Would you like to help Mayville State students who are about to embark on the opportunity of a lifetime in Japan?


Six Mayville State University students and two faculty mentors will be heading for a month-long trip to conduct research in rural Japan. A grant will fund the expenses related to their research, but they'd love to make the most of this trip by incorporating some cultural experiences that are not funded by the grant. Would you be willing to make a donation to their fund for extra spending money that will allow them to have the full Japanese experience?

Please click here to make your donation today. Thank you in advance for helping these Mayville State students make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Meet the student researchers.

Check out the Sounds of Sinatra!, an opportunity to support the student researchers.


The grant


Mayville State University Professors Aaron Kingsbury and Lonamalia Parsons Smith and their students have been awarded a $40,000 "ASIANetwork Freeman Student-Faculty Fellows" (SFF) grant. Grant funding will be used to support their month-long trip to Japan, where they'll conduct research from May 13 to June 14, 2017. The group's project is titled "The future of the back roads and little farm towns in an urbanizing Asia: A case in study exploring cultural change in the rural communities of Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan." Mayville State's proposal was one of seven funded in 2017, the 19th year of the SFF program.

Students on the research team with Kingsbury and Parsons Smith are Cherokee Durant, Cheyenne Durant, Ingrid Hefta, Megan Maassel, Nicholas Peterson, and Donte Stevens.

In a letter announcing the awarding of the grant, Dr. Zheya Gai, director of the SFF said, "The proprosed project is an exciting one. We believe the experience will enrich your students' lives, contribute to their academic and professional skill development, deepen their and our understanding of Asia."

Grant funding will cover transportation and communication expenses; lodging and food; supplies, such as films, video, and audio tapes; services, such as translators and guides; and visas, vaccinations, insurance. In addition, one faculty mentor and one student will attend the 2018 ASIANetwork annual conference. 

The research goal


japan_5.jpgOverall, the Mayville State research team understands the little farm towns in the U.S.A. They now seek to investigate the culture and people of smaller and less studied Japanese communities, and in so doing, re-conceptualize their own notions of rurality to explore options for more sustained maintenance of socio-economic vitality in peripheral places.

japan_7.jpgThe project


Asia is urbanizing, and Japan is no exception. Agriculture continues to decline in importance, and people move to urban spaces for better opportunities. In turn, this leaves the countryside marginalized. The Mayville State research team will be working under the broader framework of socio-economic change in rural Japan through case studies in the Kofu Basin of Yamanashi Prefecture. The Kofu Basin has one of the longest histories of horticultural cropping in the country, but it has never been an area known for rice. Rather, its history is that of mulberry and sericulture, peaches, and somewhat unique in Japan, hillsides covered in verdant, pergola-trellised grape vines. Socio-econimic change in the region has been constant and often profound.

The projects of individual student team members will focus on the
japan_4.jpgimpact of the declining farm sector on the rise of wild boar, health care in a greying society, K-12 education in smaller towns, innovative marketing by the local wine industry in revitalizing rural economies, and LGBT social justice concerns in provincial places. The team's understanding of the myriad of cultural landscapes and the changes affecting rural communities will be documented with a collaboratively scripted and student-directed film which will be shot with a prosumer camera and a drone. 

Each project of the team stands alone, yet each team member is directly involved in the research of other members. Projects and activities for individuals, multiple people, and the entire group have been organized in a manner that encourages and supports individual agency, yet ties the group together as a cohesive and dynamic research team.

The project has been intentionally designed so that each student
japan_6.jpgreceives not only individual attention, but also has ample opportunities to interact with Japanese collaborators and gain confidence in the field research process to achieve personal research and/or professional objectives. 

Overarching collective experiences for the entire team in support of these outcomes include volunteering at a rural LGBT pride event, assisting farmers of a local grape growing cooperative in light farm work, interacting with pupils at various K-12 institutions, joining in a choir group for elderly women, and collaborating to produce the film.

The results


Various end products (and likely new professional directions) are planned both individually and as a team. Students will use their research as the basis for presentations to campus, in the community, and at academic conferences; to frame undergraduate research journal publications; and as the foundation for graduate school research foci, professional teaching portfolios, and careers in international business. Two students will pass their FAA sUAS license exams to use drones professionally, and the group's film will be submitted to a number of regional festivals.