Six University of Arkansas Alumni and Students Selected to Teach English in Japan

by | Nov 8, 2019 | Outreach & Impact, Student Success

Top from left: JET teachers Olivia Degner, Abby Dilick and Faith Freeman; below: JET teachers James Sacha and Austin Synoground as well as associate professor Tatsuya Fukushima. Kristine Massengale is not pictured.

Five University of Arkansas alumni and one graduate student were selected as assistant language teachers for the 2019 Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, a competitive program allowing the students to teach English this year in Japan.

“We are grateful that so many U of A alumni and students have been selected for the JET Program. This record by our alumni speaks volumes about the JET Program’s confidence in our Japanese Program,” said Tatsuya Fukushima, associate professor of Japanese and linguistics as well as coordinator of the Japanese program. “We want more students to begin Japanese language courses early, preferably in their freshman year, so that they will be able to achieve higher proficiency levels in Japanese by graduation. This is key to increase their chances of acceptance to the JET Program.”

Logo for Japanese Exchange and Teaching ProgramSince its start in 1987, the JET Program has matched nearly 34,000 American participants with Japanese schools and government offices. Students selected as assistant language teachers are placed in elementary, junior high and senior high schools in towns and cities across Japan. They participate in classroom instruction and afterschool activities, sharing American culture with their Japanese students. Applicants to the JET Program come from all majors, and should be graduating seniors, recent graduates, or graduate students. JET participants often have the chance to extend their one-year experience into a second or third year.

The 2019 JET Program recipients are:

  • Olivia Degner of Leawood, Kansas, May 2019 graduate with a B.S. in computer science and a minor in mathematics. Degner was an Honors College student.
  • Abby Dilick of Hot Springs, May 2019 graduate with a B.S. in mathematics.
  • Faith Freeman of Fort Smith, May 2019 graduate with a B.A. in anthropology and a B.A. in history.
  • Kristine Massengale of Fayetteville, May 2019 graduate with a B.A. in art history and a minor in Medieval and Renaissance studies.
  • James Sacha of Fayetteville, May 2019 graduate with an M.Ed. in special education.
  • Austin Synoground of Greenwood, philosophy graduate student and recipient of a B.A. in philosophy from the U of A, with a minor in Japanese.

“Congratulations to these accomplished students, alumni and their departments. The JET program is an exceptional opportunity,” said Suzanne McCray, vice provost for enrollment and director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards. “Many participate in the program as graduate students or as a bridge year or two between receiving an undergraduate degree and pursuing graduate study. Professor Fukushima and the Department of World Languages do an excellent job training students and assisting them as they apply successfully for this program. Applications for the 2020 program are due on Nov. 15, and I would encourage anyone who has taken Japanese to seriously consider applying.”

For students who wish to learn more about this award or others like it, visit the Office for Nationally Competitive Awards website or contact the office at

Tatsuya Fukushima

Associate Professor of Japanese, World Languages, Literatures and Cultures 

479-575-5535 //