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Becoming a Global Base for Knowledge Collaboration

Message from the 30th President, Makoto Gonokami

Have Students Experience the Excitement of Knowledge at the Forefront of Research

In the midst of ever more rapid globalization, the presence of problems that should be tackled by humankind as a whole, including the depletion of natural resources, environmental degradation, world financial insecurity and poverty, is becoming ever more apparent. Handling such global-scale issues requires diverse individuals to take action cooperatively on the basis of shared knowledge. I attached a name to this initiative: "diversity-driven collaboration." It is essential to value and make the best use of diversity in order to find solutions to complex problems that afford no easy answers. I believe that true globalization can be realized only when diversity-driven collaboration is achieved on a global scale.

Since its foundation in 1877, the University of Tokyo, firmly rooted in Eastern tradition, has vigorously incorporated Western-style learning and culture. This has resulted in a unique form of scholarship that has been transmitted not only throughout Japan, but also to the rest of the world. It is no exaggeration to say that the University has contributed to the diversification of human knowledge. I will encourage the University to continue paving the way for the creation and utilization of new knowledge while respecting tradition, and also continue to foster talented individuals who can thrive on the world stage. By doing so, we as a University will constantly and relentlessly pursue the challenge of contributing to human society.

Training individuals to become leaders who can take the initiative to face this challenge is the most important duty of the University of Tokyo. As president, I will create an effective educational environment for nurturing people's ability to flourish anywhere in the world.

First, through the outstanding research capability that the University of Tokyo has cultivated in every field of study, I would like to let students experience the excitement and joy that comes with gaining knowledge at the forefront of research.

For example, in academic research, we often experience a sense of excitement and focus reminiscent of the day before a school festival. A new discovery or witnessing a new phenomenon before anyone else gives us a feeling of unparalleled joy. This feeling itself can drive us to pursue our study further. As someone who has built a long-term career as a researcher, I believe that one of my important missions is to create an environment that helps students experience such excitement.

Next, I will encourage students to use these experiences of intellectual excitement to go one step further and engage in active learning, which will enhance their intellectual growth. Through active learning, it is my fervent desire that students gain and improve upon the following three basic abilities: the ability to go back to the basic principles of one's field, the patience to think things through, and the ability to think up new ideas and concepts by oneself. In addition, I would like students to acquire the open-mindedness to examine themselves objectively while understanding others, as well as enhance their ability to cooperate with many people to take action. To provide a solid foundation from which students can develop these abilities, I will strengthen and institutionalize programs and systems that have already been implemented through the Comprehensive Reform of Undergraduate Education promoted by the former president, including the four-term academic calendar, small-group teaching (e.g. First-Year Seminars), internationalized education, the Hands-on Activity Programs and introducing a recommendation process to university admissions.

As for graduate-level education, I will have the University train students to become knowledge professionals who have the abovementioned three basic abilities, are open-minded, and are brimming with the desire to create new knowledge and take action with the aim of using this knowledge to benefit humanity. For this purpose, I will establish a global base for knowledge collaboration, which will link the pursuit of knowledge with the application of that knowledge while looking ahead to the future. In other words, I will transform the University of Tokyo into a space for creating new value that goes beyond the boundaries of regions, cultures, age and even the existing academic disciplines, as well as a space for practicing earnest university-industry collaboration that is on a completely different level from traditional collaboration.

A space for fostering knowledge professionals

As the first step in accomplishing this goal, I will establish a graduate-level program of international excellence (World-leading Innovative Graduate Study; WINGS) that advocates excellence, internationality and the fusion of the arts and the sciences. WINGS will be a Master's and Doctoral combination degree program specializing in the fields in which the University of Tokyo leads the world as well as in new interdisciplinary fields. This new program will attract outstanding individuals from all over the world. The pursuit of truth which can be nurtured in the diverse and boundless environment that this program will provide is indispensable for the creation of knowledge. With the utilization of networks linking industry, academia and government, I will establish a framework allowing the University to become a space for reinvigorating Japanese society. I believe that this program will become the core of the University's global base for knowledge collaboration, as well as a place for fostering knowledge professionals.

Another important aspect of this goal involves academic research. As society is rapidly changing in recent times, we need flexibility to meet the demands of the current age so that research conducted at the University can, as outlined in The University of Tokyo Charter, contribute to the peace and welfare of human society as a whole. While steadfastly adhering to the traditions that should be preserved, I believe that a systemic reform of the University is vital. I will take decisive action to implement operational reforms based on dialogue with the University's Faculties, Graduate Schools and other organizations in charge of education and research because they are the very entities that add value to the University. To increase diversity-driven collaboration, I will place the utmost priority on stabilizing employment for young researchers and employing more female and foreign staff members. Of course, in order to promote such reforms, we first have to raise society's trust in science and academia. Also, I am aware that to raise this trust, it is imperative that University members thoroughly comply with research ethics, which form the foundation of societal trust.

While the tasks laid out in front of me are many, I have reaffirmed my resolve to proceed with reforms that will make the University of Tokyo a place both needed and loved by the Japanese people and by people around the world. To explain my resolutions and make them known to both members of the University and society as a whole, I am currently preparing to publish my action plan, The University of Tokyo: Vision 2020. This is a "wish list" that details the visions I want to see realized at the University of Tokyo during my six-year tenure as president. Even if the external factors around us change, we can return to this action plan so that we never lose sight of the direction in which we intend to head. When the action plan is released, I would like all of you to share it with others. And as the president of the University of Tokyo, nothing could make me happier than seeing you take the extra initiative to actively participate in knowledge collaboration.

* The Japanese version of this text was originally printed in Tansei 31 (Japanese language only).
   - Tansei 16 -

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