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PR Grad Selected for Prestigious JET Program

Roston WillisRoston Willis (BS/PR’13) has been selected as one of only eight U.S. college graduates to participate in the 2013 Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET). 

“The selection process is quite rigorous and requires even more effort than being admitted to UT,” said Willis.  “I’m very honored to have been chosen especially considering the small number of applicants that even make it to the selection interview process.”

The JET program has had over 4,000 participants from forty countries during its twenty-five year existence. After the initial application material is submitted, a small number of applicants are invited to meet with the selection interview panel.  The selection panel is comprised of a JET program participant, a representative of the Japanese consulate and a Japanese educator.   

Willis participated in a semester long study abroad experience in Japan during his time at UT.  He worked as a full-time student, part-time language teacher, part-time assistant to the head of the language department and campus ambassador while in Japan.  Willis believes that his study abroad experience played a key role in helping him get selected for the JET program.

Willis left the U.S. on August 3 to travel to his assignment in Kyushu, the southern most major Japanese island.  He is teaching English and American cultural studies to 70 middle and elementary school children in a rural village with 1,600 residents while in Japan.  He hopes to provide his students with a broader knowledge of American culture and help them develop a more international perspective along with teaching them English. 

Willis’ journey to this extraordinary opportunity has been an interesting one.  He grew up in the Belfast community just outside of Lewisburg, Tennessee.  His first stop after high school was a technical school where he learned automotive skills.  At the age of 21 he came to East Tennessee and started his college career at Pellissippi State before transferring to UT.   

His interest in Japan began at a very early age.  His grandfather served in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan.  Willis’ mother shared many of her memories of the family’s time in Japan, which sparked his interest in Asian studies. 

The future holds infinite possibilities for Willis, and he hopes to capitalize on many of them while he taps into the communication knowledge he gained as part of his PR major at UT.  JET participants receive an annual contract and serve an average of three years with a maximum of five.   After his JET program concludes, Willis hopes to pursue an international graduate school experience.