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Faculty team receives grant for study tour of Japan

Barry McNamara
05/12/2020
MONMOUTH, Ill. – A group of Monmouth College faculty members will travel across the globe in 2021 for a study tour of Japan, thanks to a grant from The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.

History professor Michelle Damian, director of the College’s Asian studies minor, is also the director of the Japan study tour, which was originally scheduled for June. The COVID-19 pandemic extended the period of the $45,000 grant until next year.

Damian will be joined on the trip by faculty colleagues Brian Baugh and Stephanie Baugh of the art department, Adrienne Hagen of classics and Tim Tibbetts of biology. The grant also includes a collaboration with the online Museum of Underwater Archaeology, making the director of that museum the sixth member of the team. Damian is a member of the museum’s board of directors.

"Our team’s common theme has manifested as an interest in the intersection of trees, water and culture writ large,” said Damian of the project, which is titled “The Ways of Woods and Waters.”

The perception of the Japanese love of nature is widespread, but what makes Monmouth’s project unique is where they’ll seek to find it.

“We intend to push beyond that stereotype of loving nature to explore the ways of woods and waters in unexpected places,” said Damian. “To explore these themes, we intend to include site visits to old-growth and newly managed forests; to maritime, art and history museums; and to a variety of shrines and temples.”

Individual members of the team will pursue their own scholarly, pedagogical and artistic interests while interacting with and learning from the other team members.

Damian said: “Our overarching question is to consider how humans position themselves with regard to nature: how are we part of it, and how are we apart from it? How do we use the resources of forests and seas, and how are we shaped by those same resources?”

The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership’s “Case Studies Japan” project supports travel to Japan for faculty members and graduate students to conduct field research in the humanities and social sciences. The foundation hopes to help participants, especially those unfamiliar with the Asian nation, gain a deeper understanding of and make connections in Japan that will help them in their own disciplines after the trip.

All five Monmouth faculty members involved in the trip have taken students abroad, from as short a time as two weeks to as long as an entire semester.

“We’re all interested in continuing to take students abroad, and increased familiarity with Japan could lead to the creation of additional faculty-led trips, resulting in future deepening ties with Japan,” said Damian.