Friday, May 8, 2015

By Li Dai, The Daily Iowan

A new grant for the third-largest language program at the University of Iowa will mean expanded Japanese programs around campus. 

A more than $300,000 Institutional Project Support grant from the Japan Foundation will bring new faculty, facilities, and opportunities for more students to learn Japanese at the UI.

“With the matching funds from various parts of the UI, it will be worth well over $650,000 going towards advancing Japanese Studies on campus in many different ways,” said Morten Schlütter, the director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies (CAPS).

Kendall Heitzman, a UI assistant professor of Japanese literature and culture, said the grant will immediately allow the department to hire a new professor in Japanese literary and visual culture next academic year.

Hugh Ferrer, associate director of International Writing Program, said exchanging cultures, increasing student interest, and laying a foundation for consistent Japanese participation in the fall residency in the future are benefits of adding three writers-in-residence from Japan.


“The annual fall residency offers windows on dozens of contemporary literary scenes around the world,” Ferrer said. “Japan is one of the most vibrant literary cultures, and thanks to this grant, that literary culture will be present on campus in the most immediate way.”

A new reading room on the second floor of the Main Library where the East Asian collection is held will be constructed in 2016 with help from this grant.

“The Main Library and Japanese Collection are very happy to be a part of this grant application,” said Chiaki Sakai, a Japanese Studies librarian at the Main Library.

Sakai said the Music Library will move out of the Main Library in the fall of 2016, opening up the spot for the new reading room.

“The space will be renovated for the East Asian Collection use including offices for the Japanese and Chinese Studies librarians and some reading space,” she said. “We do not have a room design plan yet.”

She said they will also enhance our popular culture and pre-modern literature sections, and this is to go along with the grant theme and projects.

“We hope the renovated space will be more welcoming and approachable, and attract more users to the East Asian Collection,” Sakai said.

Heitzman said the grant is an extraordinary gift but the department would like to raise more funds to create more opportunities for students to study abroad.

“Nothing would make the Japan Foundation happier than to see their grant help us secure additional money to fund our programs,” he said. “In the future, we want to find donors who will help our students study abroad in Japan; the Japanese faculty and Professor Schlütter care about this very deeply and think about it constantly.”

Heitzman said Japan is a very expensive place to study abroad, and for many of the students, it seems out of reach. 

“I would love it if this grant were to help us make the case to other potential donors that we are a good bet, that even a modest gift could help send our students abroad and change their lives forever,” Heitzman said.