In less than a month, Erica Berejnoi ’16 will defend her Ph.D. dissertation in Sustainability at Arizona State University. This monumental educational achievement is a milestone in a journey of learning that began at Berea College, where she majored in Asian Studies and Business Administration. As a Berea student, Erica spent time in China and discovered a love for Chinese culture that later blossomed into an exploration of holistic spiritual traditions that have informed her work as a scholar of sustainability. “The classes I took on Asian Studies have helped me a lot during my time at the Ph.D. program at ASU,” says Erica, who has authored or co-authored six scholarly articles and one book chapter thus far. Her dissertation, entitled Dancing through the Inner Dimension of Sustainability: An Autoethnography, investigates the connections between sustainability, spirituality, and happiness – research that was supported, in part, by a Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award. She writes, “Sustainability goes beyond the numbers: you can see it at the table with the foods you eat (or do not have), on the streets with people and animals passing by (if you are fortunate to live in a place where you interact with animals outside the home), on your ability to get up from bed each day, or how you treat yourself and others…Sustainability is a journey we live every day.” Congratulations, Erica! We are very proud of you!
Video game designer and entrepreneur Tristan Lee Riven ’06 and his Korean collaborator, artist Kim Minho, recently were honored at the 2020 Taipei Game Show in Taiwan. Their company, South Korea-based Devespresso Games, won the “Best Narration” and “Grand Prix” awards for its game The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters. A total of 141 game titles from 17 countries were entered in this year’s competition, of which only 30 games were nominated to compete for awards. Congratulations, Tristan & co.!
Every year, a handful of Berea seniors and graduates apply for the highly competitive Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. Since 1987, more than 70,000 college and university graduates from all around the world have taught their native languages in Japan through the JET Program, which is administered by the Japanese government in cooperation with 38 other national governments. For most of that time, only one applicant from Berea has been successful each year. In 2019, however, six Berea graduates were accepted by the program, setting a new record. This year, all four finalists from Berea – graduating Asian Studies majors Myles Crain ’20, Dominique Jenkins ’20, and Jesse Paul ’20, along with graduating Asian Studies minor (and Computer Science major) Rusty Dotson ’20 – received offers of positions with JET. Myles, Jesse, and Rusty will become Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs), helping to teach English in Japanese K-12 classrooms, while Dominique will take on an assignment as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR), which will entail duties as a translator and interpreter with a local government office in Japan. Myles and Dominique prepared for their JET experiences by completing internships at the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project (KEEP) in Berea’s sister region of Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, while all four studied in East Asia as part of their Berea careers. Congratulations and おめでとう to all!
Due to the closure of campus on March 15 in response to COVID-19 concerns, the Asian Studies Department’s graduating class of 2020 had to make do with a hurried, informal celebration of their achievements. Fortunately, Noodle Nirvana, a favorite Berea restaurant, was still open for on-site dining at the time and was able to host the farewell dinner. Three graduating seniors – major Jesse Paul ’20 and minors Delaney Anderson ’20 and Sienna Burgess ’20 – also were inducted into Epsilon Alpha Sigma (EAΣ), the honor society for academic achievement in East Asian studies.
Our sole December 2019 graduate is Nicole Mangin ’19, who has completed a double major in Asian Studies and Art History. Nicole anticipates going to graduate school for further training as an archivist. During her Berea experience, Nicole managed to spend two summers in Japan — first, as a student with the Kentucky Institute for International Studies (KIIS) intensive program, primarily in Japan’s Kansai region, and then as an intern at the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project (KEEP) in Japan’s Kantō region. We wish Nicole every success. 頑張ってください!
The Asian studies Department recently heard from Joseph Shinji Leis ’18, who now works for Goken America, which serves clients in the automotive and aerospace industries, notably Honda Motor Company. Although he originally was hired as a Japanese/English technical translator, his Portfolio has since expanded to include simultaneous Japanese/English interpretation, online journal writing, directing the company’s Japanese program, and teaching Japanese language. “My lack of engineering background and the industry jargon was a difficult hurdle to overcome in the beginning,” says Joseph, “but I now enjoy the more inter-relational aspects of my job, as I get to meet new people at every meeting at which I interpret and teach different business people who are preparing to go to Japan. I am grateful that I have a job that is related to what I studied, pays decently, impacts other’s lives for the better, and allows me to utilize my Japanese background.”
Joseph does not plan to remain in this field for the long term, however. With his brother, Benjamin Takeshi Leis ’22, Joseph has inaugurated a podcast about anime and manga entitled Tachi Yomi, which may be heard on a variety of platforms such as iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. He also has developed an interest in chronicling the Japanese diaspora through a documentary film that will explore what it means to be “Japanese” through the eyes of ethnically-Japanese persons all over the world. Look for more news about this exciting project here over the next year or so!
UPDATE (November 7, 2019): Joseph has accepted a position as a Japanese/English translator and interpreter with PlayStation in San Diego, California! He says, “As a kid, I remember dreaming of working in the gaming industry and imagining how cool it would be to be involved with the creation of games, but now that dream has come true. I am working with wonderful team members who are just as passionate as I am and the benefits certainly don’t hurt either. Thank you to all my friends, family, professors, and mentors for your support. I would not have achieved anything in life if it were not for you. I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to all my co-workers at Honda R&D and Goken America. The time I spent at Honda was invaluable to me. I will not lie, it certainly was tough at times. But with the advice, training, and support from my coworkers, I was able to overcome many barriers and grow immensely as a professional. I am so grateful for the time and training invested in me and I will not forget all the lessons learned at Honda.” おめでとうございます, Joseph!
The Asian Studies Department congratulates Molly Baker Halstead ’11, who recently accepted a position as Engagement Services Manager at Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts! Molly, who double-majored in Asian Studies and Art History at Berea, studied in Japan through the KIIS program and assisted visiting scholar Dr. Sandy Kita in cataloging rare Japanese items in the College’s Asian art collection during her years here. After three years of professional experience as Curator and Art Gallery Manager at Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia’s David L. Dickirson Gallery in her native West Virginia, Molly returned to Kentucky to complete her M.A. in Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Kentucky. During the 2018-19 academic year, Molly served as Assistant Curator of the College Art Collections and Manager of the Doris Ulmann Galleries here on campus, so we are delighted that she will continue to remain in the area after completing her work at Berea.
Led by Dr. Jianfen Wang and Dr. Lauren McKee, eighteen Berea students are experiencing China this summer through the Berea International Summer Term (BIST) China program. While in China, not only have they visited many cultural and historical sites, but they also met with Berea alum Dylan Hunziker ’14, who serves as a Foreign Service Officer with the United States Embassy in Beijing. 一路平安! Safe travels!
Kelly Williams ’07, who has lived in Singapore since 2015, recently completed his Global Masters of Business Administration at the University of Manchester in England, earning a “pass with distinction” for his thesis work toward the degree. Now he is beginning a new career with the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (AmCham) as AmCham’s Director of Business Development and Operations. AmCham is the largest and the most active international business association in Singapore and Southeast Asia, with over 5,200 members representing more than 700 companies. After a decade of working in a variety of business-related fields in East Asia and Southeast Asia, Kelly continues to put his Asian Studies degree to work by taking care of business in Asia. Congratulations, Kelly!
In May 2019, ten of our students will celebrate the end of their Berea College journeys:
Emma Batson ’19 (minor) will begin doctoral studies in clinical psychology with a specialization in child and adolescent psychology at Wheaton College. She hopes to put her Psy.D. to work by serving lower-income families in her hometown of Fairmont, West Virginia.
Benjamin Hall ’19 (major) plans to relocate to Los Angeles, California to pursue a career and further education in theatre.
Caitlin Hodgson ’19 (minor) will return to her hometown of Kingsport, Tennessee to volunteer in its city archives and high school library. She plans to earn her master’s degree in library and information science and become a professional archivist.
Eunice Jijon Jarquin ’19 (major) has accepted a staff position with The Arete Project’s summer 2019 Glacier Bay Session, a summer program that enables students to live, study, and work at a remote field school stationed on an island archipelago near Glacier Bay National Park in southeast Alaska.