Japanese program flourishes

Interest in studying Japanese language and culture has blossomed at UM in the last 20 years thanks in large part to the work of Professor Judith Rabinovitch. She has held the Karashima Endowed Professorship of Japanese Language and Culture since 1991.

This endowed professorship can trace its roots back to November 1988 when James Koch, President of UM at the time, traveled to Missoula’s sister-city, Kumamoto, Japan. During his trip abroad, President Koch emphasized the growing interest in studying Japanese language, history, law and literature at UM, and that the demand for these classes was twice what the University could supply.  His plea fell favorably on the ears of Tsukasa Karashima, the president and director general of the Foreign Language Academy in Kumamoto, and Mr. Karashima donated 100 million yen (approximately $800,000) to UM to establish an endowed professorship.

Today, in order to stay in touch with the professorship’s original intention and purpose, Rabinovitch still teaches Japanese Language 101 courses almost every year.

“I like to get students at the ground level,” says Rabinovitch. Today, UM offers both a major and minor in Japanese and each year around 225 UM students enroll in Japanese language courses, not counting the ones who travel abroad to study in Japanese partner institutions.

“We have assisted with the establishment of seven different exchange programs with Japanese institutions,” Rabinovitch explains. UM sends five to ten students to Japan each year to study or to work at summer internships.

One of UM’s strategic goals is education for the Global Century, with one measure of success being the number of students who study abroad or have other experiences outside the classroom.

UM senior Emma Lundberg just spent a year studying at Toyo University in Tokyo as part of a study exchange program. Lundberg, who is seeking a minor in Japanese to complement her international business and marketing degree, says her teachers at UM helped her apply for various scholarships to make the trip possible.

“The Japanese program at UM provided a great mix of language and culture studies that helped me during my time abroad,” says Lundberg. “After graduation I would like to return to Japan and work for an international music company.”

“What’s nice about our program is that we get a diversity of interest,” Rabinovitch says. The most popular major pursued by her students who are not Japanese majors are business, creative writing and art, with the latter showing an expressed interest in Japanese anime and illustration.

To learn more about supporting the Japanese program, or about endowed professorships in the College of Arts and Sciences, please contact Kelley Willett at 406.243.2646.

Judith with a friendly Japanese dragon

Professor Judith Rabinovitch with a friendly Japanese demon after a traditional Shinto religious ritual in Takeda, Japan.

Japanese class

Seniors learn to read classical Japanese literature, transcribing a passage from the Tale of Isle. The text they were working with was script from the 13th century.