Japanese absorb American college experience at Knox

Researchers tour liberal arts schools

May 25, 2010

By LAUREN REES, The Register-Mail
Posted May 25, 2010 @ 09:39 PM at galesburg.com

Japanese educators visit Knox CollegeGALESBURG - A team of Japanese educational researchers were Knox College students Tuesday, dining in the Hard Knox Cafe and checking out the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house.

Photo right: Yoshi Zaki, left, a Japanese educator, goes through the lunch line at Knox College with Lucas Motta, middle, Tuesday afternoon, as Patrick McGinty moves ahead of them. The group of researchers stopped at Knox for the day as part of a study tour through Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Register-Mail photo by Kent Kriegshauser.

The group of researchers stopped at Knox for the day as part of a study tour through Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The team members are observing American liberal arts universities in an attempt to understand more about institutional research - the analysis of a university's operations, processes, methods and data that allow it to compare itself to other universities.

Ryohei Matsuda, associate professor of Japanese studies at Knox, helped coordinate the visit. He said the team, made up of administrators and professors from higher education institutions across Japan, wanted to see a traditional, private liberal arts college, and Knox fit the bill. The Japanese team visited Northwestern University and Lake Forest College before Knox.

"Higher education is very competitive (in Japan)," Matsuda said. It's a survival game."

In order to attract more applicants, Japanese colleges and universities are investigating institutional research methods to apply to their own schools, eventually making them more competitive. But the idea is new to the Japanese - so new that there isn't a translation of the term yet.

To learn more, the team first met with Knox's director of Institutional Research, Charles Clark. Through a translator, some of the team members said they found the information at that meeting helpful.

Japanese educators visit Knox College"It was a very interesting presentation," said Akinori Suzuki through a translator. "We are trying to collect data internally and externally and then store the information."

Photo, right: Knox College President Roger Taylor, far left, and Knox College Chief Financial Officer Tom Axtell, seated next to Taylor, meet with a group of educators from Japan Tuesday afternoon in the Lincoln Room in Old Main at Knox. Register-Mail photo by Kent Kriegshauser.

The team then moved into the cafeteria for lunch and seemed to enjoy the buffet-style of eating, which isn't the norm in Japan.

"They realized college kids gain 15 pounds at the end of freshman year and they wanted to experience that," Matsuda joked.

As the Japanese researchers ate, they watched students buzz around the cafeteria.

"Students are the same all over the world," said Tomomutsu Ono of the Kochi University of Technology.

Beta Theta Pi members Lucas Motta and Mike Wipper, who also is the former president of the fraternity, dined with the educators. Wipper spent a lot of time speaking to Keiko Iwano of Tokyo Metropolitan University.

She really liked the atmosphere of all the campuses," Wipper said. "It's a great opportunity to get to know different cultures, especially when they're experiencing our own culture."

While communication between cultures was sometimes difficult, it was apparent that the team was excited to see the fraternity house. Matsuda said the Japanese researchers were expecting something from "Animal House" or "American Pie: Beta House," since fraternities and sororities do not exist in Japan. But Wipper and Motta stressed that the stereotypes weren't true and presented the team members with glasses bearing the fraternity's crest.

The Japanese researchers will next head to Alverno College in Milwaukee next, followed by the University of Minnesota, Minnesota State University and St. Olaf College.

Copyright 2010 The Register-Mail. Reproduced by permission

Below: Fraternity houses at Knox "are not like what you see in the movies," explains Lucas Motta, a member of Beta Theta Pi, talking with Japanese educators visiting Knox College and other U.S. colleges in May. Motta, who has studied Japanese at Knox, led a tour of the fraternity house with chapter president Michael Wipper. More photos from the campus visit...

Japanese educators visit Knox College