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Career Opportunities

Careers for Asian studies students

Recent Calvin graduates with majors or minors in Chinese, Japanese or Asian studies have found careers in a number of fields in Japan, China, the United States and elsewhere. Six of our students who graduated in May, 2013 have taken English teaching positions at various universities across China, in the cities of Harbin, Qinhuangdao, and Yancheng. Four of our graduates are currently in Ph.D. programs related to Asian Studies, including programs in Chinese Language and Literature at Princeton University, Chinese History at University of California, Japanese Language and Culture at the University of Michigan, and Japanese Anthropology at the University of North Carolina.

Jobs in Japan

A small number of Calvin students have taught in Japan through the JET Program or similar programs and have then found other employment in Japan after their contracts expired.

Kory DuPilka spent three years as a JET teacher and then found a job as a translator with Toyota in Nagoya, Japan. He then got an MBA from Michigan State University and now works as a junior executive for United Technologies in Orlando, Florida.

After teaching for three years with JET, Tim Veltman found a job in Hikone, Japan, for a non-profit organization that helps foreigners adjust to life in Japan. Tim has created a web site service that provides all the helpful information a foreigner might need to adapt to life in Japan, and answers questions daily from foreigners who need advice on various matters pertaining to daily life in that very different culture.

Michael Huissen lives in Hamamatsu, Japan, with his Japanese wife and two lovely children. After graduating from Calvin, Michael got a Ph.D. in Asian History from Harvard University. Michael has taught English and American literature at several universities in Tokyo and Hamamatsu for many years now.

A handful of our graduates from Calvin Theological Seminary have found jobs with the Christian Reformed World Mission in Japan, working in the Tokyo area as ministers and missionaries. A few, like Larry Spalink and Richard Systma, have served the Church in Japan for as long as several decades.

Jobs in China

Michael Brasser majored in computer science at Calvin and went on to get a master’s degree in Computational Linguistics from U.S.C. He now is the first foreigner to work for a major Chinese computer company in Beijing. His wife, Christie, works in Public Relations for the largest Christian church for foreigners in Beijing.

Jared English majored in Asian Studies at Calvin and then went on to get an M.B.A. He is now the General Manager of an automotive supply manufacturing plant near Shanghai, producing high quality precision plastic components for automotive customers around Asia.

Jacob Schenkel, a 2000 graduate of Calvin, has been appointed to a factory manager’s position with Delphi Automotive in Shanghai.

Jobs in America

After four years of Chinese language study at Calvin, Gary Mersberger was hired by the Kohler Company in Wisconsin. The company hired Gary in part because of his knowledge of Chinese, which Gary is already putting to good use in his job as Kohler expands its business in China.

Anna Nielsen was hired by Johnson Controls in Holland, Michigan, partly on the basis of her knowledge of Japanese. Johnson Controls designs and makes car interiors for most of the major Japanese auto companies. They are always interested in hiring Calvin graduates with a background in Japanese language.

Graduate School

Nathan Scott was given a fellowship at the University of Michigan to obtain a Master's in Japanese, after spending three years as a JET teacher in Japan. As part of this fellowship, Nate was given a full tuition waiver plus a living stipend of $14,000. He then went on to obtain a Law Degree from the University of Michigan, and is now practicing immigration law in the United States.

Michael Wright studied four years of Chinese at Calvin, then obtained a Master's degree in Chinese from the John Hopkins Center for Chinese Studies at Nanjing University. After getting a law degree from the University of Michigan, Michael now practices international law with a top firm in Chicago.

Josh Gilliland received a scholarship to enter Ohio State University, to study for a master's in Chinese. He was the only non-native speaker of Chinese to be given a teaching assistantship in Chinese at Ohio State University.

David Bratt received a fellowship to do graduate work in Chinese history at Stanford University, after having studied Chinese for three years at Calvin and participated in our Beijing Semester Program.

Michael Brasser, received a fellowship to completely finance his graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley in Computational Linguistics. Michael combined his knowledge of both computers and Chinese in his work as the only foreign computer scientist at a private computer company in Beijing, where he worked for three years.

For detailed bios with photos of other graduates, see our Chinese and Japanese websites.

Other careers

Calvin graduates from the Asian studies program have found positions in the following fields:

  • Business
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • International Law
  • International Relations
  • Intelligence work for the U.S. Government (CIA, NSA)
  • Interpreter
  • Linguistics
  • Mission-International NGO (e.g. World Vision)
  • U.S. Department of State
  • U.S. Department of Defense
  • U.S. Department of Energy

Teaching in Asia


Over the past several decades, students who have studied some Japanese at Calvin and were about to graduate have been applying to the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program with great success. The JET Program was started in 1987 by the Japanese government to hire college-graduate native speakers of English from all over the world to teach English in junior high schools and high schools all across Japan. The contract is for a year, and is renewable for up to three years. Because the pay is so high for a recent college graduate, nearly $30,000 per year U.S. with free or subsidized housing, and because of the allure of Japan, the competition for acceptance into the program is very keen. Nevertheless, because of the strength of our Japanese language program at Calvin and because of the high caliber of so many Calvin students, as many as 35 Calvin graduates have won jobs with this prestigious program. Most of these students elected to spend the maximum of three years teaching in Japan, which speaks well for both the quality of the JET Program and of our students. Few colleges or universities in America have as many graduates accepted as JET teachers as does Calvin College. Our students have been putting their Japanese language ability to good use serving in Japan, spreading good will toward America and Canada, and generally being Kingdom builders, while paying off their college loans and having a great adventure learning about another culture.

Teaching Opportunities Abroad: China

Students who have studied Chinese at Calvin can find a job teaching English at a university or a private academy in China through one of several organizations with which Calvin has a long-standing relationship, including ELI (English Language Institute) of San Dimas, California. For over a decade now, several Calvin graduates have taken advantage of these programs to teach in China. Through the English Language Institute in China, graduates may teach English at a university in China for two years and simultaneously earn a Master's in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language). There are currently seven Calvin graduates teaching English in China. They help to better the understanding of Chinese students of both the English language and of western culture and belief systems, and in so doing create much good will toward Americans and Canadians.

Students who are still enrolled at Calvin may go to China in the summers through organizations like ELI. After an orientation and training period in California, participating students spend five weeks teaching English to and having fun with Chinese junior high and high school students in various parts of China. As many as a dozen Calvin students have already participated in summer programs like this in China.