards and guest speak at the virtual classroom on “U.S. High Schools and Education” on August 14, 2015. Brown noted, “The response from both the e-Japan students and Reischauer Scholars has been overwhelmingly positive. Not only have students been more engaged in the discussion boards, but the Stanford e-Japan students also seemed very eager to know what about Japan interested the U.S. students to participate in the Reischauer Scholars Program. I would not be surprised if the RSP and e-Japan students strike up a friendship from these initial brief exchanges.”
The distinguished RSP advisory committee members are Consul General Jun Yamada; Professor Emeritus Nisuke Ando, Doshisha University and Kyoto University; Ambassador Michael Armacost, Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center, Stanford University; Professor Indra Levy, Stanford University; Professor Phillip Lipscy, Stanford University; and Professor Emeritus Daniel Okimoto, Stanford University.
SPICE has received numerous grants in support of the RSP from the United States-Japan Foundation, the Center for Global Partnership (The Japan Foundation), and the Japan Fund, which is administered by the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.