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Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) Program Selects Two From Hendrix

CONWAY, Ark. (April 9, 2020) – Two members of the Hendrix College community have been accepted as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program:

  • Connor Griffin ’19, a biochemistry/molecular biology major from Little Rock, Arkansas; and
  • Tristan Norman ’20, a social entrepreneurship and innovation major with a focus on climate change resilience and Asian studies, from Conway, Arkansas.

The highly selective JET Program seeks to promote intercultural exchange and understanding by providing participants the opportunity to live and work in a Japanese community and represent the United States as cultural ambassadors. Each year, between 4,000 and 5,000 applicants compete for approximately 1,000 positions in communities throughout Japan.

“My future goal is to be an academic physician, and I think JET can help build skills I need with regard to teaching, listening, and cross-cultural communication when practicing as a physician,” Griffin said. “Also, I really enjoy learning Japanese and more about Japanese culture, and I think it will be a fun and culturally enlightening experience.”

Griffin studied abroad in Japan during the Fall 2018 semester, and during his time on the Hendrix campus he was actively involved with Japanese Language and Culture Club activities, immersion weekends, and language learning with Aya Murata, the Japan Outreach Initiative coordinator who was based at Hendrix from 2016 to 2018.

Norman developed an interest in Japan as a result of participating in the Spring 2018 Tomodachi Kakehashi Inouye Scholars exchange program between Hendrix College and Prefectural University of Hiroshima and Yamaguchi University. Inspired by the personal story of a bombing victim during the group’s visit to Hiroshima, Norman helped organize “Peace Week” events on the Hendrix campus the following September to coincide with the Arkansas Peace Week Initiative. The events centered on sharing the testimonials and experiences of atom bomb survivors and the Spring 2018 scholars’ experience in Japan, and served as the group’s reflection project for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the exchange program. Norman has since been actively involved in Peace Week events in the state as well as Japanese cultural activities and courses at Hendrix.

“JET will allow me to acquire experience in Japan and learn about Japanese society, their challenges, and their way of life,” Norman said. “In addition to teaching in Japan, I hope to pursue a master’s degree there to study climate change adaptation and Asian development studies, using Japan as a place to do research, make connections, and travel to other parts of East and Southeast Asia. And I hope that my family can come to see the Tokyo 2021 Olympics with me.”

Gwen Stockwell, assistant director of international programs and adjunct instructor of Japanese at Hendrix, said that the acceptance of multiple Hendrix students into JET over the past five years reflects sustained and enthusiastic interest in Japan on the Hendrix campus.

“I am absolutely thrilled that these two students, with so much passion for working with youth, learning about Japanese culture, and participating in cross-cultural exchange, are starting their JET journey this upcoming September,” said Stockwell, who is a former JET participant herself (Miyazaki, Japan, 1998-2001). “They will bring so much joy to their communities and will make incredible ambassadors for strengthening relations between Japan and the U.S.”

JET participants begin with one-year contracts, which may be extended for up to five years. The program is sponsored by the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC).

About the JET Program

The JET Program is a competitive employment opportunity that allows young professionals to live and work in cities, towns, and villages throughout Japan. Most participants serve as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) and work in public and private schools throughout Japan; some work as Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs) as interpreters/translators. Since the JET Program was founded in 1987, more than 61,000 global participants (including nearly 32,000 Americans) have worked in schools, boards of education, and government offices throughout Japan.  

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit