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NatCon 2020: Building on innovative approaches to online events

Like many events in 2020, the JETAA USA National Conference was a completely virtual affair, held over 6 days.


The 2020 JETAA USA National Conference consisted of two parts and was done entirely on Zoom because of COVID-19. Part 1 was held from November 17th to 19th, and Part 2 was held from December 4th to 6th. This built on the experience gained from the Transitions career event cohosted by the Pacific Northwest JETAA chapter and USJETAA in September, which was held in 60 to 90 minute sessions spread over one week in order to avoid excessive Zoom fatigue. Zoom hosting for NatCon was provided by USJETAA. The schedule and further information can be found on the JETAA USA website.


Part 1 of NatCon

Part 1 of the conference started with opening remarks and introductions of each chapter's delegates, welcome remarks by JLGC’s Executive Director, Ms. Shimotori, and Mr. Mizobuchi, Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs, Director of the Japan Information and Culture Center at the Embassy in Washington. After this, Karen Kelley, who was formerly US Consul General in Osaka, made a speech regarding her experiences in Japan and issues there such as the state of women's empowerment.

Day 2 included a “CLAIRification” of Grant-in-Aid funding by JLGC’s staff, along with a discussion of events relating to the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. After this, USJETAA’s Chair, Paige Cottingham-Streater, and Executive Director, Bahia Simons-Lane, talked about their activities on behalf of US alumni.


Then on Day 3, the Canada Country Rep, Matt Kaiser, made a presentation on JETAA Canada’s chapters’ activities and the Canada Conference held on September 19th. After this, there was a group discussion session about cross collaboration among chapters, followed by a parliamentary session concerning a proposed amendment to the bylaws.


Part 2 of NatCon

Part 2 started on December 4th. Whereas Part 1 featured content focusing on the national and international level, Part 2 was designed to primarily feature content put together by the chapters and focusing on their activities.


Day 1 of Part 2 began with a recap of Part 1. Then, presentations were given on online activities by Faye Valtadoros from JETAA USA, Andy McCarthy from JETAA Texoma, Akiyo Horiguchi from JETAANC, and Ryan Hata from JETAANY. The day ended with a presentation on project management by Megan DeVille from JETAA Mid-South and Jennifer Tucker from JETAA Texoma.


On Day 2, Jessica Records from PNWJETAA and Bahia Simons-Lane from USJETAA gave a presentation on career support. Next, Gabriel Coronado from JETAA Chicago and Melissa Golden from JETAANC made a presentation on developing strong leadership. After that, JETAA-I Chair Nathalie Ng, in Singapore, gave a presentation on JETAA-I's activities and the 2019 JETAA International Meeting. After this, each participant could choose one of six breakout rooms to discuss different topics such as project management and virtual activities.


Day 3 was the final day of NatCon. Zara Espinoza from JETAA Chicago gave a talk on fostering diversity, equity, & inclusion in the chapter. Next, Valerie Stewart from JETAASE and Giuseppe 'Joe' Di Martino from JETAANY made a presentation on Japanese language study activities conducted in their chapters. After that, Tyler Blaz from JETAA Chicago and Adam Ledyard from JETAA USA gave a presentation on the use of tech. Finally, at the closing CLAIR Reception, Faye gave a summary of the six-day conference, and Ms. Shimotori gave a speech and made a toast.


Reception and conclusion

About 60 people attended the reception, which rotated participants through several breakout rooms with four or five people each, providing an opportunity for relaxed conversation with many participants.


It is everyone’s hope that next year’s NatCon can once again be held in person.