About our programs

The Japan-America Student Conference (JASC):
Celebrating Seventy Years

Chapter I: 1934 to 1940: The Early Conferences
Chapter II: 1947 to 1954: A Post-War Recovery
Chapter III: 1964 to 1993: The JASC Tradition Revived
Chapter IV: 1994 to 2003: Technology & Innovation
Chapter V: 2003 to present: The Millennium JASC


Chapter III: 1964 to 1993

In 1964, two alumni of the First JASC revived the Conference: Namiji Itabashi, one of the four principal founders of JASC in 1934, and Rudie Wilhelm, Jr., an alumnus of the first and second Conferences, now a prominent business man, legislator, and civic leader in Portland, Oregon. Itabashi had long dreamed of reviving his creation.

The 30th Anniversary of JASC in 1964 seemed a propitious time. The International Education Center (IEC) in Tokyo of which he was a founder and Board Chairman, already supported the International Student Conference and could act in a similar capacity for the Japanese side of a revived JASC. He wrote to a few American First Conference alumni for possible help. Rudie Wilhelm, Jr., generously agreed to underwrite a week's expenses. Revival was assured. Seventy-seven Japanese and sixty-two Americans attended the JASC rebirth at Reed College, Wilhelm's Alma Mater, and the site of the Second Conference in 1935.

The American side rallied, and since 1964 the Conference has been held annually, alternately in Japan and the U.S. In general, it has followed the pre-War pattern. Its central discussion portion is divided into individual table discussion groups, usually numbering ten, covering broad subject matter areas. The practice of including a travel itinerary as part of the overall Conference program was gradually revived.

The table seminar discussion portion of each Conference comes early in each year's program, at a site often varying from year to year. Of greatest significance was the continuation of the Conference as a student planned and executed enterprise. However, the scope and nature of the annual JASC program changed and broadened in the years since the 1964 rejuvenation:

1 . Pre-War Conferences placed equal weight on academic/study discussions and travel/socializing aspects of the program. Since 1964, the emphasis shifted from a travel/socializing program to that of on-site learning experiences at changing geographic locations, such as visits to host country business, government, trade, manufacturing and trade organization establishments, the U.N. and its specialized agencies, and, included homestays. This change substantially altered the travel part of the Conference sessions, making it more a continuation of the study program rather than simply an opportunity to view geographic, scenic and cultural characteristics of the host country.

2 . In 1979, a series of Fora and Symposia were added to the overall program, dealing with such topics as environment, trade, race relations, national defense, social change, gender and communication, which supplement the small, intense table discussions and enable all eighty delegates to interact simultaneously among themselves and with private sector professionals, academics and governmental representatives who participate as featured speakers.

3. In 1992, the delegates began incorporating some volunteer activities in the host country into the Conference schedule. Delegates in Washington, D.C. distributed food to the homeless and in Colorado helped to maintain a nature hiking trail. In Japan, the students helped to turn used milk cartons into paper products.

4. Composition of the American Delegations, in recent years, has substantially diversified in terms of ethnic and geographic representation as well as in areas of academic specialization. Recent American delegations have included students from all of the country's major minority groups. The 1993 group came from 28 different U.S. universities and colleges, a significant geographic spread when it is considered that delegation size for each country is limited to 40 students. In contrast with earlier years, the "typical" JASC delegate majoring in international relations is no longer the norm. Today's delegates' areas of study range from medicine, to business administration, music, economics, engineering, and political and physical sciences. Additionally, American JASC delegates increasingly demonstrate competence with the Japanese language-- an ability that challenges the "English only" tradition of JASC.

These changes have increased JASC's visibility and reputation to the point that it is becoming recognized among academics and professionals alike as a "training ground" for young leaders with an interest in U.S.-Japan relations. In 1991, the "JASC Mentorship" program was inaugurated, matching well-qualified students with companies and organizations who seek such individuals for entry-level positions. Also, significantly, the Conference has forged mutually beneficial relationships with a growing number of major academic institutions across the U.S., including Harvard, Stanford, Universities of Washington and California (Berkeley), and Princeton, which either annually, or periodically for successive years have given full or nearly full scholarship grants funding their students participation in JASC.

A major event in JASC history is the founding of the JASC, Inc. headquarters in Washington, D.C. The JASC American delegation had no senior support group of its own comparable to the IEC in Tokyo until the early 1970's when this fact began posing a problem for the American students. Inflation escalated annual costs, increasing fundraising burdens. New state and federal tax regulations governing fund solicitation made corporations less willing to donate to a completely student-run enterprise with no fixed headquarters location or continuity of managerial personnel. For a few years in the mid and late 1970's, the Japan Society of New York and later the Council for International Education Exchange acted as JASC's supporting organization by receiving donations on behalf of JASC and managing JASC's finances. The 1978 Conference in the U.S. was made possible only by the very generous support provided by the Japanese, since the American delegation had been unable to raise sufficient funds to hold the Conference.

At this point, a small group of pre-World War II JASC alumni living in the greater Washington, D.C. area, led by G. Lewis Schmidt of JASC 4 & 5, realized the American side of JASC faced failure. Mr. Schmidt, who later became Chairman and Treasurer of JASC's Board of Directors, displayed determination reminiscent of the original JASC founders by laboring for over a year to establish the first permanent senior support group for JASC in a small office in downtown Washington, D.C. In April 1979, Mr. Schmidt, Dr. Eleanor Hadley of JASC 2, 3 & 4, and their fellow alumni incorporated the non-profit Japan-America Student Conference, Inc. (JASC, Inc.). In August of the same year IRS granted the important 501 (c) (3) designation which gave JASC, Inc. tax exempt status and made donor contributions tax deductible.

Since then, JASC, Inc., with the guidance of a Board of Directors representing corporate, university and alumni members throughout the U.S., carries out most of the fundraising with assistance from AEC members, provides advice and counsel to the AEC, and fosters alumni relations by publishing a biannual newsletter and other alumni activities.

Chapter IV: 1994 to 2003