Global MA Spotlight: Carleena Lara-Bregatta

GMAINGO Cohort_LaraBregatta Bio PhotoEach term, the College of Arts & Sciences highlights one of its Global MA students from the International Relations or International Nongovernmental Organizations programs.

The second-ever cohort of Global MA in INGO students began their trek across the globe this August. Carleena Lara-Bregatta was among them, and so far, her graduate studies have taken her to Bangkok, Thailand and London, England. We caught up with Carleena on the verge of winter break to see what she thinks about her first semester as a “global.”

Carleena Lara-Bregatta is 22 years old. In her undergraduate studies, she attended West Chester University in West Chester, PA. She studied within the field of psychology, yet her interests have shifted more towards the field of sociology. She would ultimately love to continue her education and receive her PhD in sociology to later become a professor. Her interests within the field of sociology are globalization, inequality, and health. Carleena is also very involved in yoga and meditation. She intends to receive her yoga teaching certification within the next few years. Yoga has allowed her to tap into her spiritual side and remain centered through difficult times. She enjoys many forms of artistic expression as well, including dance and drawing; she is also in the process of teaching herself acoustic guitar. She would love to combine her NGO experience later in life with the teachings and practices of yoga to underprivileged groups. She is passionate about educating youth and combining that with healthy lifestyle practices.

Poppies at the Tower of London

Poppies at the Tower of London

Where are you currently?

I am currently living in London, UK.

What’s your next stop?

My next stop is Leiden, Netherlands.

Why did you choose Webster’s Global MA program?

I chose Webster’s program because I was really feeling unsatisfied with doing a regular Masters. I really wanted to combine traveling with studying to get two things accomplished at once. Since I was interested in the social sciences, I also felt that a global masters would be much more beneficial for my career.

Describe a memorable cultural experience that you’ve had while in the program.

Countless memorable cultural experiences occurred for me in Thailand. I enjoyed learning about their political issues and how the society reacted (and often accepted) the current regime. It was a large change to go from an American culture of outspokenness to Thai culture where things are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Koh Tao, Thailand

Koh Tao, Thailand

What has been your biggest challenge as you adapt to a new culture?

One of the challenges I faced when adapting to new cultures was to refrain from anger or annoyance in Bangkok. The city is extremely overwhelming at times with people trying to sell you things left and right. I had to constantly remind myself that they are simply working as hard as possible to support themselves and their families. Once I traveled outside Bangkok I realized that the city life is much different than the rural parts of Thailand and I began to fall in love with the country.

Academically speaking, share a moment/experience/knowledge gained in the Global MA program that has introduced you to a new idea/perspective.

Academically speaking, one of the most enlightening parts of the program was speaking to locals about their experiences living in the country. Specifically, in Thailand I tried to question people about their thoughts on the political powers there and see how they felt about it. I feel like this really complimented my educational experience because I learned things in class and then was able to go out and test if what I learned was accurate, based on my own experiences.

Erawan Falls, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Erawan Falls, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

What are your plans for the future after you complete the GMAINGO program?

I intend to apply, apply, and apply some more to land a job at an NGO/INGO. I am planning on simultaneously applying for teaching English in Thailand or look for NGO jobs there so that I can return. I’d also love to gain my yoga teaching certification after graduation as well.

Any fun travel plans over winter break?

Over winter break I am planning on going to Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ll probably look to rent a car so I can check out the countryside as well. Then I’ll be flying home for Christmas & New Years. Following that, I have a trip to Iceland booked for 6 days to see the Northern Lights and anything and everything else that I am able to see in that time.

The view from the Tower Bridge in London

The view from the Tower Bridge in London

Interview by Gracie Gralike.

Alumni Spotlight: Carol Ellis Leads the Way in Healthcare

Carol Ellis

Carl Ellis, VP of Nursing at St. Anthony’s Medical Center

Thanks to Webster’s over-35-year history of educating nurses, it’s no surprise to find Webster nursing alumni in important healthcare roles throughout the St. Louis region and beyond. They’re award-winning practitioners, researchers, and instructors, putting their Webster degree to use for the benefit of our families and communities.

Carol Ellis is one of those alumni making Webster especially proud: a 2011 Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) graduate, Ellis was recently appointed Vice President of Nursing at St. Anthony’s Medical Center.

Ellis’s journey toward her new role at St. Anthony’s began in childhood. “My parents were both ill and I assumed the caregiver role at a young age,” Ellis said. “I enjoyed helping [care for my parents], and I was fascinated by the wonder of the human body. I wanted to become a nurse as soon as I graduated from high school.”

Webster University offered her an entryway into the nursing profession in the early ‘80s via its Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program. Ellis went on to earn as associate’s degree and then her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, eventually returning to Webster in 2009 to begin her MSN with a focus on nurse leadership. She says that her MSN instructors “worked hard to bring current, real-life experiences into our classroom that allowed for lively and educational discussions.”

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Hybrid Courses Take Students Worldwide

Ready for a trip that will change your life?

The College of Arts & Sciences is offering several courses in spring 2015 that combine a traditional classroom experience or online learning experience with the top-quality study abroad programming for which Webster is known. Students in a hybrid course supplement their coursework with an intensive one-week immersion trip in which the topics they’ve explored in class take on real-world dimension; one alum describes his travels with a hybrid courses as “one of the most profound moments in my…education.” (You can read more about students’ hybrid experiences here and here.)

Hurry — registration for these courses ends December 15, 2014, and they’re filling up fast!

Webster stduents visit Zena Kohlshorn's Earthship during a Taos, N.M., study tour.“Living On/Off the Grid: Taos, New Mexico, USA” (SCIN 1800, 3 credits)
Instructor: Julia Griffey,
Online Course Dates: Feb. 2 – Mar. 20, 2015
Immersion Experience: Mar. 8 – Mar. 13, 2015 (spring break)

This hybrid travel course investigates on-grid vs. off-grid living toward complete sustainability. We will examine how on-grid systems within traditional homes supply water, process waste, generate power and maintain thermal comfort and compare these to alternative sustainable systems (black water, grey water, solar power, thermal mass, catch water, etc…) in off-grid homes. Students will complete the majority of their course work in Taos, New Mexico over spring or fall break where they will receive instruction, participate in discussions, execute hands-on experiments, and learn alternative building methods in an off-the-grid home independent of public utilities. Throughout the week, students will travel to various sites around Taos to see exemplifications of concepts discussed in class. This course will have lectures, assignments, discussions and an exam on-line prior to the travel portion. Upon their return, students will take another exam and complete an assignment based on their travel experience.

Justin Raymundo and Simone Borisov interact with the children of Nkombo.“Human Rights Area Studies: Rwanda, Africa” (HRTS 3200, 3 total credits)
Instructor: Elizabeth Sausele,
Online Course Dates (2 credits): Mar. 16 – May 15, 2015 (Spring 2)
Immersion Experience (1 credit): May 19 – Jun. 2, 2015 (May Term)

Examines the conditions in selected countries during a specific time period. (An example might be the conditions in Argentina , Chile , and Uruguay in the 1960s and 1970s that led to the human rights abuses of the 1970s and 1980s.) Investigates the impact of human rights abuses on the politics and society in the countries selected. The approach may vary from semester to semester, ranging from the historical to the literary. May be repeated once for credit, when subject matter varies.

Webster's Leiden campus

“Constitutional and International Issues: Human Trafficking and Slavery: Leiden, the Netherlands” (LEGL 4605/5505, 3 credits)
Instructor: The Honorable Noelle Collins,
Online Course Dates: Mar. 16 – May 1 (UNDG) or May 8 (GRAD), 2015
Immersion Experience: May 24 – 30 (May Term)

This course will explore constitutional and human rights issues which arise as individual countries and the international community work to address issues and concerns involving slavery and human trafficking. Topics discussed include: trafficking in women and children; sexual exploitation; labor exploitation, i.e. domestic slavery, forced labor, bonded labor; racial discrimination; refugee issues/status; and other related topics.

“International Criminal Law: A Human Rights Perspective: Leiden, the Netherlands” (LEGL 4602/LEGL 5502, 3 credits)
Instructor: Tena Hart, 314-246-7067
Online Course Dates: Mar. 16 – May 1 (UNDG)/May 8 (GRAD), 2015
Immersion Experience: May 17-23, 2015 (May Term)

This course will offer a comparison between international law, as viewed by most of Europe and as viewed by the United States. The impact of those two views of international law will be studied both in theory and as they apply to tribunals, governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations that are located in the Hague.

“Regional Identities: Nice, France” (ILC 2000, 3 credits)
Instructor: Dominique Macaire,
Online Course Dates: Feb.2 – Mar. 25, 2015
Immersion Experience: Mar. 7 – Mar. 15, 2015 (spring break)

Intermediate-level language study program offered abroad by Webster University or in cooperation with an approved study abroad program. Prerequisites: intermediate level in appropriate foreign language and permission of department chair. May be repeated for credit if content differs.

“Land of Three Faiths: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity in Medieval Spain” (ILC 2150, ISTL 2550, RELG 2200, and HIST 2010; 3 credits)
Instructor: Kyle Lincoln,
Online Course Dates: February 1, 2015 – May 1, 2015
Immersion Experience: March 7, 2015 – March 15, 2015

A topics course devoted to an in-depth examination of chronological sub-periods or distinctive themes in medieval or early modern European history. May be repeated for credit if content differs.

alphawom 1“Global Gender Rights: New York City, New York, USA” (KEYS 4005, 3 credits)
Instructor: Annie Stevens,
Online Course Dates: February 2-May 8, 2015
Immersion Experience: March 7-13, 2015 (Spring Break)

This course will examine the status of women and women’s rights locally, nationally, and globally. This includes analyses of the economic, political, and cultural policies, structures, institutions, constraints, and conditions that affect the status and rights of women. Possible topics addressed may include: violence against women, women’s health women’s education and economic development, women in leadership and LGBT rights.

Experiential component: Trip to the United Nations Commission on Status of Women conference, interviews of NGO workers or service learning at homeless/ women’s shelters.

Want to learn more? Reach out to the contact listed for the course(s) that interest you, or contact the Office of Study Abroad at

Cultural Connections: Nas Finds Fun and Family at Webster

cultural connections bigger

Each month, Global Thinking will feature a “Cultural Connections” guest post written and curated by a member of the Department of International Languages and Cultures (ILC). This month’s post spotlights a quick Q&A with German teaching assistant Nas Fehrest-Avanloo. 


Nas Fehrest-Avanloo is the German Teaching Assistant here at Webster University. Nas is from the city of Bochum, which is located in West Germany. Here at Webster, she teaches German classes. This is her first semester teaching. Nas was interviewed by the ILC Marketing and Communications intern and shared some of her thoughts and feelings about her first few months at Webster.

What has been your best experience since coming to St. Louis/ Webster University?

“My best experience so far is of course the teaching, as this is what I love and what I want to do my whole life. Also, meeting with all of these wonderful people. I love the whole International Languages and Cultures Department, my supervisor Paula Hanssen, my students who are awesome, and of course the other TAs who have become my family.”

From left: Nas, Mikael Toulza (French TA), Magali Lopez-Cortez

From left: Nas, Mikael Toulza (French TA), Magali Lopez-Cortez

How does Webster University compare to your university in your country?

“Compared to Ruhr-Universität Bochum, my home university, Webster is much smaller and you can feel this when it comes to ‘feeling like a family.’ When I walk to my office it can take a long time because you just stop to talk to people so many times. These people give you a feeling as if you have known each other for ages. I like this. In my home university, everything is much more anonymous.”

I hear that you are taking Zumba. Why are you so interested in it?

“Thanks to Maggie Dankert, from the International Languages and Cultures Department, I started Zumba this semester. I take classes on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8AM. This is an awesome way to start the week. Now I can spend my morning with something fun, as I always wake up around 5AM anyway. I can forget my stress, which my responsibility as a teacher can bring along.”

Nas is very excited to be a part of the Webster family and all the new experiences it has brought her. She balances her activities and enjoys what she does. Webster’s new addition loves her role as a teacher and enjoys being able to assist students in learning German. Although she loves teaching, she knows that it can become stressful at times and balances this by taking Zumba. Nas loves having fun, and it is obvious to see that she is indeed having fun as part of the Webster community.

Nas (right) shows off her St. Louis spirit

Nas (right) shows off her St. Louis spirit

Webster Students, Faculty, and Alumni Among 2014 March of Dimes Nurse of the Year Nominees


The Missouri Chapter of March of Dimes gives Nurse of the Year Awards to twenty nurses annually “who exemplify an extraordinary level of patient care, compassion and customer service.” Students, faculty, and alumni of Webster’s nursing programs were well-represented among the finalists for these awards at the 2014 Gala last month. Over 585 nurses were nominated from across the state of Missouri and 6 counties in Illinois, and the pool was narrowed to 394 finalists who attended the Gala on October 25. Among these finalists, 14 have connections to Webster:

Renee Fishering, BSN ’94 — Advanced Practice category finalist
Jenny Schwartz, MSN ’14 –  Advanced Practice category finalist
Yakima Young-Sheilds, BSN ’99 –  Advanced Practice category finalist
Kathleen Thimsen, BSN , MSN, former Arts & Sciences Advisory Board member — Case Management, Public Health, & Occupational Health category finalist
Mary Ann Drake, Professor of Nursing and MSN Program Coordinator at Webster — Education category finalist
Carlita Vassar, BSN ’05 — Hospice, Home Health, Palliative Care, Long Term Acute Care category finalist
Rita Brumfield, BSN ’92, MSN ’96 — Nursing Administration category finalist
Vickie Wade, BSN ’90, MSN ’03 – Nursing Administration category finalist
Robyn Weilbacher, MSN ’12 – Nursing Administration category finalist
Barb Sicking, BSN ’09 — Pediatrics category finalist
Karen Balakas, adjunct nursing faculty at Webster — Research category Nurse of the Year Award winner
Gail Pitroff, BSN ’95 – Research category finalist
Marilyn Schallom, adjunct nursing faculty at Webster — Research category finalist
Tammy Pierson, current MSN student — Women’s Health and Obstetrics category finalist

Karen Balakas, an adjunct instructor in Webster’s nursing program, won the Nurse of the Year Award in her category for her contributions to scholarly research in the field. Balakas’ latest research focuses on evidence-based practice in pediatrics, and her recent publications include studies on active computer games as exercise for children with cystic fibrosis (2011) and the psychosocial outcomes of overnight summer camp experiences for children with heart disease (2014). In her career as a nurse and scholar, she has provided research consulting services to graduate and advanced practice nurses at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Missouri Baptist Medical Center.

Associate Dean Jenny Broeder

Associate Dean Jenny Broeder

Associate Dean of Professional Programs and registered nurse Dr. Jenny Broeder is thrilled to see so many members of Webster’s nursing community recognized for their work.

“We are so proud of the Webster nursing students, faculty, and alumni who are represented in this year’s Nurse of the Year Awards finalists,” Broeder said. “They are knowledgeable and compassionate nurses, and I believe they reflect the forward-thinking, patient- and family-centered outlook of Webster’s nursing program.”

The College extends congratulations to all the nurses nominated for Nurse of the Year Awards. Thank you for your dedication to improving the health of our community.

Erin Cornell Joins College as New Executive Assistant

Erin Cornell

Erin Cornell

The College of Arts & Sciences extends a warm welcome to Erin Cornell, our new executive assistant in the dean’s office. Erin has taken over for Brian Noss, who accepted a position at Washington University.

Erin holds a BA in Advertising from the University of Illinois and a BA in Education from Illinois State University, and she has worked in public relations and as a deaf educator. She’s new to St. Louis — she moved with her husband from Jacksonville, IL in May — though she’s familiar with Webster through her father-in-law, Dr. Tom Cornell – an associate professor in the School of Education.

We asked Erin a few questions to get to know her a little better. Here’s what we learned!:

What made you want to work at Webster?

Webster has a reputation of being a great university for which to work.  I am impressed with the many kind, intelligent individuals I have met during the interview process and in my first days on the job.   I am excited for the opportunity to gain experience working in higher ed and to get to know the university’s culture.

About what part of your job are you most excited?

Through my role as assistant in the Dean’s office, I am most excited about building working relationships with diverse colleagues from all over campus and the opportunity to grow professionally.

What might surprise someone to learn about you?

I can only hear out of my right ear and am fluent in American Sign Language.

If you could have springs or wheels instead of feet, which would you choose and why?

Springs!  I enjoy playing volleyball and it would give me an awesome vertical jump.

Erin can be reached at or 314-246-7160.

“…a life in science:” Chronicling Dr. Will Carpenter’s Global Impact

Dr. Will Carpenter

Dr. Will Carpenter

A book about the life and work of biochemist Dr. Will D. Carpenter, a former College of Arts & Sciences Advisory Board member and retired executive at Monsanto Company, was published by Front Porch Press this month. will d… a life in science covers Carpenter’s contributions to agri-product development, environmental policy, and the disarmament of chemical weaponry. Author (and friend of the book’s subject) Thomas R. Lawrence writes in his forward that, after hearing so much about Carpenter’s accomplishments, he “harangued” Carpenter about writing a book until Carpenter suggested that Lawrence might write it himself.

“I did just that,” Lawrence writes, “and here it is.”

Carpenter’s life and work offers plenty to fill the pages of will d. One of Carpenter’s biggest impacts in the world of agriculture, for example, has been his work overseeing the development and marketing of Monsanto products RoundUp and Lasso — herbicides that have helped farmers ensure the viability of their crops and have contributed to an increase in global food production. Despite the constant barrage of criticism from environmental groups suspicious of these products’ safety, Lawrence shares stories from Carpenter’s life illustrating that, in light of such pressure, Carpenter ”would confidently hold his own in front of numerous Congressional Hearings, and give expert reasoning as to why the work he had participated in was not only safe for the environment, but substantially improved the lives of millions of people.”

“Insuring food for millions of people who would otherwise go hungry,” Lawrence says,  ”was the conviction that would drive Dr. Carpenter” in his career at Monsanto.

Similar humanitarian concerns led Carpenter to seek solutions to problems beyond the realm of agriculture; his decades-long leadership within the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) — during which time Carpenter acted as an “honest broker” between academia, industry, and government to impress upon international leaders the importance of chemical disarmament — resulted in the ratification of The Chemical Weapons Treaty in 2003. On December 10, 2013, the OPCW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work.

David Carl Wilson, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences

David Carl Wilson, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences

Carpenter contributed his scientific expertise to Webster through his relationship with College of Arts & Sciences Dean David Carl Wilson and his tenure as a College Advisory Board member from 2003 to 2009.  Chapter 26 in will d… a life in science opens with Carpenter and Dean Wilson’s first meeting in 2004; Carpenter, Lawrence writes, had found in Dean Wilson a “kindred soul.” The two would work together over the coming years to develop a graduate degree program in Science and Intellectual Property, launching the program in 2010.

The College’s current US Patent Practice program (housed in the Department of Biological Sciences) and its forthcoming Computational Biology program are both indebted to Carpenter’s guidance. They are the direct off-shoots of Carpenter’s scientific knowledge, industry connections, and desire to see Webster’s degree offerings remain competitive in a rapidly-growing field.

Webster University President Elizabeth (“Beth”) Stroble summarizes Carpenter’s legacy in her blurb for will d… a life in science:

“To know Will Carpenter is to know at once a compassionate mentor, master storyteller, and world-renowned researcher and chemical weapons treaty advocate.”




To learn more about will d…a life in science and order a copy, visit

Interested in Africana Studies? Try these Courses in 2014-15.

The College of Arts & Sciences will offer a number of courses throughout 2014-15 which feature elements of Africana Studies and explore the lives and impacts of historically-significant African and African-American thinkers, politicians, and artists.

ENGL 2110 Perspectives: Literature of Oppression and Resistance
MWF 10-10:50am
Instructor: Dr. Karla Armbruster
Examines a society, social problem, or social institutions from the differing viewpoints of those in and out of power. May be repeated for credit if content differs.

HIST 2320: African-American History
MW 2-3:20pm
Instructor: Dr. Karen Stringer
A survey of the African-American experience from colonial times to the present.

HIST 2040: Topics in Latin American History: Slavery in the Americas
W (Spring 2)
Instructor: Dr. Terri Fahrney
Introduces students to the history of culture, politics, and society in Latin America. Chronological periods and themes will vary. Topics could include Mesoamerican civilizations, the colonial era, modern Mexico, and overviews of South and/or Central American history. May be repeated for credit if content differs.

HIST 2050: Topics in African History: Modern Africa
MWF 10-10:50am
Instructor: Dr. Karen Stringer
Introduces students to the history of politics, culture, and society in Africa. Chronological periods of themes may vary. Topics include traditional heritage, slavery and its consequences, colonial experience, nationalism, and independence. May be repeated for credit if content differs.

HIST 3060: History Roundtable: Martin, Malcolm, & America
MWF 2-2:50.
Instructor: Dr. John Chappell
A course allowing for in-depth examination of distinctive themes and topics in history in a seminar setting. There will be a special emphasis on the various ways in which events have been interpreted and reinterpreted by historians and by society. Prerequisite: 6 credit hours of history or permission of the instructor. May be repeated for credit if content differs.

PHIL 2080: Topics in Philosophy: African American Philosophy
Tu 5:30-9:30pm (Fall 2)
Instructor: Dr. Mike Jostedt
Study of text or topic in a special area of philosophy. Contents and methodology on an introductory level. May be repeated for credit if content differs.

For the full registration schedule, consult the academic calendar. 

Human Rights Conference Focuses on Family Rights in 2014


The Smutz-Ulmer family, pictured above, submitted their family photo to the Family of Webster Photo Project — a project which seeks to celebrate the importance and diversity of families around the world as part of Webster’s Year of International Human Rights.

Webster’s Institute for Human Rights & Humanitarian Studies will host its fifth annual Human Rights Conference on October 8 and 9 at the Webster Groves campus. The conference’s theme this year is “family rights,” and the event will bring scholars, students, and community members together to explore issues like family law, adolescent rights, intimate partner violence, and LGBTQ family rights.

Freedom to Marry campaign director Marc Solomon will bring the conference to a close on the 9th with his keynote speech titled “Securing Human Rights in America: Lessons from the Freedom to Marry Movement.” All events, including the keynote, are free and open to the public, but attendees are encouraged to register, as space is limited.



The Institute – which has chosen to highlight human rights issues like disability rights and refugee rights in years past – chose the theme of family rights for 2014 because, Institute Director Lindsey Kingston explains, “the concept of human rights is all about protecting human dignity and ensuring that people have the bare minimum requirements to live a decent life. For most of us, it’s hard to imagine that kind of existence without some form of family. That’s why the international community recognizes the family as a fundamental unit of society.”

The theme of family rights, Kingston said, pertains to human rights scholarship on several levels in that it “not only highlights the human rights issues that impact families around the world, but also emphasizes the fact that families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – and all deserve the same level of respect.”

The conference will feature human rights experts from across academia and the non-profit world, and from around the country, including Jacqueline Bhabha of Harvard University’s Kennedy School for Law and Pamela Summers from NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri.

Several Webster faculty members will bring their areas of study to bear on the theme of family rights as well: Philosophy professor Kate Parsons will moderate a roundtable discussion, Kingston will present a talk on ”Invisible Families and the Right to a Nationality,” Anthropology professor Don Conway-Long will present on “Men, Masculinities, and the Family,” and Professional Counseling faculty members Hasmik Chakaryan and Stacy Henning will host a break-out session titled “Assisting Non-Traditional Families through Life Transitions.”



Chakaryan brings a unique global perspective to her and Henning’s discussion of the counselor’s role in helping non-traditional families. As a psycho-educational and psycho-social project founder and coordinator in East Europe for five years and as a counselor in the United States for the past 6 years, she said, she has worked with families from all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, religions, socio-economic statuses, and sexual orientations, and has seen firsthand “how families struggle with generational poverty, addictions, war trauma, natural disaster outcomes, and migration – and based on where they come from and what stigma is attached to them, they will either get a chance to survive or not.”

Thus “when it comes to family rights,” Chakaryan explains, “it is vital to consider the context in which the family exists. Tensions in families may stem from economic and financial problems, which may be normal for all families to go through, but where [the family] comes from may affect the intensity of the problems they are experiencing, and the chances for them to ever resolve those problems.”

Chakaryan said she is looking forward to being a conference participant as well as a presenter – “hearing other great speakers, learning more about what is going on all over the world, [and hearing] personal experiences of those who would want to share their stories.”

Her and Henning’s contribution to the conference, she said, is one small part of the event’s larger goal to “raise awareness for human rights and social justice not only on this campus, but worldwide.”

For a full schedule of conference events, online registration, and more information on the Institute for Human Rights & Humanitarian Studies, visit

Cultural Connections: Aori Inoue’s American Experience

cultural connections biggerEach month, Global Thinking will feature a “Cultural Connections” guest post written and curated by a member of the Department of International Languages and Cultures. This month’s post spotlights Japanese teaching assistant Aori Inoue’s reflection on moving to the United States.

Aori Inoue

Aori Inoue is a teaching assistant in the Department of International Languages and Cultures at Webster University. She is from Kobe, Japan which is famous for its beef production. Aori is teaches several classes here at Webster, such as the Japanese workshops, Japanese language classes, a Japanese Mindset class that teaches Japanese culture, and a Japanese Mythology class. She loves St. Louis because there is such a high number of NPOs and volunteering opportunities ,and because St. Louis is so diverse. Aori’s favorite aspect of Webster University is the people; she feels that those who work and study here have beautiful minds and personalities.



When I first came to the United States it was as an exchange student at Texas A&M University in 2008. At that time I had no idea that St. Louis, Missouri would end up having such an important role in my life.

I remember my arrival clearly; I had a new and unforeseen adventure ahead of me. I was alone, sweating profusely as I carried my 75lb suitcase in search of a bus to take me to my one room dorm, which would be my home for the next year. I was thinking twice about having brought all of my Japanese sweets and in-case-of-homesickness comfort food. I managed to find a bus which would take me to the dorm. However, there was a problem: I had to stop in downtown Austin to switch busses.

Inoue (third from left) and friends at the Japanese Tea Ceremony event that Inoue organized on Webster's campus

Inoue (third from left) and friends at the Japanese Tea Ceremony event that Inoue organized on Webster’s campus

Everything was new to me, and everything was big – huge, rather. It was true – everything IS bigger in Texas: the highways, the buildings, the green areas, even the cars seemed unusually large to me compared to the compact, city-friendly sized cars of Japan. My first interaction came when what I can only judge as a homeless gentlemen bought me a Coke. “You need this,” he said, giving me a look of empathy and absolute compassion. It really took me by surprise; I didn’t know what to make of this generous act. I was touched at the heartfelt act. I think back on this day quite a bit.

After studying in Texas, I came St. Louis to study law. The Midwest is a bit different from other places I have been. Not everything is as big as in Texas, but everything is still very different from Japan. I was getting ready to return home to Japan when I received a work opportunity from Webster.

From this point on, due to my position, I had a unique opportunity to meet a wonderful array of diverse St. Louisans and non-St. Louisans who choose to call this city their home. This changed my perspective and I started to have a more positive outlook. I became aware of the many international festivals and restaurants that St. Louis has to offer and I came to know all of the unique neighborhoods of St. Louis as well.

Inoue (front) and friends at the Japanese Festival in the Missouri Botanical Gardens

Inoue (front) and friends at the Japanese Festival in the Missouri Botanical Gardens

The Japanese Festival at the Botanical Garden is one of my favorite events in St. Louis, and which makes me feel happy to be Japanese. It’s an event at which I can participate and express the pride I have in my country and culture. I enjoy seeing so many people take an interest in anime, the kimono show, and the Sumo performance, as well as the other events there. It has been exhilarating to see this city host such a large scale event featuring my country’s heritage. It was at this event that I had the opportunity to meet and connect with many Japanese-Americans and Japanese.

Being a TA at Webster has proved to be an interesting and great experience. I get to share many aspects of my country and culture as an instructor. I have had the lucky opportunity to host an event at Webster University featuring a Japanese dance group, a tea ceremony, and a Zen Meditation session. This year I will be hosting a Calligraphy and Japanese Buddhism horror story session.

Looking back on my first day in the US, I reflect on that first encounter with the homeless gentleman. I like to think it’s symbolic of my experiences here. It is not always those who seem to have the most who offer you the most memorable experiences. St. Louis may not be the most popular nor the most glamorous city in the US; however, it has ironically made me appreciate my culture – which has its virtues and flaws like anyone – more. I suppose it is true what they say: you never know what you have until you don’t have it anymore. I am happy to be able to share my culture and my language at Webster University. My time in St. Louis has brought me the most memorable and remarkable experiences of my life in the US.

Students play a fishing game at the Japanese Student Association's field day event on Sept. 26.

Students play a fishing game at the Japanese Student Association’s field day event on September 26, 2014. Inoue is a faculty sponsor of the JSA.