– UMSL Languages department hired a new professor in Japanese, thanks to a grant from the Japan Foundation, Los Angeles. –
PHOTO: by Kat Riddler for The Current ©.


By Daniel C. Hodges, Staff Writer for The Current

University of Missouri–St. Louis’ Japanese language department hired a new professor, thanks to a grant from the Japan Foundation, Los Angeles (JFLA).

Professor Keiko Ueda is the new assistant teaching professor in the Japanese language department thanks to the Salary Assistance Grant for Japanese Language Courses awarded by the JFLA.  The Salary Assistance Grant was for $30,000 and specifically designated for expanding the Japanese department by hiring a new faculty member. The grant was also specifically contingent on UMSL continuing to maintain the position after the grant ran out.  According to Elizabeth Eckelkamp, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Fine Arts and Communication, it was Dean Ron Yasbin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who committed to maintaining the position due to the growth of the Japanese language department. She credited him, saying, “without his support we would not have been eligible for this grant.”  The grant was applied for by the Department of Anthropology’s Eichi Shibusawa-Seigo Arai Endowed Professor of Japanese Studies, Dr. Laura Miller.  According to the UMSL Daily, Dr. Miller praised Professor Amy Michael of the Japanese department and Dean Eckelkamp for their assistance in completing the lengthy application process.

Professor Ueda was chosen after a nationwide search for Japanese language professors.  She was raised in Osaka, Japan and came to the United States in 2006 as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant.  Prior to UMSL, Professor Ueda taught Japanese for eight years.  Professor Ueda received her Masters of Arts degree in Japanese with tracks in applied linguistics from Purdue University in 2014. Professor Ueda hopes to teach her students beyond the surface of simply learning Japanese and additionally instill in them better communications skills, flexibility and patience. Professor Ueda said she plans to infuse her courses with cultural lessons she has previously taught, such as “origami, singing songs, calligraphy, haiku, etiquette of chopsticks, cooking and tea ceremony and so on.”  She will join Professor Michael and graduate assistant Hiromi Ishikawa, graduate, political science, as full-time faculty. This semester, they are teaching eight sections, serving over 75 Japanese language students and more than 25 Japanese majors. Professor Ueda will be primarily teaching upper level courses. Dean Eckelkamp said, “We know that our students will benefit greatly from her creativity and experience.”

The Salary Assistance Grant was presented to UMSL on August 29 in the Social Sciences Building.  According to the UMSL Daily, Japan’s consulate general from Chicago, Masaharu Yoshida, was present to personally deliver the award certificate and check to Provost Glen Cope.  Consulate General Yoshida spoke on the occasion, praising UMSL for being the only state school in Missouri to offer a Japanese major. The UMSL Daily said that 23 universities received awards from the JFLA, with UMSL being only one of five in the Midwestern United States to receive one.

The JFLA offers the Salary Assistance Grant for Japanese Language Courses to educational institutions who are either starting up a Japanese language department, or who are interested in expanding a preexisting program. According to the JFLA, UMSL may again apply for the grant for the 2015–2016 school year, though it would be subject to much more scrutiny as the faculty position is supposed to become self-sustaining after the first year; priority would be given to institutions applying for their first grant. The JFLA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “[promote] international awareness and mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S. through cultural exchange.” The Japan Foundation, Los Angeles was founded in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo in February 1983.

© The Current 2014