As long as a commitment to deepening the relationship over time is present, there can be great benefit in bringing more than two institutions together for international partnership work.
For small institutions, joining together with others can balance the number of students moving between the United States and Japan. For colleges and universities just starting to connect with those in the other country, working through consortia or organizations already operating in the other country provides a valuable way to get started. Such group relationships can also share costs.
Of equal importance, bringing in non-academic partners can add dimensions and perspectives that enhance programming for students and faculty alike. Such partners can be the source of internships, service projects, and other forms of experiential learning. For colleges and universities with a mission to serve their local communities, such partners can also directly reflect the U.S.-Japanese interests of organizations, localities, and businesses in those communities.
The key to such multi-institutional collaborations is treating them with the same care and commitment as one-on-one linkages. Attention must be paid to the same issues of communication, organization, integrity, and mutual benefit that characterize all good partnerships. Some consortia live up to their promise. Some do not.
When they work well, such multi-institutional alliances enhance what all their members can do. The good ones come in many forms. Here is a sampling:
- Consortia of colleges and universities. Sometimes one institution takes the lead in such coalitions. Sometimes they are managed by a multi-institutional board or committee. In either case, they can enable participating colleges and universities to balance student exchanges as a group, rather than as individual institutions. They can also share costs for program development. And they can pool the faculty and disciplinary strengths of all members.The Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies, administered by Columbia University and held at Doshisha University, is such an alliance. Participating U.S. institutions send students for advanced Japanese language study and other courses in which they are joined by students from Kyoto University. On a rotating basis, these institutions also send faculty to teach in the program.
- Third-party study abroad providers. These are independent organizations that facilitate or administer study abroad programs for university students. Colleges and universities in the United States often identify several provider organizations offering programs approved for their students. Criteria for such approval include the degree to which the organization understands and provides a quality academic experience in the other country; the orientation and other services it offers to students; financial and ethical integrity; and cost.In terms of developing the strategic, on-going, mutually beneficial partnerships discussed in this RoadMap, it is also important to explore the extent to which providers enable colleges and universities to interact with the same institutions in the other country over time, the degree to which they offer experiences that can be integrated into your curriculum, and how willing the provider is to develop programs specifically tailored to your institution.There are many high-quality providers arranging study abroad experiences for U.S. students in Japan. Here are two of the ones that also offer programming for Japanese students in the United States. The first, ISEP (International Student Exchange Program), places U.S. students directly in programs at one of seven Japanese universities, and Japanese students directly in programs at over 100 U.S. institutions. The second, Cultural Vistas, arranges service projects and internships for Japanese and U.S. students going to each other’s countries.
- Companies with bases in both the United States and Japan. Multinational businesses that operate in both nations generally recognize the value of promoting U.S.-Japanese relationships, developing future employees who can work in both locations, and tapping academic expertise. The result can be financial support for study abroad, development of internship programs, and research and development collaborations with universities and colleges.The Tobitate program, for example, makes this interest a core element of its funding model and is premised on developing partnerships among Japanese companies, educational institutions, and government agencies to fund outward mobility for Japanese students. Already over 100 Japanese businesses have signed on to the initiative.Partner colleges and universities in the United States and Japan can also develop more direct relationships with locally based companies that operate in both countries. The Portland State University – Hokkaido University partnership, for example, has made significant connections to the city governments where each is located as well as the businesses that span Portland and Sapporo. The connection between the sustainability centers at both universities, for example, was directly involved in Nissan and Mitsubishi premiering some of their electric cars in Portland.
- Local communities. As indicated in the example just given, strategic partnerships can also benefit from links that may exist between the locality or state/prefecture where each college or university is located. These links can provide valuable resources for enhancing student mobility. They can be of many sorts. Business or trade connections and immigrant populations that connect the two regions are two of the most common. Another is the existence of a formal Sister City or Sister State relationship.The United States and Japan have an unusually dense network of such sister or twinning relationships. Through the Sister Cities International organization, Japan is tied with Mexico for the most partnerships with U.S. cities. Each has around 200 such city-to-city alliances with the United States, far ahead of all other countries.There is no overarching sister state organization, but some U.S. states and Japanese prefectures engage in such relationships on their own. A premier example of an academic partnerships intersecting with such a sister state relationship is found in the example given to the left on this page.
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