When College of Idaho senior Courtney Indart began a Washington, D.C. internship last winter with Innovations in Civic Participation, her goal was to gain experience with international relations and professional development. What she didn’t know was that her time in the nation’s capital would lead to an opportunity to travel to Japan this summer for a civic engagement project she and her fellow ICP interns helped organize.
This month, Indart is one of six American students aiding Japanese reconstruction efforts following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Indart, an international political economy major, also is helping complete her group’s project through The Washington Center (TWC), the internship program that helped place her in D.C. last summer.
“This project is focused on disaster preparedness, short and long term recovery, and community resilience,” Indart said. “Our group compared how the U.S. and Japan have differed in disaster responses, looking at each country’s successes and failures. I now know much more about FEMA, especially how it grew out of the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina.”
Indart pursued the Japan project because of its relationship with the U.S.-Japan Council’s TOMODACHI Initiative, which materialized shortly after the earthquake to strengthen the bond between the two countries through cultural exchange and leadership development. Indart worked directly with visiting Japanese students on the first half of the project, which created a hypothetical non-profit project to address one of the ongoing issues in the disaster areas. Indart’s group went through all the steps of planning a non-profit organization, including applying for grants and outlining multi-year plans of action.
The project also included team-building exercises, where the Japanese and American students explored their cultural differences and built friendships. “The Japanese students were so amazing!” Indart said.
The group, which proposed a mobile community and support center called “Kibou Mobile,” was one of two teams selected to complete the second half of the project in Japan. As a result, Indart has the opportunity to work directly on restoration efforts in Japan and present Kibou Mobile to sponsors of the TOMODACHI Initiative.
Indart credits her experiences at The College of Idaho with helping to prepare her for international work.
“The knowledge from the development courses I’ve taken really helped when we were brainstorming our project,” she said. “And the opportunities to travel with the College and work with our many international students on campus made it an easy transition to work with the Japanese students.”
Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another 12 Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.