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Japan Trip Provides New Twist For Program

Published: October 15, 2014

There’s a new twist to CSULB’s Graduate Program in Sport Management—a two-week summer, non-required trip to Japan to take classes at Sendai University in Northern Japan.

“We’re always thinking of ways to be a little unique and this is one of them,” said Steve Buchan, Associate Director of Graduate Program in Sport Management, which has approximately 100 students in three cohorts. “Our students get to see what a Japanese university teaches like and it’s a very different experience. Their interaction is tremendously different, so our students go over and learn a different way which is very interesting and we think beneficial.”

Earl Declet, who is in the program cohort scheduled to graduate in December, was in charge of setting up the trip, in essence his class project, which took place July 22-Aug. 4. The trip was coordinated with Marty Kuehnert, a vice president and professor at Sendai University and the founder and president of International Sports Management and Consultants, who also taught many of the program classes.

Declet was able to draw on others’ experiences from the initial trip in 2013, but it was still up to him to put the entire package together for the 10 people going. It was an opportunity he didn’t know he would have when he began the program in August 2013.

“When I began this sport management program, I didn’t even know we offered this study-abroad program to Japan,” said Declet. “Once I heard about the program and all the different events that would take place and the different people we were going to be able to meet, I just wanted to make sure I was a part of it. I didn’t think I would be organizing the trip, but I’m glad I had to opportunity to do so. I learned a lot.”

While in Japan the group was housed in the Sendai University International Students Dormitory. Some of the out-of-classroom activities included stadium tours, personal meetings with front office executives, attending professional baseball and soccer events, a personal dinner with a sumo wrestler and a tour of Tokyo.

“Being in a sports program and seeing all the events that were set up for us, I wanted to learn as much as I could about Japanese sports culture and then compare that to what we have here in America,” said Declet, who was an Asian-American Studies’ minor at UC Santa Barbara before coming to CSULB. “I enjoy the Asian culture and I was ready to embrace everything about the Japanese culture or sports culture as I think our entire group was.

“This program is one you could not buy, literally,” he added. “It’s honestly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and very unique program that you can’t find anywhere else. The sports management program is a great on its own. This trip is just another positive thing about it.”

The non-traditional master’s program runs for 18 months and involves a collaboration between the Department of Kinesiology and College of Continuing and Professional Education. The sport management program is designed to prepare individuals for the “Business of Sport.” A big part of the “non-traditional” aspect of the program is clearly the trip to Japan, where the students immerse themselves in the country’s culture, while getting an inside look into the Japanese sports world.

Earl Declet

“One of the approaches we take with this program is that we run it like a business,” said Buchan. “In fact, for this trip, each of the students was provided a business card—English on one side and Japanese on the other. For many of them it was the first international trip they had ever taken. And by taking this trip, they get to see things that most students never see.”

Upon their arrival, the students were basically dropped into Japanese culture, interacting with students on the Sendai campus and doing their best to communicate with them. All classes and events were structured towards Japanese sport culture and taught in English, but outside of the classroom, everyone was speaking the Japanese, giving them little choice but to speak try out their best Japanese.

“I think what the program offers is an inside look at how Japanese sport is run as a business and how it’s run just culturally, and the differences that are there between them and the U.S. We were really immersed in the culture and that kind of forced us to embrace it, which was good,” said Declet, who, when asked if he speaks Japanese, chuckled, “Absolutely not, but after the trip I know conversational stuff, but in hindsight that’s something I wish I had taken more time with, learning conversational Japanese so I feel like I could hang out and talk with people a little more comfortably.”