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New centers will focus on technology, families, Japan

Dec. 9, 2005

KALAMAZOO--Three new centers at Western Michigan University will boost the use of student electronic portfolios, assess academic department programs and promote the study of families around the globe and traditional and contemporary Japan.

Acting at its Dec. 9 meeting, the WMU Board of Trustees approved the three new centers, which will be named the Center for Electronic Portfolios and Assessment--CEPA; the Center for the Global Study of Families; and the Michitoshi Soga Japan Center. The three centers will not require general operating funds and will have a seven-year window to become self-supporting through gifts and grants.

CEPA will be a state-of-the-art technology center that could serve as a national model for speeding the spread of student electronic portfolios and managing the assessment of student learning outcomes.

Electronic portfolios will be made available to all students and faculty and offer many advantages over traditional paper portfolios. The electronic collection of information will be stored on a secure site and can identify the course of a student's career, instantly sharing it with prospective employers, a graduate college, family or friends. The center also will manage the assessment of student outcomes for academic departments, aiding greatly in the accreditation process. Corporate partners Sungard SCT and Nuventive will supply the software needed for electronic portfolios and academic department assessment.

The Center for the Global Study of Families has been developed by the WMU College of Education, College of Health and Human Services and Haworth College of Business. Both it and the Japan Center will be housed in the Diether H. Haenicke Institute for Global Education, which will provide clerical and staff support, office equipment and office space.

The center will provide a focus for faculty and students from several disciplines and colleges who are involved in the global and comparative studies of families as reproductive, educational, economic, social and cultural units. The goal is to make fundamental advances in the knowledge of how families can maintain their integrity and become progressively more dynamic factors in an increasingly global environment and communicate those results to scholars, students, government units and the public.

Activities will include individual and team research, curriculum development, conferences and lecture series, proposals for external funding, educational outreach to regional schools and publication and information dissemination. The center also will facilitate collaborative projects in community development between WMU and several international partner institutions. It will strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration and international programs at WMU by bringing together family studies-related research and other activities in several departments and colleges, as well as promote collaboration with related centers, institutes and organizations around the world.

The Japan Center was developed by faculty active in Japanese studies in several disciplines and colleges in consultation with the Haenicke Institute, department chairs and deans, and Japanese cultural and business leaders in West Michigan.

Similar to the new family center, the Japan center will allow faculty and students across several disciplines and colleges to focus on the study of both traditional and contemporary Japan. The goal is to make fundamental advances in knowledge about Japan and communicate results to scholars, students, governmental units, organizations and the public. Activities will include individual and team research, curriculum development, conferences and lecture series, proposals for external funding, educational outreach to regional schools and publication and dissemination. The center also will serve as a link between WMU and the Japan-related business community in West Michigan.

WMU has a long history in Japan-related activities, including a larger number of formal and long-established institutional partnerships with Japan than any other country. WMU enjoys an excellent reputation among some of Japan's most well-known institutions, while several faculty members involved in Japan-related research and teaching are nationally recognized scholars. The critical importance of Japanese businesses to the West Michigan economy also offers a unique opportunity for collaboration and contributions to the multicultural dimensions of the region.

No other college or university in the region has an independent center for Japanese studies. It is believed that the new Japan center has exceptional potential to advance the research, teaching and outreach missions of WMU as a research institution.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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