Too often an overlooked superpower, Japan’s image needs a revival, according to scholars like The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s Annika Culver.
Culver, who is coordinator of UNCP’s Asian Studies Program, explains.
“Japan has the world’s third largest economy; they are strategically important to U.S. interests; and they are on the front line of world relief efforts,” she said. “With the recent ‘Asian pivot’ in U.S. foreign policy, Japan’s role as a key partner is more important than ever in triangular relations with China,” she said.
Culver is a new generation Japan scholar and a fellow of the U.S.-Japan Network for the Future, a project of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. With a cohort of scholars, she has been meeting with ambassadors and representatives from the Pentagon, trade groups, Congress, Senate and nongovernmental organizations.
“I am very honored to be part of the U.S.-Japan Network,” Culver said. “It is a great program that is infused with learning.”
Culver has been making the most of her two-year appointment, which expires in 2014, attending conferences and meetings in Washington, D.C., Asia and elsewhere. She is also having an impact on UNCP’s campus.
Culver has worked to infuse UNCP with Japanese resources and culture. With three grants from the Nippon Foundation, Association for Asian Studies, and UNCP Teaching Enhancement Award, she has purchased $7,000 in books on Japan for the Mary Livermore Library.
A Japanese Pop-Culture Festival last spring included films, gaming, craft activities, Japanese snacks and Cosplay, a form of performance art where students don costumes to play character roles. The event tapped into the worldwide popularity of Japanese pop art and culture and attracted more than 200 students.
“The library now has hundreds of new books on Japan,” Culver said. “The festival was very popular and spun off a student-driven Anime and Manga club called Genshiken.”
Culver, who counts Japanese and Chinese among the five languages she speaks, is a good fit for the mission of the Japan Network. A specialist in Japanese cultural history, her newest book, “Glorify the Empire: Japanese Avant-Garde Propaganda in Manchukuo, 1932-45,” will be released in February by University of British Columbia Press.
“My goal is to be a resource on Asia, at home and internationally,” Culver said. She teaches introductory, upper level, and graduate courses on the Comparative Asian Civilization, History of Modern East Asia, Introduction to Asian Studies, Japanese Civilizations, the U.S. and East Asia and Japanese Imperialism and War.
Ernest Ansah travelled a long distance from Ghana-West Africa to attend his first meeting of the Advisory Board of UNCP’s School of Business.
Ansah is the president and founder of Data Link University College in Tema-Ghana. He hopes to build on already established ties with UNCP, and the School of Business hopes to build on its growing international focus. He was contacted to serve on the School of Business Advisory Board by Mensah upon the request of Ramin Maysami, dean of UNCP’s School of Business.
“I am pleased to join the Advisory Board,” Ansah said. “This is a beautiful campus, and I would love to have all of you to come take a look at what we are doing.”
Ansah has big plans for his institution, which has an enrollment of more than 2,000 and currently offers courses in business and information technology. Data Link has acquired seven square miles of land which will host its new facilities, such as department of medicine, engineering and many more. Because it is West Africa’s most stable nation politically, Ghana’s economy is booming.
UNCP economist Cliff Mensah is from Ghana and has spent time at Data Link as a volunteer, lecturing students and guiding faculty in research.
“I have taught for the past four summers at Data Link, and two of my colleagues have joined me,” Mensah said. “I have also collected several shipping containers of books at UNCP for shipment to Ghana.”
Mensah pointed out that the mission of the School of Business leans heavily on the goal of internationalizing its curriculum to train students with a global business perspective.
“Mr. Ansah is the first international representative on our advisory board,” Mensah said. “I believe a relationship with an African university will benefit our students and our mission.”
Scott Bigelow is the associate director of public relations for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.