About Be Better, Together

“Be Better, Together” Japanese Studies Curriculum Development and Building Bridges across CUNY seeks to bring together faculty from across the City University of New York (CUNY) in an effort, for the first time, to systematically discuss the current and future state of Japanese Studies in the CUNY system, with over 275,000 students the largest urban public university in the United States.

Of the eighteen undergraduate CUNY campuses, fifteen offer courses in Japan-related subjects such as Japanese language, literature, art history, religion, history, and politics. Yet, because Japanese Studies scholars work within their own disciplines and campuses there has been little systematic collaboration of Japanese Studies across the CUNY system, except for The CUNY Baccalaureate (BA) Program, which has awarded degrees in Japanese Language and Culture to more than 100 students over the past decade.

Using the CUNY BA Program as its platform, this project offers the faculty development seminar for CUNY’s Japan Scholars, enhancing collaboration across the CUNY system. The faculty seminar centers around the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, a current and multifaceted topic that lends itself to multidisciplinary and collaborative projects like this one. Faculty teaching courses in Japan Studies, regardless of their disciplines and campuses, will have the opportunity to incorporate this seminal event into their teaching and learning practices through seminar meetings. This is a unique opportunity to unite faculty from disparate disciplines and campuses as we work together in the spirit of “Be Better, Together,” the Sustainability Concept of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.

The central activity of “Be Better, Together:” Japanese Studies Curriculum Development and Building Bridges Across CUNY is the faculty development seminar, which will be delivered monthly in Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 at the Graduate Center, the flagship campus of the City University of New York.

A cohort of 10 CUNY faculty, representing diversity across a number of matrices such as campus, discipline, rank and seniority, and gender, will be selected for the project. Representational balance between community college and senior college faculty will also be considered as there are few opportunities for these cohorts to meet one another in spite of the fact that Japanese Studies students transfer from community college to senior college programs within CUNY. Each seminar participant will receive a $500 professional development fund to support re-designing class activities and curriculum.

Monthly meetings will involve readings and discussions about topics that are thematically unified and accessible to faculty across any Japan-related discipline. In addition to discussing thematically-unified topics and readings each week, seminars will be enhanced by invited scholars who will offer lectures on a broad array of topics. There will be a total of five invited scholars from renowned institutions in Japanese Studies, including Columbia University, the University of Hawaii, Manoa, University of Pennsylvania, the Japan Society, and the Modern Language Association. Material from these lectures can be incorporated into disciplines across the humanities and social sciences, as they will focus on issues of accessibility/disability, gender, and the environment as they relate to the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The final products of the project will include the above-mentioned centralized database of CUNY-wide Japanese Studies. Using the database, faculty seminar participants will contribute their disciplinary expertise and their campus knowledge to create an interdisciplinary and integrated curriculum for CUNY BA, with which students can make the most of CUNY’s Japan scholars and their course offerings at different CUNY campuses. The Japan Studies database and the CUNY BA Japan Studies curriculum will be made available in the public domain on the CUNY BA website, and on the Japanese/East Asian Studies’ pages of those CUNY campuses that have such programs.