Sister State Studies

Daniel Van SantEach morning, Daniel Van Sant, AS’11, wakes in the shadow of Mount Fuji

One year after graduation, Daniel Van Sant studies in Kofu, capital of Japan’s most productive agricultural region, Yamanashi Prefecture. Before this foray, he toured the United Kingdom, Thailand, India, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, Macau, and Hong Kong.

The competitive Yamanashi Prefecture Research Scholarship, awarded to Van Sant by the Iowa Sister States organization, supports his current venture. The scholarship allows Van Sant to study and conduct research in Yamanashi for a year; his work focuses on the intersection between culture and disability policy in Japan.

“I’ve done on-site research in schools for children with disabilities, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers here,” Van Sant says. “Having another culture’s view on disability has been enlightening and helps me see these issues from another perspective.”

One feature of Japan’s disability policy that Van Sant has highlighted is its use of designated public schools just for students with disabilities.

“You have this double-edged sword of schools that are amazing in terms of education, accessibility, and opportunity,” Van Sant says. “But they’re completely secluded from students without disabilities in traditional schools.”

Instead of criticizing the Japanese system, Van Sant says he tries to keep an open mind.

“When doing research like this, it’s very easy to say ‘this is different, this is wrong,’ ” he says. “Drake gave me a global perspective that allows me to step out of the American perspective and see things from the culture I’m living in. I think that’s what it means to be a global citizen.”

In the fall, Van Sant plans to apply what he’s learned in Japan to studying disability law at the Syracuse University College of Law in Syracuse, N.Y. While he would like to eventually work internationally, Van Sant says his work will start at home.

“Disability is an international human rights issue because inaccessibility—to buildings, education, health care, voting—is something that affects millions of people around the world,” Van Sant says. “However, I think there is a lot to be done in my own country as well.”

—Danny Akright, JO’10, AS’10

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