Just after graduation, Joseph Ingrao ’16 joined the team at Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), an international organization of organic farmers. WWOOF has provided Joe with the opportunity to learn on farms around the world, which has been one of Joe’s passions since he become deeply involved with campus sustainability initiatives. This year, Joe has connected with two farmers in Sicily. Two farmers in Japan will host him in 2017. His current six-month journey will last from October 2016 through March 2017 all told.
Joe graduated with a major in Asian Studies, another major in Engineering Studies, and a minor in Anthropology and Sociology. With the guidance of the Asian Studies faculty, Joe was able to balance and combine these various subjects into a study of socio-technical history in Asia. This culminated in his capstone project, a critical re-telling of the global agricultural history of the 20th century that places Japan in the spotlight. The flexibility of Lafayette’s Asian Studies professors and this ability for cooperation with other disciplines highlight the program’s overall strength; and the language skills and political as well as cultural knowledge of Japan that Joe gained in some of his most memorable courses at Lafayette laid the groundwork for Joe’s continuing studies.
Scott Kominkiewicz ’12, is currently an admissions officer at Vanderbilt University. In 2013, Scott went to Japan to teach English through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program.
Kominkiewicz’s fascination with Japanese culture began his sophomore year, when he took a world history course with Paul Barclay, associate professor of history. Three years of learning the language followed with Naoko Ikegami, visiting instructor of Japanese. He also spent a semester in Saitama, outside Tokyo, which was cut short by the devastating earthquake and tsunami and subsequent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. After his sojourn in Japan, Scott returned the United States and found his calling as an admission’s officer at Princeton University. Next year, he plans to begin work on his M.A. in Education.
Equipped with dual degrees in mathematics and Asian studies, Nathan Shatz ’11 experienced a job search most people would die for. “I contacted the school online. Within a day, I had an interview. Within a week, I had a job,” he says.
That school is Birmingham International English in Changsha, Hunan, China. “It’s the biggest city no American has heard of,” Shatz says. “Seven million people live here.” He teaches English, up to five classes a day, to students of all levels of mastery.
Shatz’s Asian studies thesis first led him to China, where he interviewed 550 college students in their native language about their attitudes on success. He credits David Stifel, associate professor and co-chair of international affairs, with pushing his thesis work “to the next level.” In addition, Shatz says the problem-solving skills he learned from his mathematics studies make him a go-to source when his bosses require feedback.
Having learned Chinese at Lafayette, Shatz continues his studies in the language and will take a proficiency test later this year. Expertise in the language matters, since Shatz uses Chinese constantly in his teachings, especially with students just beginning to learn English.
For Will Dunkel ’07, coursework focusing on Japan and China led naturally to a desire for a better understanding of the lands and cultures of those in the land affixed between, namely the Korean peninsula. It was that yearning that convinced Will to move full time to Korea in early 2009. For the past eight years Will has called Seoul, Korea home. What had begun as a simple foray into living in Asia has grown into a life-long passion. Several years as a teacher in Seoul led to opportunities to again study, as I have since earned my Master’s degree from Korea University in Korean studies focusing on Korean New Media. I am forever indebted to the support given to by Lafayette faculty, who even now years after my graduation still provide guidance and academic advice as I pursue a Ph.D. in Korean Studies. Students who are curious and have any interests in Asia would be well served by working with a faculty that is fully determined in growing and nurturing students of all ages.