Student Adviser Receives Fulbright International Education Administrator Seminar Award

Trinity College’s Katharine Clair Attends Two-Week Program in Japan
Katharine Clair took part in the Fulbright United States-Japan International Education Administrator (IEA) Program
Katie Clair at Trinity College's Office of International Students and Scholars. Photo by Andrew J. Concatelli
Hartford, Connecticut, July 6, 2016 – Ask Katharine “Katie” Clair what she does, and the answer is likely to depend on the day. As Trinity’s international student adviser, Clair serves as adviser, advocate, counselor, and connector for students who have journeyed from around the world to study at the College. She helps students negotiate the myriad challenges of study in the United States, from completing the necessary government paper work to navigating the idiosyncrasies of an educational system that is oftentimes markedly different from their own. This transition can be particularly difficult for Asian students, whose culture and educational system are quite different from those in the United States and Europe. Thus, Clair was thrilled when she learned that she had been awarded one of just 10 places in the prestigious Fulbright United States-Japan International Education Administrator (IEA) Program that took place June 12-24 of this year.

Clair has extensive experience in Europe but said that her depth of knowledge in Asia is markedly less, possibly hampering her ability to assist students from this part of the world. “Japan is a high-context culture, and you really need to experience it firsthand to understand it. Spending time in the country helped me not only to understand Japanese students better but also to gain insights into their culture and educational system so that I can better help them adjust to life on an American campus.”

Katharine Clair took part in the Fulbright United States-Japan International Education Administrator (IEA) Program
Katie Clair shakes hands with a statue of Dr. Shoyo Tsubouchi, who translated Shakespeare into Japanese. Legend has it that if you shake his hand you will graduate from Tokyo's Waseda University.
The importance of understanding the challenges that Asian students face is doubly pressing for Clair in light of Trinity’s newly established exchange partnership with Rikkyo University, a liberal arts college in Tokyo. As a result, she was particularly enthusiastic about the IEA agenda, which offered visits to local colleges and universities in Japan, meetings with students, and conversations with Japanese government officials in higher education. “It was incredibly valuable for me to meet my counterparts from Rikkyo, see the environment our exchange students will be coming from, and familiarize myself with the resources available to them in Japan versus here,” she said. Student services in the United States tend to be vastly different and generally more comprehensive than those offered elsewhere, Clair explained, so getting a good handle on student expectations and potential needs is critical. “Anticipating areas where Asian students may experience ‘culture shock’ enables me to provide more relevant support to incoming students,” she said.

Trinity Senior Associate Dean of Students Ann Reuman said Clair is a “smart and naturally curious young woman who really cares about our students. She’s extremely adept at forging collaborations on campus and beyond and is constantly networking with colleagues to gain knowledge that she can bring back to campus and use to students’ advantage. I’m confident she will transform her Fulbright experience in Japan into something very constructive for our students.”

Rieko Wagoner, principal lecturer in language and culture studies and international studies at Trinity, has gotten to know Clair through her international initiatives on campus. “I’ve been very impressed by Katie’s energy and personal commitment to her work — she does a remarkable job,” she said. “With increasing numbers of Asian students on campus, it is extremely important for administrators at Trinity to have firsthand exposure to Asian cultures. Katie realizes this and is committed to expanding her understanding and experience, which I very much appreciate.”

Written by Lori Ferguson