Skip to main content

CHASS Visits Japan

College leaders cultivate research collaboration with Nagoya University in Japan.

A team of College of Humanities and Social Sciences administrators and faculty traveled to Japan last month to meet with leaders from Nagoya University Graduate School of Education and Human Development to strengthen a research collaboration that would benefit international graduate students on both campuses.

During the visit, the two groups discussed conducting a pilot study to explore the potential benefits of integrating virtual reality (VR) technology to address students’ mental health and well-being, said Robert Hawkins, the college’s associate dean for academic and faculty affairs. He added that the groups are working on a grant proposal to fund the study, which would start with international students at Nagoya and later focus on NC State students.

“On both our campuses, we have seen students struggling with mental health issues,” said Hawkins. ”For international students who are so far away from home and trying to adjust to a different language and culture, stressors that affect their mental health can be particularly persistent.”

Deanna Dannels, dean of the college who joined Hawkins on the trip, agreed and added: “Our collaboration with Nagoya will provide enhanced health and mental wellness benefits for students from both universities and broaden international learning, research and cultural opportunities for faculty.” 

Also traveling to Japan were Kyung Hee Ha, assistant professor of Japanese language and culture in the Department of World Languages and Cultures; and Sarah Olson, director of global partnerships in the Office of Global Engagement.

The idea for a research collaboration between CHASS and Nagoya University began last year, with initial discussions centered on a possible project to benefit international students. After securing a small seed grant, Hawkins said the two groups narrowed the project’s focus to using VR mindfulness simulations and social capital-building activities to enhance the students’ mental well-being.

The plan, Hawkins said, is to submit the research grant for the pilot study in the next month or so. At the same time, Dean Dannels is working with NC State’s Office of Global Engagement to develop possible next steps.

This research partnership nurtures the international learning opportunities that already exist between CHASS and Nagoya University. The Japanese program in the Department of World Languages and Cultures participates in a semester-long exchange program, hosting a group of Nagoya University students for four weeks in the fall, said Ha.

Asked what she hoped would come from the recent Japan trip, Ha added: “We hope to implement a series of small exchanges throughout the academic year to continue the relationship and deepen our understanding of each other’s culture and values while also collaborating on a scholarly project.”

It could also create several new high-impact opportunities for CHASS faculty, students and staff, including internships, exchanges and additional research collaborations, added Hawkins. Additionally, he noted, with Nagoya having established its Global Campus at NC State last year, we are also exploring ways to create options for those at NC State who can’t travel to Japan. 

Looking ahead, Hawkins and Dean Dannels said, the added hope is for our college to develop a long-term partnership with Nagoya around research, faculty and student exchanges and mutually beneficial projects.