From JSU to Japan: Kristi-Madison to participate in inaugural Japan-U.S. summer institute, travel to Tokyo and Kyoto

(JACKSON, Miss) – Jackson State University senior Kristi-Madison Fortson will travel to Tokyo, Japan as a member of the inaugural Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Summer Institute (JUSFC). After competing alongside hundreds of applicants, Fortson was chosen to join other scholars to travel across the country and engage in academic training, practical experience and mentorship.

The summer institute encompasses academically and professionally focused programs that  include two weeks in Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan, preceded by four online lessons on Japan-U.S. relations, two online orientation meetings, and team building in Washington, D.C. The online sessions began in March and will continue through early May 2023. Travel to D.C. and Japan takes place between late May and early June 2023. 

“I have wanted to go to Japan for the longest,” said Fortson, who shared that she, along with high school peers and a teacher, wanted to explore Japan culture and anime so they initiated the chartering of a Japanese culture club at iSchool High at the Woodlands in her hometown of Houston.

“I kind of got started with Japanese culture in general when I first started watching anime, but that evolved and went into more aspects of the culture, the people, and traditions and ceremonies,” said Fortson, a psychology major. “I thought it was really fascinating to learn about a culture that’s very different from Americans.” 

The JUSFC is a U.S. government agency. The agency launched the summer institute to develop a diverse and inclusive community where underrepresented scholars and practitioners can sustain the U.S.-Japan partnership. 

Tomaz Cunningham, Ph.D., is the director of the Office of International Programs and Services at JSU, also known as JSU Global. Cunningham recalls Fortson expressing her desire to travel to Japan during the Fall 2022 semester and proposed the student for the JUSFC institute. 

“We discussed the best ways to fit a study abroad program into her graduation plans, and that wasn’t hard because she’s an A student in a very challenging major. We are thrilled for her. We are so happy,” Cunningham exclaims on behalf of the JSU Global office. “She’s a very deserving student. We’re thrilled that Ms. Fortson was selected for this very competitive program.”

Through the institute, students will also visit the U.S. Embassy, tour two college campuses, and visit shrines and temples while in Japan. They were gifted a three-month subscription to Pimsleur to further their learning of the Japanese language. According to Fortson, more events and activities are being developed, but she’s already excited.

“I don’t know if words can describe it, but [I felt] very ecstatic. I was bouncing off the walls when I found out because this is something I’ve wanted for a very long time, and I prayed about it,” she said. “God made provision for it to be the right thing at the right time.”

Fortson plans to become a clinical psychologist and pursue a career working with children, having her own traveling clinic, or diplomatic engagements with the government that allow her to travel while offering therapy. 

“Study abroad as an experience is recommended for all students. However, there are some students that are particularly fit. If they are intellectually curious, an excellent student, and courageous or adventurous, these are the students that really get a lot out of these experiences,” Cunningham said. “Ms. Fortson checks all those boxes, and she’s going to be a great representative of Jackson State University in this competitive fellowship and opportunity.”

To learn more about opportunities and offerings through JSU Global, visit their website here.