Baylor Student Receives Opportunity of International Proportions

Sept. 28, 2011

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In 2009, a young man from Connecticut entered Baylor University looking for new experiences. Two years later, he has uncovered a calling to leadership and international economics as a recently elected executive committee member of the selective Japan-America Student Conference (JASC).

Andrew Leistensnider, a junior University Scholar with emphasis in economics, was a sophomore when he applied to the international student conference at this encouragement of his Japanese language professor, Yoshiko Fuji Gaines.

"Earlier this year, Yoshiko Fuji Gaines mentioned it to me as something I might be interested in and as a conference that is competitive to be accepted, but said I had a chance," Leistensnider said. "So I applied, and in April I learned I was going."

Because the JASC focuses on the cultural interchange between Americans and Japanese students, the conference planners organize "roundtables" of major issues affecting the countries. Leistensnider said the 2011 roundtables included current issues affecting both Japan and America, such as "Media in Shaping Social Perspectives" and "Ethics of Technology and Its Impact on Human Life."

Leistensnider said these discussions, as well as traveling through Japan from July to August, made him realize his interest in international economics and leadership.

And it was this interest that led him to volunteer and be elected as an executive committee member for the 64th JASC. Sixteen delegates - eight American and eight Japanese - are elected from the conference student delegates to plan the next year's conference. Planning includes finding locations for discussions, cultural activities and interactions for delegates and selecting roundtable topics.

"It's a one-year commitment, and we actually started working on it (the next JASC) while we were still in Tokyo," Leistensnider said. "Over the next year we will be working to plan and run the entire thing. We will be in America this year, so we have to pick the four locations we'll be going to, two of which have been determined: Dallas and the University of Wisconsin-Madison."

Leistensnider described the responsibilities of the executive committee as one of leadership and guidance.

"As an executive committee, we build our program from scratch and make it unique and give it a theme, so we do that and then we invite the delegates to come into the space that we built and give them a place to take their leadership and use the opportunities we give them to become leaders and make it (the conference) their own," he said. "That's how leadership keeps passing on each year."

Another of Leistensnider's language professors, Yuko Prefume, has closely watched his success and said she hopes to help him in his new position.

"I would like to support Andrew in ways to promote Baylor and to recruit new delegates for the upcoming conference, so more students can have great opportunities like Andrew," said Prefume, a lecturer of Japanese. "He has also told me of his plan of bringing the delegates to Baylor for a day trip if they decide to have a meeting in Dallas. If we can invite the delegates to Baylor, I think it will be a great opportunity to introduce how great Baylor is to both American and Japanese students."

For Gaines, Leistensnider continues to be an example of a humble student leader.

"The JASC looks for people who have passion for making differences in solving the issues that Japan and the U.S. face together. I thought Andrew fit right into it," Gaines said. " I felt that he would make the best out of the program and do even more after the program. I can say I was quite right about his ability and leadership. He has already accomplished so much through the program, yet he is humble and grateful. I am thankful for him and for what he can bring to Japan and to Baylor."

by Carmen Galvan, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

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