Asian Studies professors take part in virtual exchange program with Japan

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Two FIU Asian Studies Program Adjunct Instructors, Marcela López Bravo and Claudia Lau, have been selected to participate in a virtual exchange program to increase higher education exchange between the U.S. and Japan. Both have been successfully teaching several courses for Asian Studies, specializing in teaching modalities such as Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) and Virtual Study Abroad.

The U.S.-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON) offers dynamic professional development programs for Japanese and Americans to work collaboratively in training higher education professionals. This innovative program equips faculty serving underrepresented students with funding and educational tools that help them enhance their curricula using VE/COIL (Virtual Exchange/Collaborative Online International Learning). Faculty members have been selected from a competitive list to receive training and support for a short-term mobility of select students. VEM is a program established by US CULCON with funding from the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs , U.S. Department of State. The mission of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is to develop educational and cultural exchanges between the United States and other nations by preparing professionals for the next generation.

Marcela López Bravo

Marcela López Bravoearned her PhD in International Studies in 2021 at Waseda University in Tokyo. Her dissertation is on “Using Virtual Reality to Teach Interactively the Role of Place in Tale of Genji.”

“Linguistic landscape” refers to language in its written form in the public sphere that serves both an informational and a social function,'' she said. “Since every aspect of language carries historical, cultural, and political meanings, students will utilize virtual reality to “walk” around the streets of Miami and Tsuru to collect information on any instances they consider interesting examples of the linguistic landscape.”

“During the virtual fieldwork for this unique program, students will have to evaluate: What makes the chosen visual interesting? What language(s) and diversity (or lack thereof) are represented? Who is the intended audience, and what audience is included or excluded?” she added.

López Bravo is also an alumna of FIU, having earned two MA degrees, one in Asian Studies in 2016 and the second in Linguistics in 2012. She received the 2022 inaugural Rewarding Excellence in Teaching Incentives (RETI) award at FIU. In 2018, she was also awarded the Faculty Choice Award for Creative Tool Design and Usage in Virtual Reality with FIU Online and the Faculty Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching.

Claudia Lau

Claudia Lau received an MA in Asian Studies at FIU in 2015. She was recently awarded the FIU Faculty Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching in 2021 and the 2020 FIU CIBER's award for the COIL course ASN 3143 Corporate Culture of China, connecting FIU and Qingdao University. She also has various COIL courses connecting students in Latin America and Asia. In 2021, she was invited to the FIU Commencement ceremonies to serve as a narrator. Claudia has also been involved in several events promoting Asian culture, including the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month event in Miami.

“The new generation of students must meet new challenges in the increasing technological global village we live in today,'' she said. “I believe it is the responsibility of educators to provide them with opportunities to learn and be prepared for unavoidable future challenges. I feel determined to bring global learning opportunities to my students.”

“I always loved and appreciated the diversity of cultures in this world,'' she added. “As a young child, when the internet did not exist, and due to my personal curiosity and interest, I used to find opportunities to learn about other cultures through pen friends with snail mail. It is interesting to see how we have evolved with instant messages, video conferences, and recordings to bring outstanding learning outcomes.”

Lau previously worked with FATEC-Itapetininga and FIU Qingdao in COIL projects, combining the acquired knowledge from both classes to provide unique learning experiences to students.

“Having the opportunity to provide my students a chance to interact with students from Japan is a dream come true for me,'' she said. “My student population is very diverse, which is typical for Miami, but as an Asian Studies instructor, it is my obligation to establish solid academic links with Asia, and CULCON Virtual Exchange Program may be the key to achieving this goal. I firmly believe that in today's technological world, there is no reason to keep our education within the limits of geographical borders.”

For information on FIU COIL, please visit