For 25 years, Asia University in Japan has been sending its students to Western Washington University twice each year for a five-month English-language and culture immersion program.
In recognition of that success, and with the hope of expanding the program to other universities in Asia, a handful of WWU representatives are in Asia this week and next visiting with the heads of various universities there.
Programs such as the Asia University America Program at Western are hugely popular among Asian universities, says Marlene Harlan, director of summer programs with Western’s Extended Education, which oversees AUAP.
WWU, specifically, is a popular destination, she says.
“The beauty of our area is huge for them,” Harlan says. “There are so many trees and so much green. And the air is clean, the water is clean. Most of these students are coming from crowded urban centers that aren’t that way. It’s a different feel for them, with the smaller community and Pacific Northwest landscape.”
Joining Western President Bruce Shepard on the two-week trip to South Korea and Japan are Francisco Rios, dean of Woodring College of Education; Steven Hollenhorst, dean of Huxley College of the Environment; Earl Gibbons, vice provost for Extended Education; Rick O’Connor, director of Language and Culture Programs; Alisa Sweet, assistant adviser in AUAP; and Joseph Hunter, senior director of development and leaderships gifts with the Western Foundation.
The purpose of the trip is to recognize the quarter of a century in which Western and Asia University have worked together, to seek new partnerships among Asian universities, visit with Western Alumni living abroad, and to form relationships with others who may want to support the university.
Western is well-regarded academically in Asia, says Harlan, who visited Korea in May to set up this trip. That’s one reason that Shepard will ink new partnerships with five universities -- four Korean, one Japanese -- on this trip.
“They want to partner with institutions with good rankings out there (in Asia), and Western does,” she says. “They pay careful attention to that.”
Western is selective, too, in which universities it partners with, she says. The institutions with which Western is working are on a level similar to Western.
Western has a long relationship with youth in Korea, having hosted students in kindergarten through 12th grade for the past five years for summer-long educational programs.
“There are about 150 Korean kids from all over the country on campus right now,” Harlan says.
Many of the universities that Shepard and the rest of the Western contingent will visit are interested in Western’s stellar reputation for teacher education and environmental science programs. They know that Western’s original strength is as a teacher’s college, and that Western boasts one of the oldest environmental programs in the U.S. That’s one big reason Rios and Hollenhorst, deans of Woodring and Huxley respectively, are on the trip.
The group spends this week in Korea and next week in Japan, ending with a celebration and student reunion at Asia University.