The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, aims to promote the mastery of 15 foreign languages which are considered to be essential to U.S. national security and economic interests. This program is implemented by the American Councils for International Education, a U.S. non-profit organization specializing in international education and exchange. Their Japanese language program was launched in 2010, and Okayama University has been designated as a host institution since December 2018, a first for a national university in Japan.
For eight weeks in summer, 26 outstanding American undergraduate and graduate students selected by the U.S. Department of State undertake lessons in an intensive study program focusing on Japanese language and culture at Okayama University and also participate in extracurricular activities provided in cooperation with local governments, private firms, and other organizations in Okayama Prefecture. The overarching theme of “Sustainability”, defined by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is a core mission of Okayama University and a key part of the CLS Program.
The CLS Program has many potential benefits. Students from both the U.S. and Japan can further broaden their vision and insight and can develop the ability to think from various perspectives through cross-cultural communication. At the same time, for members of the university, companies, and other organizations involved with the CLS Program, this is an opportunity to build future relationships with CLS students and U.S. entities (e.g., the Department of State, higher education institutions, research and development organizations, etc.). The collaborative nature of this program also offers important opportunities for addressing the SDGs, which are interconnected goals. The program is also expected to contribute to creating opportunities for interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research and partnerships in various fields in North America.