McHenry represents university, region at JASI Gala

Attending the 30th annual Gala for the Japan-America Society of Indiana (JASI) allowed Mari McHenry, director of international community services, to renew old acquaintances and build new connections for Trine University and its students.

Nearly 700 people from Japan and the United States, representing more than 200 Japanese companies, attended the event, held Aug. 8 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis.

Dignitaries and speakers included Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Naoki Ito, consul-general of Japan in Chicago, and Isao Matsuzaki, president, Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, which celebrated 10 years of doing business in the state.

McHenry was invited by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, a table sponsor for the event, due to her previous relationship with the Tochigi Prefecture, the sister state of Indiana, and working with JASI in the past.

“Twelve years ago, I was the coordinator for international relations through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, and worked for the Tochigi Prefectural Hall, similar to the Indiana State Department,” she said. “It seemed like a mini reunion with several people I knew from just before working at Trine.”

In her role with JET, McHenry supervised 40 assistant language teachers in Tochigi, and assisted them with adjusting to the Japanese culture and language. She also translated and interpreted for English-speaking delegates who came to visit Tochigi Prefecture, and collaborated on building relations with the State of Indiana. 

“I actually met Dr. Brooks and Mike Bock during their visit to Japan, developing relationships with Hakuoh University and Utsunomiya University,” she said. “They visited Tochigi Prefecture to create sister-university partnerships, and I was there to assist with interpreting, etc. That is when I learned about Trine, and was given an opportunity to work for Trine, serving their international student population. Who knew it would come to a full circle of once again connecting with the Japanese community, but this time in different ways?”

Founded in 1988, the nonprofit JASI works to serve as a bridge of friendship between the people of Indiana and Japan.

“It was incredible to see how many people knew each other, not just as business partners, but as dear friends,” McHenry commented. “It was so empowering to see General Counsel Naoki Ito appear at the JASI Gala to support the state of Indiana, and advocate for even deeper development between already developed partnerships. For an individual who is charged to oversee 11 states in the Midwest, his commitment to supporting Indiana has been incredible, and one I hope will continue as we at Trine strive to put the university on the map for Japanese business and community members. We connected with a number of companies, which will hopefully turn into internship opportunities for Trine students!”

Photo: Among those attending the 30th annual JASI Gala in Indianapolis were, from left, Tsubaba Hashimot, director of public affairs for the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in Chicago; Ralph Inforzato, chief executive director, JETRO Chicago; Sarah Rodriguez, director of business management, Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership; Larry Ingraham, president, Ingraham & Associates, Inc.; Mari McHenry, director of international community services, Trine University; and Bob Mason, vice president and international sales manager, The Ford Meter Box Company, Inc.