Elon M.A. in Higher Education students explore Japanese higher education and culture during winter term

The inaugural cohort of Elon's M.A. in Higher Education examined Japanese higher education and best practices in short-term study abroad programs during winter term global experience in Japan.

The inaugural cohort of Elon’s Master of Arts in Higher Education (MHE) program returned Jan. 18 from a 10-day study abroad experience in Kyoto and Osaka, Japan. Matt Buckmaster, assistant dean of global education, and Janelle Papay Decato, associate director for global short-term programs, led the course that focused on two key topics: higher education in the Japanese context, and study abroad as a high-impact educational practice.

The robust itinerary included campus visits to Shiga and Kansai Gaidai Universities. At both schools, MHE students were welcomed by the presidents of the institutions, engaged in lively conversations with undergraduate students, and attended lectures on the Japanese educational system. Sophia Abbot, MHE graduate apprentice in the Center for Engaged Learning, identified the campus visits as a highlight of her winter term global experience. “Our time in Japan gave us the chance to question why we do education the way we do in the United States,” Abbot said. “It was amazing for me to question my assumptions about higher education and see higher education from a Japanese perspective.”

In addition to engaging in a comparative analysis of U.S. and Japanese higher education systems, the 14 MHE students examined the foundational elements of short-term study abroad. Shannon Finney, MHE graduate apprentice for the Gender and LGBTQIA Center, noted that global education is an important component of education. “Study abroad is such a big part of undergraduate learning,” she said. “The MHE global program gave me the opportunity to experience study abroad and expand my understanding of global education management. Even if I am not responsible for leading study abroad programs in the future, this background knowledge will help me better support my students.”

The MHE study abroad program also provided time for students and faculty to explore Japanese culture, including participation in a traditional tea ceremony and visits to the Kiyomizu-dera and Enryakuji Temples, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

In alignment with Elon’s commitment to experiential education and global engagement, the short-term study abroad experience is a required component of the MHE graduate program. Students in the inaugural cohort gained hands-on experience in the design of global education, working collaboratively for a year to plan their winter term study abroad program.

MHE Graduate Director and Associate Professor Rozana Carducci believes the MHE short-term study abroad program will help prepare students for the transition from graduate school to full-time employment. “MHE students will transition to new professional roles and organizations at the conclusion of their graduate studies this spring,” Carducci said. “The short-term study abroad experience provides students with valuable lessons regarding the importance of listening, observation and reflection as one seeks to understand a new culture; the value of patience with self and others in the navigation of novel situations; and the ability to adjust plans and expectations when confronted with unforeseen challenges. These essential professional competencies cultivated through the MHE global experience will serve the students well in their post-MHE professional endeavors.”

Elon launched the Master of Arts in Higher Education program in fall 2018 and will graduate the first cohort of students in May 2020. In addition to the Winter Term global education experience, the program’s innovative curriculum includes an emphasis on high-impact practices, a half-time apprenticeship in an Elon department, monthly colloquia series on hot topics in higher education, two internships, and support for the development and implementation of a personalized professional development plan.