SIUC administration celebrates 15 year anniversary of Niigata campus in Japan

By Gus Bode

Dietz and SIUC receive ancient Japanese scroll from first Niigata campus class alumna

Suzoko Mita, a 1964 SIUC alumna, can be seen in a historical University photograph of an assortment of students dressed in traditional costumes from their home countries.

Mita stands proud alongside her fellow Salukis, dressed in a kimono, a dress native to her home in Japan. The photograph, taken when Mita was an undergraduate student, has meant a lot to the University; it has been used in pamphlets, brochures and calendars throughout the years.


After receiving her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from SIUC, Mita traveled back to Japan and, until her recent retirement, had been the president of a community college in Japan.

Mita has not forgotten her roots at SIUC and presented an ancient Japanese scroll to Larry Dietz, the vice chancellor of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and the University as a part of the 15 year anniversary celebration of the SIUC-Niigata campus in Nakajo, Japan, last week.

Dietz and Jared Dorn, director of SIUC International Programs and Services, attended the beginning of several events in Japan and in Carbondale, ending with the arrival of the Nakajo mayor and other town officials visiting SIUC in November.

The first ceremony took place in Tokyo, where SIUC-Niijata alumni and past SIUC international alumni, such as Mita, reunited in celebration of the past 15 years.

Dorn said one couple, parents of an SIUC-Niijata alumna, had been very dedicated to the University, traveling more than three hours to the event.

Dietz gave a brief speech at the alumni ceremony, followed by a slide show of significant events over the past 15 years. A translation of the slide show, based on historical record, was given to Dorn and others to follow the photo timeline.

The slide show noted opening an American university in Nakajo drew a large number of students and community members interested in starting the SIUC-Niijata campus in 1987. Even though the school building was not completed yet, the first school year started, using town facilities to hold English conversation classes.


Within a few years, a core curriculum program was established, along with the construction of the SIUC-Niijata campus Fellowship Hall and other buildings.

The first group of 13 students was transferred to Carbondale in January of 1991, with a total of 146 students transferred the same year. According to the slide show information, many students went through different cultural exchanges, but helped each other along with help from other students and American faculty.

Later, Dietz, Dorn, and others at the Nakajo ceremony were able to see an artistic skit in which students from the SIUC-Niijata campus depicted the move from Japan to Carbondale.

The slide show then recorded different ceremonies, important exchange programs for Japanese and Carbondale students, events former Niijata campus president Dorn attended before returning to Carbondale and other establishments made between the two countries.

Near the end of the ceremony in Tokyo, Suzoko Mita presented Dietz with the scroll and its ancient story.

“She gave us a very nice Japanese scroll she purchased and wanted the University to have,” Dietz said. “She plans to be here in March, and the scroll will be installed some place on campus, some place of prominence.”

The next large ceremony in Nakajo included the mayor of the town, a number of students, faculty from campus and other community members. The director of the SIUC-Niijata program gave a speech, highlighting the correlation of the two campuses.

Tom Saville, coordinator for the Study Abroad programs, said as a part of Chancellor Walter Wendler’s scholarship initiative from the money generated from the tuition increase, every SIUC student who joins the program will receive a $1,000 scholarship toward the SIUC-Niijata program costs.

“That will be automatic if you are accepted and a Carbondale student,” Saville said.

Dorn hopes this celebration will influence more students to be a part of the SIUC-Niijata campus and Carbondale efforts for the program.

Mita has shown her contributions, and Dorn and other University officials will remember not only her contributions in the historical picture, but now the generous gift she has given back to the University.