IOWA Magazine | 06-25-2024

Iowa Alum Creates Global Business Internship for Hawkeyes in Tokyo

3 minute read
Recent University of Iowa graduate Abby Fowler took an internship with Tokyo Broadcasting System in Japan this summer, thanks to a new international experiential learning opportunity created by Iowa alum Grier Patterson.
ALT PHOTOS COURTESY ABBY FOWLER Grier Patterson, vice president at Tokyo Broadcasting System International, welcomes fellow Iowa graduate Abby Fowler to her internship with the company in Japan.

A couple months after graduating from the University of Iowa with an Asian studies degree, Grier Patterson (85BA) moved to Tokyo without a job or housing. The Iowa City native wanted to experience Japan firsthand to advance his education. Patterson enrolled in a couple Japanese language programs, made money teaching English, and became enthralled with the culture during his two-and-a-half-year stay. He’s continued studying Japanese ever since and built a successful career at Tokyo Broadcasting System, one of Japan’s leading broadcasters and a media company that’s created the hit shows America’s Funniest Home Videos and American Ninja Warrior.

ALT Fowler stands in front of the TBS Broadcasting Center in Tokyo.

Six Weeks in Tokyo

This summer, Patterson provided an experiential learning opportunity to a fellow Hawkeye by working with colleagues to award a new six-week internship to Abby Fowler (24BA) with TBS’ global business division in Tokyo. Patterson, the vice president at TBS International in New York, partnered with Iowa professors Yumiko Nishi and Kendall Heitzman in the Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures to create an annual internship that’s open to a deserving UI student or new graduate.

“You can study forever in a classroom, but you need to go somewhere and do it firsthand to see if it’s something you really want to commit to,” says Patterson, who’s primarily worked in the sport and entertainment business throughout his TBS career, broadcasting major events like the Olympics, the World Athletics Championships, and the Masters. “I encourage kids to study a foreign language and go out in the world and experience things, because it opens opportunities that you may not have known existed.”

ALT Fowler poses in front of the Five-Storied Pagoda in Senso-ji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo.

Cross-Cultural Collaboration

Fowler arrived in Tokyo in late May, a couple weeks after earning UI bachelor’s degrees in international studies and Japanese language and literature. As part of the internship, the North Liberty, Iowa, native works at the TBS Broadcast Center in coordination with TBS’ New York office. Fowler helps the global business division increase exposure for TBS content and create new content and business opportunities through collaborations with international partners. “I’m so thankful for the Japanese faculty [at Iowa] and for TBS and Mr. Patterson for creating this amazing opportunity,” says Fowler, who’s also heard Patterson speak on campus to students about his global professional experiences. “It’s so rare for alumni to be as engaged as Mr. Patterson.”

Fowler has returned to Japan less than a year after her first visit. Last summer, she studied Japanese language and literature at Okayama University in Japan for two months through the Critical Language Scholarship. The program, run through the U.S. Department of State, expands the number of Americans studying abroad and mastering critical languages while developing relationships between the U.S. and other countries. Fowler has worked with people from around the world as a communications coordinator for three years with Global Ties Iowa and accepted a tentative offer to work as a public affairs specialist for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation at the Department of State in Washington, D.C.

Fowler in Odaiba In Odaiba, Japan, Fowler stands in front of a life-sized model of the Unicorn Gundam, a popular TV character.

Opportunities Abroad

TBS chose Fowler from a competitive group of applicants for the internship. “Her background, language abilities, and interests seem to fit really well for this first year of the internship,” says Patterson. “We need more talented American students that have studied Japanese, and that need is continuing to grow.”

Much like Patterson was as a new college graduate, Fowler is eager to learn more about Japanese culture by immersing herself in Tokyo. “I’m excited to see parts of the city that aren’t typically on a tourist itinerary,” says Fowler. “I think it’s super valuable when traveling abroad to experience life from the perspective of a local.”

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