Freeman Foundation provides funding for Innovative study study abroad program

Intensive study program connects U.S. with China, Japan and Korea

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Nov 6, 2008

"This program has changed my life. As a master‘s student in Chinese medicine, I look back on the Freeman Study Abroad program as the impetus. My trip to Beijing was the highlight of my international traveling in my life so far. I learned so much about the language, the culture and the educational system."Kevi Keenom, Kapiʻolani Community College, Freeman Foundation Program, China

"Four years ago, the Freeman Foundation took a chance on us," said Dr. Joe Overton, Professor of Social Science at Kapiʻolani Community College. "Our chancellor had said ʻThere has to be a new way of teaching language, there has to be a way of getting students to go abroad to learn cultures and prepare for the 21st Century.‘"

In 2004, the Freeman Foundation took the bold action of granting $1.2 million to Kapiʻolani Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges to allow students to immerse themselves in Chinese, Japanese or Korean language for a semester. The students would spend the next semester studying in China, Japan or South Korea, with tuition, room and board and airfare provided. Since then, Vietnam has been added to the Study Abroad program.

"We never expected these results," said Overton. "We knew that many of these community college students had never been away from Hawaiʻi. But we found that not only could they do it, many have continued their Asian studies at UH Mānoa and many have decided to return to these countries on their own to learn even more about the cultures."

The Freeman Foundation was established in 1994 through the bequest and in memory of the businessman and benefactor Mansfield Freeman, a co-founder of the international insurance and financial conglomerate American International Group, Inc., better known as AIG. A native of New Jersey, Freeman was a longtime resident of Asia and a distinguished scholar of Chinese philosophy. The foundation is now administered by members of the Freeman family: Houghton "Buck" Freeman, his wife Doreen, and their son, Graeme Freeman.

"During his career, my father noticed a lack of understanding between the United States and the countries of Asia," said Buck Freeman. "He thought it was worthwhile to educate Americans and Asians about one another. This program is a microcosm of what we are trying to do. And it‘s working."

Students give the program high marks.

"Like a lot of people, I switched my major after going through this program," said Alex Posey who also traveled to and studied in China. "I‘m going into international business now with a focus on China. The language and cultural background is going to be a huge advantage for me when I go into business."

"A new world opened up to me in Japan," said Amy Brinker. "I am now planning on applying to the Law School at UH Mānoa to focus on Pacific and Asian Legal Studies. I hope to intern in Japan."

"The best way I can think of to thank the Freeman Foundation is to honor their mission statement, which seeks to make connections between America and Asia," said Posey. "I plan to keep the connections I made in China through the Freeman program."

"When someone changes your life, when someone says ʻWe believe in you, we support you, we want you to have this opportunity,‘ it is very difficult to find the words to say thank you," said Kapiʻolani Community College Chancellor Leon Richards. "The Freeman Foundation truly believed in us. We have built a strong and viable program of international opportunities for community college students through this gift and that of Paul S. Honda who established the Honda International Opportunity Fund."

The Freeman Foundation provided an additional $1.2 million in funding in 2006 and again in 2008 to continue the program. To be eligible for consideration, students must be enrolled fulltime at one of the seven community colleges in the UH system and must have a 3.0 grade point average. Students are expected to participate in service learning projects while abroad such as working at schools, orphanages and supporting other worthy programs.