Pepperdine’s International Programs office is expanding their global footprint through new summer 2022 programs in Japan and Uganda, Dean of International Programs Beth Laux said. IP hosted trips to these countries before, through Educational Field Trips and previous summer programs. Photo courtesy of Caruso School of Law
Pepperdine’s International Program’s office prepares to launch two new faculty-led summer 2022 programs: Japan and Uganda. IP is hosting these programs to encourage students to explore areas the University is familiar with in new ways, Dean of International Programs Beth Laux said.
Summer faculty-led programs are popular with students, Laux said, especially in places where Pepperdine does not offer academic year programs. International Programs staff expressed their excitement about the potential these two programs have.
“Because it’s the first time we’re doing this particular program [Japan], we want to make it as great as possible and draw on the right students and create a life-changing experience for them,” said Charlie Engelmann, director of Asia Programming. “And then from there, we’ll see what opportunities there are and continue to explore how we can build on it.”
Japan Serves as a Temporary Base
IP decided to host a faculty-led summer 2022 program in Japan early summer of 2021. IP hopes to have 15 participants in the pilot trip, Engelmann said.
Although both programs are in Asia, Engelmann said the opening of the Japan summer program was a separate endeavor from the closure of the Shanghai program, where Engelmann served as director.
The University visited Japan through the recently closed Shanghai program’s Educational Field Trips, Laux said. Additionally, the Caruso School of Law has a business program in Japan, which is unrelated to the summer 2022 program.
“It was a place where we were comfortable piloting some activities to see if that’s something that resonated with students and if it’s a good opportunity academically for Seaver College,” Laux said.
The presence of the Japan summer program is not indicative of the academic year Asia program, and IP is still in the early stages of creating said program, Engelmann said.
The Japan program has a focus on the global economy, Engelmann said. Engelmann teaches ECON 211, which is “Macroeconomics,” with a focus on Japan’s economy. In addition, Japan offers students the one-unit “International Experience” class, taught in every residential program.
“The way I teach that class is to help think more critically about culture and understanding culture through the lens of our own personal experiences — but also helping, through that broader cultural understanding, to understand ourselves better,” Engelmann said.
To foster cultural understanding, Engelmann said his class will have local guest speakers to offer an outside perspective. IP also encourages students to explore Japan on their own outside of classes.
“I hope to have other cross-cultural opportunities with students in those cultures so either partnering with a local university or a local institute and seeing if there’s engagement opportunities for our students with their students,” Engelmann said. “Some of these things, we’re in the early stages of trying to find opportunities for, but that’s an ideal situation.”
Using University Background in Uganda
Because the Uganda summer 2022 program is a pilot program, IP aims for 25 to 30 participants, Ron Cox, associate dean of International Programs said. IP’s standard minimum is 12 students, and the program’s capacity caps at 35 to 40 students.
“The goal is to take what we’ve already done and add to it by having another Uganda program so that they’re [East Africa and Uganda] at least alternating,” Cox said. “And again, ours is a pilot program, so we’re checking to see what the interest is, we’re checking to see what it will look like. We’re also hoping that we will be able to expand or develop our program as we go along.”
While the summer 2022 program is separate from the Caruso Law School Uganda Fellowship, Cox said IP will depend on the law school’s knowledge of Uganda and use the program as a framework for students.
Gash said, as a resource person for the Uganda program, he offers connections, encouragement and past exposure to allow the program to explore a variety of opportunities.
“Past experience with the law school has demonstrated that this can be done safely, that students can engage in a transformative experience that expands their view of the world and allows them to engage directly with the local population in ways that our overseas programs don’t always fully maximize,” Gash said.
The Uganda program, Gash said, offers a way for the University and its students to geographically and culturally expand into Africa and learn about different perspectives outside the U.S.
The program will provide students opportunities to learn from Uganda citizens and leaders, Gash said, in addition to IP staples like encountering a language barrier and learning about themselves.
“Learning and spending time in another culture is humbling because you realize, ‘Well, my worldview has so many presuppositions that come with it that I just accept without critically evaluating,'” Gash said.
To encourage cross-cultural conversation, IP will educate students on how to engage with Uganda in a culturally sensitive way, spending time with Ugandans their age and listening to guest speakers, Cox said.
“Our approach in terms of how we understand service learning and how we understand exposing students to what’s going on in the country and understanding it — not from the angle of what can we do to help Uganda but what Ugandans are doing to strengthen their own communities — is a high priority to us,” Cox said.
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