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New Hendrix Graduates JET to Japan


JET participants from the Hendrix Class of 2019, from left: John Tran, Hueseng Xiong, Jazmin Calixto, Adrienne McGooden, and Alex Berner.

CONWAY, Ark. (May 23, 2019) – Five 2019 Hendrix College graduates—Alex Berner of Keller, Texas; Jazmin Calixto of Dallas, Texas; Adrienne McGooden of Siloam Springs, Ark.; John Tran of Little Rock, Ark.; and Hueseng Xiong of Subiaco, Ark.—have signed on for a cross-cultural adventure that begins this summer. After convening in Nashville to begin their training, they’ll fly to Tokyo to complete the process of becoming Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. JET is highly selective, with 4,000 to 5,000 applicants competing for approximately 1,000 positions in communities throughout Japan.

The five graduates will report to their assigned locations in Japan for a minimum of one year, with the option to extend their contracts for up to five years.

As they live and work in Japanese communities, JET Program participants represent the United States as cultural ambassadors and help to promote intercultural exchange and understanding. While their primary role will be to teach, ALTs have ample opportunities to seek out cross-cultural learning—and they demonstrated their desire to do so while at Hendrix. Some lived in the Japanese Culture House on campus, traveled to Japan through College-sponsored programs, or participated in a Hendrix-Murphy Foundation Japanese immersion weekend. Most made an effort to learn Japanese through the Japanese Language and Culture Club or in a class with Gwen Stockwell, director of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and International Student Services for Hendrix.

“It’s been exciting to see such a tremendous increase in interest in Japan on our campus over the past few years,” said Stockwell, who herself served as an ALT with JET from 1998 to 2001. “I think this year’s success is largely the result of these students’ active participation in a broad range of Japanese cultural activities on campus and in the community. It has been great to see Japanese language and culture contribute to diversity here, and as a JET alumna myself, I’m delighted to see our graduates benefit from cultural exchange programs like this one.”

Berner, a psychology major who graduated with distinction, pointed to learning from Aya Murata, a coordinator for the Japan Outreach Initiative who lived at Hendrix from 2016 to 2018, as well as the Tomodachi Kakehashi Inoyue Scholars trip he took during his junior year, as experiences that intensified his interest in Japanese culture and language. “I really have begun the task of improving my Japanese skills, and I love the challenge that the language presents in learning all of its nuances and forms,” he said. “The JET Program will allow me to continue improving this skill while also immersing in a culture that I have come to admire.” Following the training in Tokyo, Berner will report to Okinawa Prefecture to teach.

“I was grateful for the opportunity to take the Japanese Language and Culture course at Hendrix and delve into an area of study that I’ve always had a deep appreciation for,” said Calixto, a psychology major and studio art minor who has been assigned to teach in Sasayama. “This experience, coupled with my participation during Hendrix International Week, solidified my desire to apply for JET.”

“Living in the Japanese Language and Culture House, taking the Japanese 100 course here, and getting the chance to go to Japan as part of the Kakehashi trip last year showed me that I was capable of JET, and that it would be something I enjoyed in general,” said McGooden, a psychology major who graduated with distinction. She will report to Tokyo to work as an ALT with JET.

“I became interested in the JET program because I wanted to learn more about the Japanese culture and language that was such a big part of my childhood, and contribute to its society,” said Xiong, a biochemistry-molecular biology major and Chinese minor whose JET placement is in Kumamoto Prefecture, on the island of Kyushu. “Because I am passionate about increasing the quality of education and health in underrepresented communities, having the chance to go and teach English to Japanese children and young adults in rural area will be a worthwhile experience for me while serving the Japanese community.”

John Tran, a religion and neuroscience double major from Little Rock, Ark., will report to the Nagasaki Prefecture to work with JET. He has long been fascinated with exploring different cultures and meeting people of different backgrounds and perspectives, and his junior year provided his first opportunity to visit Japan. “The trip was short, but long enough for me to know I wanted to come back. That’s initially what attracted me to JET,” he said. “Another motivation to go back is to visit the friends I have spent years with when they were in the U.S. Their willingness to share their cultural experience at home and the U.S. beckoned me to do the same and explore a country rich in history and culture but also not entirely too familiar to me. I am excited to start the adventure and I hope I can spark this interest in others I will meet.”

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