From Swords to Ploughshares: Study Abroad as a means of post-conflict Peacebuilding

 

Mark Flanigan, Global Education Magazine

 Mark Flanigan

 Program Director at Japan ICU Foundation

 markinmitaka@gmail.com

I am quite honored to write for Global Education Magazine and to share the reflections of my work as Program Director at Japan ICU Foundation, for this special edition the International School Day of Non-Violence and Peace. As a Rotary Peace Fellow alumnus, I am especially happy to be able to reflect on the links between International Education and Peacebuilding as a way to promote positive ties between people and cultures.

At the end of World War II, with Japan suffering from the defeat and the devastation of the war, Christians in Japan and North America decided to come together to form a major university of distinctive liberal arts character. Championed by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, General Douglas MacArthur, Ambassador Edwin Reischauer and other key figures, the newly-founded International Christian University (ICU) took up a vision that would educate future generations of leaders dedicated to international understanding and cooperation. On land that housed a Japanese war-time factory that provided research and development for long-range bomber aircraft, a new University based on peace and post-conflict reconciliation was born. Now celebrating its 60th Anniversary, ICU remains at the forefront of international education in Asia.

Nonetheless, challenges remain. The Japan Times recently published an article citing a 60% decline in the number of Japanese students studying abroad over the past 15 years. While the reasons behind this trend are complex, one of the main constraints often cited by university students in Japan is the high cost of studying abroad. In order to address this problem, the Japan ICU Foundation recently established the Study Abroad Scholarship to support such ICU students with financial need. By providing this specific program to promote international exchange beyond borders, more of these ICU students will be able to pursue their own international experience.

The seed money for the scholarship came from what was the ICU Alumni Association in the Americas (ICUAAA), an organization that was founded by pioneering ICU graduates and was based in New York City. It closed its doors a few years ago to encourage a closer relationship between North American alumni and the ICU Alumni Association in Tokyo. To honor the legacy of the ICUAAA and in order to build bonds between current ICU students and ICU alumni, the scholarship will initially support students who plan to study in the United States, and the recipients will be strongly encouraged to interact with alumni during their time abroad. Future students will also have the option to study in other geographic regions, including Asia.

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The video was filmed and edited by ICU alumna and filmmaker Megumi Nishikura. The music was composed by Paul Hastings. 

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ICU started its first foreign exchange program in 1963 and as of May 2012, had exchange and study abroad relationships with 64 universities in 21 countries and 2 consortia. At present, there are approximately 150 spots available for study abroad. In addition, ICU has exchange and invitee agreements with more than 60 partner universities around the world. According to ICU President Junko Hibiya, who was able to study abroad for her Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania: “Study abroad has innumerable positive effects for a student’s education. Students go abroad to take part in academic programs, but much of what they learn extends beyond the classroom. Social interactions and merely being abroad encourages an international exchange of ideas and leads to enhanced self-awareness and the possibility of new relationships. The Study Abroad Scholarship will encourage a wider breadth of students to take advantage of this opportunity and investment in themselves. The intercultural competency, global-mindedness, and confidence they will build with a foreign language are priceless things that will stay with them their entire lives.

The Japan ICU Foundation will provide a dollar per dollar match up to $50,000 for donations made for the Study Abroad Scholarship over the next two fiscal years, in the hopes of attracting further investment from alumni and friends for this new initiative. Emerging from the ashes of WWII, ICU was envisaged by its first president, Dr. Hachiro Yuasa, as a “University of Tomorrow”, a place where Japanese and international students would live together and learn to serve the needs of an increasingly interconnected world. According to Dean of International affairs Shaun Kingsley Malarney: “We still honor his vision and carry forward this mission today. The Study Abroad Scholarship will continue Dr. Yuasa’s legacy and help more ICU students grow, prosper, and make a difference in our global society.

Thus, through the promotion of Study Abroad as a means to promote both International Education and post-conflict Peacebuilding, ICU has shown a concrete example that it is indeed possible for former wartime combatants to build long-term ties of mutual understanding. Once mortal enemies, Japan and the US continue to build ties that endure into the 21st century. Although it’s just one small example from ICU, we hope it can provide inspiration for other troubled parts of the world and serve as a model for the promotion of ideas and experiences of friendship across our shared planet.

Mark Flanigan Volunteer, Global Education Magazine

Mark Flanigan Volunteer

 

This article was published on January 30th: School Day of Non-violence and Peace in Global Education Magazine

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