Indiana University has been awarded a new five-year grant worth nearly $5 million that will continue funding a high-speed network (TransPAC) that connects researchers in the US with scholars in Asia, emphasizing the continued importance of the region. The state itself shares many additional connections with Asia, especially with Japan through its long history of collaborative partnerships and exchanges that began over a hundred years ago. Some of the first bilateral interactions occurred through educational institutions, such as when the first Japanese student graduated from Earlham College in 1893 with a degree in math.
Today, far more formal exchange programs exist in the state, continuing the tradition of cultivating relations and promoting greater understanding between students of Indiana universities and those of Japanese institutions. In total, approximately 19 universities in Indiana maintain some kind of partnership program with various institutions across Japan. This includes places like Indiana University-Bloomington, which has a student exchange program with Doshisha University and a partnership with Waseda University in Tokyo. Programs also exist at Purdue University, which has the highest number of foreign students of any school in the state, and 15 partnerships with various Japanese universities. Earlham College maintains one of the oldest Japan exchange programs in the state sending and hosting students since 1963.
Exchanges are present at some high schools across Indiana. Carmel High School, located just north of Indianapolis, and Seikyo Gakuen High School located in Osaka, Japan, have shared an exchange program for more than 20 years. The sister school relationship became the basis for a broader sister city relationship between the city of Carmel, Indiana and Kawachinagano, Japan, which was officially established in 1994. Japanese language courses are offered across Indiana in more than 100 high schools, highlighting the continued value of the Japanese language in the state.
Indiana is tenth in the country in number of foreign students studying in the state with China, India, and South Korea sending the most. In the 2013-14 academic year, there were over 300 Japanese students enrolled in degree- or credit-earning programs in Indiana, contributing over $10 million to the state economy.
Nate Schlabach is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a graduate student at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.