History Grad Wins Award to Study in Japan

Tomomi Tewksbury and Liam Murphy

Adjunct lecturer Tomomi Tewksbury and Liam Murphy '24 (SUNY Geneseo photo/Matt Burkhartt)

Liam Murphy ‘24, a history with adolescence education major from Bellport, NY, will spend the 2024–25 academic year in Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) after winning a national award through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program USA).

JET Program USA is sponsored by the Japanese government and offers a unique cultural exchange opportunity for US college alumni to meet people from all around the world through living and working in Japan. Since 1987, JET has sent more than 70,000 participants from 55 countries (including more than 35,800 Americans) to work in schools, boards of education, and government offices.

“My interest in Japan began when I became exposed to Japanese rock music in high school,” Murphy remembers. “Joining the Japanese Culture Club (JCC) and serving on the executive board allowed me to explore aspects of the culture, such as its traditional dances, the amazing cuisine, and exciting history.” Former JCC president Michael Kleinlercher ’22, a 2022–23 ALT in Miyagi, mentored Murphy and recommended he look into the program.

Through Murphy’s interactions with Japanese international students, he “learned how to make onigiri, practice the speaking skills I was learning in language classes, and host cultural dinners and festivals on campus. Yelling out ‘Dokkoisho! Dokkoisho!’ during the Sōran Bushi [a traditional Japanese song and dance] was an unforgettable experience, and I’m so thankful to the Japanese for sharing their culture with me.”

Tomomi Tewksbury, adjunct lecturer of Japanese in the Department of Global Languages and Cultures, remembers Murphy as a student in her 2021 Japanese 101 class who planned to apply for the program: “At the time, I did not give his statement much credence but have watched him since move forward steadily, fulfilling his plan with flexibility and a strong will. Liam is a promising educator, and JET is the first step toward his future goals.”

Murphy’s career plans involve obtaining a TESOL master’s degree and continuing his work as a history and English language teacher. “I want to spread and nurture inclusive environments for the learning of Japanese culture in New York school districts where there is a lack of cultural clubs and organizations,” he says. “Fostering Japanese-American relations in a public school setting is a dream of mine, and there is no better program than JET to make that dream a reality.”

For more information about JET and other nationally and internationally competitive scholarship and fellowship programs, contact Director of National Fellowships and Scholarships Michael Mills at millsm@geneseo.edu or 585-245-6002, and visit Fellowships and Scholarships.

—Michael Mills