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Student Spotlight – Ian L. Smith

Spotlight on Ian L. Smith, MAIS JAPAN

June 15, 2020

Ian L. Smith (MA 2020) is a recent graduate from the Jackson School of International Studies (Japan Studies). We asked him about his time at the UW, as well as what advice he has for incoming students.

Why did you choose the JSIS Japan Studies Program?

I have always known that UW’s Japan program is peerless, and it was this knowledge that drew me to the undergraduate program in 2016 just as it did for my MA in 2018. The research and coursework have been infinitely rewarding. I aimed to take a deep dive into academics and an integration into campus that I failed to take as an undergraduate. Learning under and building relationships with the greatest Japan Studies academics in the country is something I will boast about for a long time.

Would you say that you have changed (intellectually, personally, etc.) as a result of attending the program?

Absolutely. I always tried to stretch myself as thin as possible to test the limit of my capabilities, and I believe I have found those limits. I held a job on-campus, another job off campus, and many times served as a TA, and all of these felt in many ways just an extension of my academics. Overall, growing professionally throughout my time in the program has probably been my greatest achievement.

What have you enjoyed most about your time in the program?

I have never had as many friends and neighborly colleagues, and I will miss everyone dearly. Whether work friends, my cohort, my students, faculty, or staff, I’ve never felt like I belong so much as I do here. The academic camaraderie I built with my cohort, specifically, is so reminiscent of the companionship one builds in military basic training, and the people of this program will remain singular.

What advice would you give prospective Japan Studies MA students?

  • Never say “no” to an opportunity. If you have given even a second of thought to a scholarship or job position, apply. You never know what could come of a 300-word essay. I received many scholarships and job offers just because of a passing interest.
  • Connect with faculty. The UW Japan Studies Program is the best in the country, and you would be remiss to not take advantage of the unparalleled academics. They each have their specialty, and all can help you grow as both a student and a person.
  • Be uncomfortable. Take on risks, projects, and positions that put you in over your head. I’m sure once everything is said and done you’ll find that what you’re capable of is far beyond anything you could have imagined. You will lose sleep, but the program is only two years long and you’ll have plenty of time to recover afterwards!

Area of study: I studied the political economy and military history of Japan during the interwar period and WWII. My theses were “Business as Usual: Economic and Manufacturing Continuity in Interwar Japan” and “(In)voluntary Profit: Imperial Governance and Zaibatsu Dominance in World War II”.

Post-graduation plans: This fall I will begin instruction at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, double majoring in Management and Information Systems. My anticipated graduation date is spring 2022, after which I hope to join a major consulting firm that focuses on international business.

Ian is graduating this quarter with an MA in Japan Studies with Honors and a 4.0 GPA. He served as President of the Jackson School Graduate Student Council, Senator in the Graduate & Professional Student Senate, and the MA representative on the JSIS Diversity and Equity Committee. In his time in the program, he has been a Japan Studies Program Scholar, a two-time Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellow, Kristen Kawakami Dean Fellow, and recipient of the Jackson School’s 2020 Graduate Book Award. Before entering the graduate program Ian also received a BA from the Jackson School (2017). He was a weather forecaster in the military and also worked in e-commerce, journalism, and IT.

Editor’s note: Ian has been our student assistant of communications, and that of the East Asia Center, for two years. We are grateful for his excellent work and wish him well.