NIT president visits Crowsnest Pass 0
In mid-August, the Nippon Institute of Technology welcomed an important dignitary to the Pass - Dr. Jun Hatano, its president and visionary who pioneered the intercultural campus in Blairmore almost twenty years ago. He was accompanied by his interpreter, Hitoshi Suzuki.
One of Hatano's proud past accomplishments had been the restoration of an historically significant monastery in Nepal, a project which stretched over a couple of decades. Hatano first came to Blairmore in 1995, just when the courthouse building was on the verge of being sold to another party who wanted to use it as a B and B.
The School Foundation of NIT acquired it for the planned campus, and soon added the two beautiful guest houses. Finally, the white church on 21st was added; however Hatano moved with respectful caution - aware of the church's spiritual value in the community. But because the congregation numbers had seriously dwindled and because the remaining members approached NIT seeking a purchaser, a happy deal was concluded. Then came the authentic Japanese garden and railway park.
The first group of students from Tokyo arrived for one year's study in 1996, after which they would spend a second year in Lethbridge before continuing their studies at the Nippon Institute of Technology University in Miyashiro cho, Japan. They would concentrate on English, academic studies as well as on outdoor education. Hatano defines his mandate plainly, saying: "I want students to not only be able to practice engineering skills well, but I want them also to be able to communicate effectively in assuming a leadership role in taking on work projects anywhere in the world, Hatano thus sees this intercultural experience as providing a generic skill set for acquiring a multicultural world view.
Hatano remarked that students bring back a love of discovery of wide open spaces and of rural Canadian life. He expressed a clear preference for Canadian culture vs American, saying: "The emphasis here is on teamwork, rather than on competition. Furthermore he admires Canada for its strongly independent spirit, -- something which he says grows up in countries that are located next to a much stronger neighbour - like Holland next to Germany, and like Nepal, wedged in between India and China.
With an onward and ever upward leadership style of his own, Hatano is always thinking of new ways to enrich the existing program. For example: also arriving the same week as he was a group of eight students for a one month stay, during which they would study English and outdoor education. The positive influence on even short-stay students is indelible.
Hatano, who greatly values the homestay family support points out that there can never be too many homestay families. "This community support is what makes the program possible If more families become homestay families, it means that our growing intercultural society is healthier and thriving.
On a more sober note, when I asked Hatano about the post-tsunami progress being made, he said that the monies this community raised to help survivors was greatly appreciated. However, it seems that the recouping of normal community life was destined to be a slow process that was still in its infancy.
For more information about the benefits of becoming a homestay family, kindly contact the NIT Intercultural Campus at 403-562-7704. Jocelyn Thomas is an artist-writer in Blairmore who specializes in portraits, and Western/Rockies imagery.