This is the first in a series about Vertically Integrated Projects (VIPs) in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.
By Michael Pearson
On Amanda Weiss’ student research team, a future computer scientist is studying the Japanese cultural trend of Kojo Moe. A psychology student is researching how mental health issues are presented in Japanese animation. Another team member, a graduate student, is translating an Asian science fiction story, hoping to get it published.
The campuswide program (see “About VIPs,” below) allows students to pursue research projects as a part of multidisciplinary teams led by faculty members.
Weiss, an assistant professor of Japanese in the School of Modern Languages, started her VIP in Fall 2019. She runs it like a Japanese graduate seminar, mentoring and guiding students engaged in independent research projects examining varied aspects of East Asian media, a topic many students in other majors and disciplines would not otherwise be able to explore in depth.
“The VIP is such a flexible and creative system,” she said. “It lets students engage in projects they’re passionate about, but which they might not have a chance to explore otherwise. And it lets me work one-on-one with very motivated, passionate students who are not constrained by the framework of a typical class.”
It also allows students to explore the cross-cultural competencies they will need to have impactful global careers.
For instance, fifth-year computer science student Lilly Rizvi’s project involves investigating the Japanese phenomenon of Kojo Moe, which translates roughly to “factory infatuation” and involves nighttime tours of industrial sites and long-exposure photography of such facilities. It’s a trend that has seen increasing interest.
Rizvi, who is from Aiken, South Carolina and hopes to work in Tokyo after graduation, wants to understand more about why people indulge in such tourism, an interest she herself took up after a trip to Singapore. As part of her work, she is interviewing people interested in Kojo Moe and publishing a fanzine showcasing her work and findings.
“It’s a photo project, but also an academic project investigating this phenomenon,” she said.
Yendi Neil, a third-year psychology student from Johns Creek, joined Weiss' VIP team to apply her psychology skills to a cultural studies project involving Japanese animation.
“I’m looking at how directors and producers portray mental health in their shows. Is it accurate? Do they make fun of them? Does it perpetuate stigma?” she said.
For Camden Hine of Atlanta, one of a couple of team members working on translating works by Japanese authors into English, the experience has helped him gain insight into nuances of Japanese, but is also yielding other benefits.
“I’m trying to find work in Japan, so this has helped me, not only with improving my Japanese, but also in making connections,” said Hine, who is studying for the Master of Science in Global Media and Cultures.
Weiss said facilitating connections is one of her favorite aspects of the program, which she also praised for giving students opportunities to hone their skills in organization and time management.
“These students are not only applying their linguistic and cultural knowledge to an ambitious project, they are also building a professional network that may lead to future global careers.”
Students participating in Vertically Integrated Projects work in multidisciplinary teams on projects that span multiple semesters, receiving academic credit and invaluable experience as they apply their academic skills to real-world projects.
The concept was founded in 2001 at Purdue University by Edward J. Coyle, who has been on faculty in Georgia Tech's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering since 2008.
VIPs have since been adopted at 36 universities worldwide. Georgia Tech, a leader in the VIP Consortium, has the largest program in the world, with more than 1100 students enrolled in 70 teams as of Spring 2019.
The Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts has nine active VIP teams: Augmented Reality Experiences, Digital Deliberation, 21st Century Global Atlanta, Community & Digital Archives Project, Polivision, Arts & AI, East Asian Media, Global Social Entrepreneurship, and VoterTech.
For more information about these or other VIP teams, visit the program page at vip.gatech.edu