Featured Faculty: Yoko Hatakeyama


Yoko Hatakeyama has taught Japanese at Murray State University since 1991, and her dedication to teaching is impressive. Whether on Murray State’s campus or abroad, Professor Hatakeyama has built a Japanese program that is rich in experiential education and community outreach.

In the fall of 2009, the Japanese major and minor were established, and the program attracts students from Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Alabama. The program has grown over the last eight years and currently has 33 majors and 10 minors. The Japanese program has continued success at the Tennessee Area Japanese Speech Contest, sponsored by the Consulate-General of Japan in Nashville. Murray State University has been participating in the event since its inception in 2008, and we are the only university from Kentucky in the contest. Students have placed at various levels of competition every year, and since 2009 the students have won 23 awards including two grand prizes in 2014 and 2015.


Professor Hatakeyama was the advisor of the Japanese Student Association between 1998 and 2010, and has been serving as the advisor of the Japan Club since 2014. The Japan Club organizes the Origami Workshop and participates in the International Bazaar and Paprika. This program is sponsored by Richmond College, and international students are invited to introduce their cultures to the university community. Last year, the Japan Club’s fundraising efforts resulted in a $1000 donation to the relief effort for the Kumamoto earthquake victims.

The Japan Exchange and Teaching program (JET) offers college graduates the opportunity to live and teach English to K-12 students in Japan for 1-5 years. Every year, Professor Hatakeyama invites the JET coordinator from the Consulate-General of Japan in Nashville to Murray State University to host an information session about the program. Since 1998, more than 30 MSU graduates have participated in the JET program; it is highly competitive, so this success rate shows the careful mentoring and instruction provided to students by Professor Hatakeyama. Currently, four MSU graduates are living in Japan with the JET program. For the 2017-2018 program, six MSU graduates and graduating seniors were invited for interviews in Nashville and Chicago. Professor Hatakeyama also served as one of the interview panelists at the Consulate-General of Japan in Nashville this year.

Since 2000, Professor Hatakeyama has directed the KIIS (Kentucky Institute for International Studies) Japan Summer Program.  This program is extremely important to Murray State University and specifically the Japanese majors. In order for students with limited financial resources to study abroad, Professor Hatakeyama increased the number of scholarship opportunities available. In 2010, with the assistant of Tina Bernot, Professor Hatakeyama established a scholarship with Sekisui Chemical Co. Ltd., in Calvert City. The Sekisui Study Abroad Scholarship for the KIIS Japan Program students started in 2011, and 28 Murray State University students have received scholarships to participate in the KIIS Japan Program.

In 2004, Professor Hatakeyama established a partnership with Tenri University in Japan, and, since then, the two universities have been exchanging students. In January 2013, Professor Hatakeyama applied to the Kakehashi project, a study abroad opportunity sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Murray State University was selected as one of the seven participating universities in the United States. This program funded 23 Murray State University students and two faculty members to participate in a two-week study trip to Japan in May 2013.


In November 2015, Professor Hatakeyama contacted the Laurasian Institute which, under its Japan Outreach Initiative (JOI) Program, sends US participating universities a JOI coordinator. The coordinator is a Japanese culture expert (ambassador) who organizes and delivers community culture and language lessons/workshops. With the assistance of Dr. Staci Stone, interim Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Murray State University was selected to participate in the program. Airi Yamamoto, a JOI coordinator, began working in the fall 2016 by promoting Japanese culture and languages in the community. Airi has made presentations on Japanese culture in schools throughout the region, speaking to over 1,500 children in schools such as North Calloway Elementary, Murray Middle School, and Reidland.  She also provides programming through the Calloway County Public Library, and is in the midst of organizing Murray’s first International Kite Festival, to be held at the MSU Arboretum on April 29.  The JOI grant means that Airi will continue to be an ambassador to this community until Summer 2018.  Her presence on our campus is due to Professor Hatakeyama’s work and connections.


The College of Humanities and Fine Arts congratulates Yoko Hatakeyama on her continued dedication to teaching, study abroad, and community engagement.


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