APSU/CMCSS form historic partnership to offer Japanese and Korean languages
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APSU/CMCSS form historic partnership to offer Japanese and Korean languages

President White(Posted Aug. 2, 2018)

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Austin Peay State University and the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System launched a major partnership today (Aug. 2) to become the state’s first public education institutions to offer both Japanese and Korean language courses to students. The new classes, funded by grants from The Japan Foundation and the ALLEX Foundation, were developed to better serve the Japanese- and Korean-owned businesses investing in this region.

Last spring, Dr. David Rands, director of APSU’s Asian Studies program, contacted Dr. Sean Impeartrice, CMCSS chief academic officer, about pursuing the grants, and the partnership quickly gained the support of both administrations.

“CMCSS is a district focused on innovation and how best to prepare students for college and career,” Milliard L. House II, director of schools, said. “By offering Korean and Japanese courses, we are not only increasing our portfolio of options to students, we are honoring our community workforce partners.”

President White

Foreign economic footprint

Last year, the Korean tire company Hankook opened an $800 million plant in Clarksville, and the company moved its North American headquarters to Nashville. Later this fall, LG Electronics is expected to open the Korean company’s first washing machine plant in the U.S. in Clarksville.

According to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Japan is Tennessee’s largest foreign investor, with 184 Japanese companies employing nearly 50,000 people in the state. The Asian nation has invested more than $17 billion in Tennessee, and several high-profile companies, such as Nissan North America Inc. and Bridgestone Americas Tire Operation, have opened corporate headquarters in the state.

“In the current economic recruitment climate, foreign direct investment is competitive, and each incoming corporation is looking for a community that offers multiple assets ranging from land and infrastructure to education and available workforce,” Mike Evans, executive director of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Economic Development Council, said. “Having an engaged and proactive school system that invests in opportunities, such as the Korean and Japanese foreign language programs, helps to move Clarksville-Montgomery County to the next level in our recruitment efforts.”

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Grant-funded programs

In May, The Japan Foundation awarded APSU and CMCSS a $30,000 grant to “start up a new Japanese program at Clarksville High School as well as promoting the current Japanese program at Austin Peay State University.” The two institutions will share an instructor, Dr. Mitsutoshi Inaba, who will spend 60 percent of his time at Austin Peay and 40 percent of his time at CHS’s business academy.

The ALLEX Foundation grant is allowing both APSU and CMCSS to hire a Korean native-speaking graduate student, Soseul Park, to teach 40 percent of the time at Austin Peay and 60 percent of her time at Rossview High School. Because both institutions are sharing instructors, the programs will maintain consistency as students move from high school to college.

“Austin Peay is committed to serving this community through strategic partnerships and the creation of new programs that serve the cultural and employment needs of this region,” Dr. Alisa White, APSU president, said. “We’re excited to work with the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System to provide a pathway for students seeking to study Japanese and Korean at the college level, while also preparing skilled, highly qualified job candidates for our local industries.”

With these grants, CMCSS is the only school district in Tennessee to offer Korean as a high school class, and APSU is the only university to offer the language at the college level. CMCSS is the only district to offer Korean and Japanese in the high school format. Austin Peay began offering the Japanese language four years ago, through its Asian Studies minor, and that program continues to grow.

“This year, three (APSU) students were selected for the Japanese government’s prestigious Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) program,” White said. “Many larger institutions treat the JET program applications the same as Fulbright applications, and having three selected for the JET program is a testament to the type of students we’re preparing here at Austin Peay.”

Clarksville High School junior Isabella Wren Sullivan learned about the new, grant-funded program last spring and became one of the first students to enroll in the new Japanese course.

“In the future, I hope to have a global career, so being given the privilege to study the Japanese language and learn about its culture will give me a significant advantage in the business world,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to live in a community like Clarksville that embraces economic partnerships with international businesses to bring us opportunities such as this. I am really looking forward to this educational experience, and I am excited about what the Japanese language program will mean to our school community.”

At Rossview High School, which sits only a few miles from the Hankook plant, sophomore Jennifer Boyd will take advantage of the school’s new language class.

“I have been wanting to learn Korean for a while and I have been trying to teach myself,” she said. “Now, I will be able to learn Korean correctly so that I am better prepared for my future. I believe taking Korean in high school will open the doors for more job opportunities in my future. I have always thought about wanting to live in Korea and work there as a teacher. Now, I will know the language and feel comfortable.”

For more information, contact Dr. David Rands at randsd@apsu.edu.